I'm just back from an extended sabbatical work/vacation trip to Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin -- yes, I did meet with some science publishers while I was in Europe! -- and while in Europe a couple of the true icons of my childhood died: BB King and Christopher Lee. As well, jazz icon Ornette Coleman also died while I was in Europe and while he wasn't an icon from my childhood years I do respect and understand the impact he had on the world of jazz. Quebec science fiction writer also passed away Joël Champetier.
I thought I'd use this post to remember a thing or two about each of these greats as well as collect a small selection of the various online remembrances of their impact.
It's hard to overstate the importance of BB King to my musical development. I learned to love the blues from BB King. He's the artist I've seen in concert the most times, at 5 or 6, the most recent being a double bill with George Benson at the Montreal Jazz Festival about 15 or so years ago. Every time he was awesome, the consummate blues singer and guitarist. And it all started way back in the 1970s. As it happens, my father was a huge Johnny Carson fan and would watch the Tonight Show most knights. As a youngster I often stayed up to watch it with him on Friday nights or during the summer. Of course, Carson was well known as a jazz fan so he would often have musical guests of a jazzy or bluesy nature. Probably most often, Mr. BB King. Who's music captivated me from the very first time I saw him.
- Blues legend B.B. King, inspiration to generations of musicians, dies at 89 by Randy Lewis
- BB King - obituary
- BB King, Blues singer, Dies at 89
- Eric Clapton pays tribute to BB King with emotional video message
- Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Tosin Abasi and Brendon Small play BB King's The Thrill Is Gone
- King’s Essential Recordings by Frank-John Hadley
- BB King's 25 best songs
- B.B. King's 10 Greatest Songs by Rolling Stone
- BB King: 'you can tell it's him from one note' by Martin Chilton
- 13 of B.B. King's Most Powerful Quotes to Remember Him by by Kate Beaudoin
- BB King's Inimitable Sound by Adam Gopnik
- B.B. King and our blatant racial revisionism: The South still denies the roots of “America’s music” by Tony Fletcher
- B.B. King: 1925-2015 by Tony Russell
- The Life of BB King: An Interactive Timeline
- Blues legend B.B. King dies at age 89 by Todd Leopold
- Fans say farewell as B.B. King laid to rest in Mississippi
- B.B. King recalled with love, humor at Mississippi funeral by Emily Wagster Pettus
If BB King taught me to love the blues, Christopher Lee taught me to love horror movies. Fortunately as a youngster my parents didn't seem to care what I watched on TV, so I tended to watch the weirdest and most extreme stuff available at the time. We're talking the early 1970s here. And at the time, we're talking the old Hammer horror flicks. Hard to believe they were such mainstays on the tube in that era, but to say the least, I loved them. And I especially loved the many Dracula films staring Lee in the title role. He was so intense and evil, yet somehow majestic and proud. I was hooked. And I followed he career over the decades, watching him in countless cheapo films and some very good ones as well, like The Wicker Man or The Man with the Golden Gun. Of course, the pinnacle of his career was staring in the twin roles that made him immortal for all generations, not just old horror movie fans. Saruman in The Lord of the Rings, of course. And Count Dooku in the last two Star Wars movies, where he was by far the best thing about the films. He's be missed. I read his memoirs Tall Dark and Gruesome and they give a wonderful picture of the man and the actor.
- Christopher Lee, 1922-2015, by Marcus Hearn, Hammer Films official historian
- Christopher Lee dies at the age of 93 by Benjamin Lee and Hannah Ellis-Petersen
- Christopher Lee: an actor of muscular intelligence with a staggering career by Peter Bradshaw
- Sir Christopher Lee by Peter Jackson
- R.I.P. Christopher Lee by Warner Brothers
- Christopher Lee 1922-2015: an appreciation by Mark Kermode
- Sir Christopher Lee Passes Away by StarWars.com
- Christopher Lee: The Actor's Secret Life in Heavy Metal by Jon Weiderhorn
- Sir Christopher Lee: Screen legend dies aged 93 by The BBC
- George Lucas, Peter Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ian McKellen and Kathleen Kennedy pay tribute to Christopher Lee
- Ian McKellen: When we weren't facing off on-set, Christopher Lee was a true gentleman and touchingly nervous by Ian Mckellen
- Alice Cooper Dedicates His 'Legend' Award To Sir Christopher Lee
- David Edelstein on Christopher Lee: ‘The Last Living Horror Icon’ by David Edelstein
- Remembering the Legend: A Musical Retrospective of Sir Christopher Lee
- 10 Christopher Lee Characters We'll Never Forget by Rick Marshall
Not too long ago I was listening to Ornette Coleman's calling card album Free Jazz and I thought to myself, "This is the music they should have used for the cantina scene in Star Wars." Bracing, bizarre, atonal, wild and free, yet strangely tuneful all the same, this landmark album from 1961 sounds as fresh today as it did in 1961. Not only that, it still sounds like it comes from the future, like it's music we're not quite ready for, that's just over the horizon. Hence my thought: how cool would it have been if the cantina band in Star Wars had been Ornette Coleman and his group playing some Free Jazz?
- Ornette Coleman, Saxophonist who rewrote the language of jazz, dies at 85 by Ben Ratliff (Greatest hits)
- Ornette Coleman 1930–2015 by Brian Morton (playlist)
- Ornette Coleman 1930–2015 by Robert Wyatt
- The Father of Free Jazz: Ornette Coleman stayed true to his controversial artistic vision his entire life by Marc Myers
- David Harrington Remembers Ornette Coleman by David Harrington, Kronos Quartet
- Two Remembrances of Ornette Coleman by Brian Cullman & Rafi Zabor
- Ornette Coleman’s Uncompromising Genius by Glenn Kenny
- My Friend, Ornette Coleman by John Rogers
- Jazz great Ornette Coleman broke all the rules by Tom Maxwell
- Wayne Shorter Remembers Ornette Coleman: 'One of My Favorite Astronauts' by Natalie Weiner
- Seeing Ornette Coleman by Taylor Ho Bynum
- Ornette Coleman's Revolution by Richard Brody
- Jazz Titan Ornette Coleman Stayed at the Front of the Avant-Garde Pack All His Life by Ted Gioia
JazzTimes has a nice compilation of articles on Coleman here.
And finally, on a more personal note, the Quebec French-language science fiction writer Joël Champetier also died while we were away, on May 30th. I knew Joël a little bit -- and my wife translated one or two of his stories into English -- the Canadian SF world being a rather small place. I was always happy to run into him at an SF convention, usually a Canadian WorldCon or some such larger convention. It's been a while since I've been to any conventions and a while since I last say Joël. He was a good person and a great writer. He'll be missed.
- Joël Champetier (1957-2015) by Jean-Louis Trudel
- Derniers adieux : Joël Champetier (1957-2015)
- Adieu, Joël Champetier!
- Joël Champetier (1957-2015) (English)
- Joël Champetier -- Canadian SF has suffered a major loss
- Joël Champetier (1957-2015) by Mike Glyer (English)
- Décès de l'auteur Joël Champetier, le « Stephen King québécois »
- Décès de l'écrivain Joël Champetier by Martin Guindon
- Une pensée pour Joël Champetier by Dominique Lemieux
- Joël Champetier - 1957 à 2015 (décédé à l'âge de 57 ans) by Isabelle Lauzon