The past 48 hours have been one of those periods where you're afraid to open your computer or watch any kind of news anywhere. First it was the news that the great actor, Christopher Lee, had died. Then last night I saw that pro wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes had died also. Then this morning came word of Ornette Coleman's passing. I don't know quite what to say. Lee and Coleman were of an age where this wasn't unexpected but still there was no word they were in failing health and you don't want to admit your personal icons will ever die.
I loved Christopher Lee for all his great horror work as in the Hammer Studio Dracula films and The Wicker Man but I was also glad to see him get attention from younger audiences in recent years for acting in the Lord of The Rings trilogy.
I watched wrestling when I was a kid in the days of Bruno Sammartino and Killer Kowalski but I was turned off by the kiddie cartoon antics of Hulk Hogan and the rest of Vince McMahon's 1980's WWWF. Then in 1986 I stumbled on the NWA's syndicated show and I was captivated by all their trash-talking, rough-looking badasses. Above all, one man stood out to me, a guy with curly white hair, the girth of a bus and a line in Southern patter that would put a Baptist preacher to shame. That was The American Dream, Dusty Rhodes. I grew to appreciate the mastery of other performers in that era like Ric Flair and Jim Cornette, but I always held a soft spot for that big, boogalooing tough guy who practically talked in his own language.
Then there's Ornette Coleman, simply one of the most important musicians of the last sixty years, the man who brought true freedom to jazz, the visionary who some reviled and called a fraud when he first emerged but who lived long enough to enjoy the accolades and love that befitted his genius. There hadn't been much activity from him in recent years, and the one recording that came out last year is now looked on as a bit shady, but still it hurts to lose him. I had already prepared my next radio show for next Tuesday but I just junked that for a small Coleman tribute, though I currently have access to far fewer of his recordings than I should.