Saturday, August 18, 2007
Friday, August 17, 2007
BY JAY LUSTIG
Newark Star-Ledger Staff
Bruce Springsteen is ready to rock again.
The Boss, who took a folky turn with last year's "Seeger Sessions" album and tour, will reunite with his E Street Band for his next album, "Magic," due out Oct. 2. The band hasn't appeared on a Springsteen studio album since 2002's "The Rising." Brendan O'Brien, who produced "The Rising," is on board in the same role, as well.
In a press release, Springsteen's manager Jon Landau described "Magic" as "a high-energy rock CD." He elaborated to rollingstone.com: "You could say that it's a little more sonically guitar-driven than any past Bruce album. There are a few sort of pop, romantic touches that haven't shown up recently, but were very prominent on the very early records."
Songs will include the title track, along with "Radio Nowhere," "You'll Be Comin' Down," "Livin' in the Future," "Your Own Worst Enemy," "Gypsy Biker," "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," "I'll Work for Your Love," "Last to Die," "Long Walk Home" and "Devil's Arcade."
On rollingstone.com, Landau said that "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" has "the sound of the E Street Band" but also a feeling reminiscent of the Beach Boys' classic "Pet Sounds" album, and that "Devil's Arcade" has a political lyrical theme. But he added that politics "is not the primary intention of this record."
Tour details were not immediately available, though arena dates with the E Street Band have been widely rumored. Springsteen's last string of E Street concerts was on the politically oriented "Vote For Change" tour in 2004. He toured solo in 2005, and his shows last year featured an acoustic big band.
He debuted one of the "Magic" tracks, "Long Walk Home," on the acoustic tour, describing it as a "work in progress." As performed then, the song was, at least in part, a political commentary. The narrator of the song looks back nostalgically on life in his hometown, then sings, "Now the war is rising 'round the corner/There's a fire burning out of control/There's a hurricane on Main Street/And I've got murder in my soul." In the chorus, he sings, over and over, "It's gonna be a long walk home/Hey pretty darling, don't wait up for me."
In the rollingstone.com article, Landau called this tune "sort of the summational song of the album."
It's possible that a 2007-08 E Street Band tour could be the group's last major outing. Springsteen is now 57, while the oldest E Street Band member, saxophonist Clarence Clemons, is 65. Drummer Weinberg leads the house band on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," and when O'Brien takes over "The Tonight Show" in 2009, Weinberg may not be able to take a long leave of absence to tour.
Also, Springsteen has made it clear over the last two decades that he wants to be able to work alone, or with other musicians, when the mood strikes him.
This will be a busy fall for Springsteen, CD-wise. He will appear on "Play It As It Lays," a Sept. 4 solo album by his wife (and E Street Band member) Patti Scialfa. He has also recorded two duets with folk icon Pete Seeger.
The first, a version of Springsteen's own "The Ghost of Tom Joad" that features Seeger reciting some of the words, comes out on "Sowing the Seeds," a compilation CD to be released by the West Chester, Pa.-based folk label Appleseed Recordings on Sept. 11.
The second, a cover of the folk standard "Hobo's Lullaby," will be on Appleseed's homelessness benefit album, "Give Us Your Poor," due out Sept. 25.
Jay Lustig may be reached at email@example.com or (973) 392-5850.
PO2 (SEAL) Shane Patton (RIP), PO2 (SEAL) Matt Axelson (RIP), PO2 (SEAL) James Such (RIP),
PO (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell.
August 17, 2007
Now that Marcus Luttrell's book "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10" is a national bestseller, maybe Americans are ready to start discussing the core issue his story brings to light: the inverted morality, even insanity, of the American military's rules of engagement (ROE).
On a stark mountaintop in Afghanistan in 2005, Leading Petty Officer Luttrell and three Navy SEAL teammates found themselves having just such a discussion. Dropped behind enemy lines to kill or capture a Taliban kingpin who commanded between 150-200 fighters, the SEAL team was unexpectedly discovered in the early stages of a mission whose success, of course, depended on secrecy. Three unarmed Afghan goatherds, one a teenager, had stumbled across the Americans' position.
This presented the soldiers with an urgent dilemma: What should they do? If they let the Afghans go, they would probably alert the Taliban to the their whereabouts. This would mean a battle in which the Americans were outnumbered by at least 35 to 1. "Little Big Horn in turbans," as Marcus Luttrell would describe it. If the Americans didn't let the goatherds go — if they killed them, there being no way to hold them — the Americans would avoid detection and, most likely, leave the area safely. On a treeless mountainscape far from home, four of our bravest patriots came to the ghastly conclusion that the only way to save themselves was forbidden by the rules of engagement. Such an action would set off a media firestorm, and lead to murder charges for all.
It is agonizing to read their tense debate as Mr. Luttrell recounts it, the "lone survivor" of the disastrous mission. Each of the SEALs was aware of "the strictly correct military decision" — namely, that it would be suicide to let the goatherds live. But they were also aware that their own country, for which they were fighting, would ultimately turn on them if they made that decision. It was as if committing suicide had become the only politically correct option. For fighting men ordered behind enemy lines, such rules are not only insane. They're immoral.
The SEALs sent the goatherds on their way. One hour later, a sizeable Taliban force attacked, beginning a horrendous battle that resulted not only in the deaths of Mr. Luttrell's three SEAL teammates, but also the deaths of 16 would-be rescuers — eight additional SEALS and eight Army special operations soldiers whose helicopter was shot down by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade.
"Look at me right now in my story," Mr. Luttrell writes. "Helpless, tortured, shot, blown up, my best buddies all dead, and all because we were afraid of the liberals back home, afraid to do what was necessary to save our own lives. Afraid of American civilian lawyers. I have only one piece of advice for what it's worth: If you don't want to get into a war where things go wrong, where the wrong people sometimes get killed, where innocent people sometimes have to die, then stay the hell out of it in the first place."
I couldn't agree more, except for the fact that conservatives, up to and including the president, are at least as responsible for our outrageous rules of engagement as liberals. The question Americans need to ask themselves now, with "Lone Survivor" as Exhibit A, is whether adhering to these precious rules is worth the exorbitant price — in this case, 19 valiant soldiers.
Another question to raise is why our military, knowing the precise location of a Taliban kingpin, sends in Navy SEALs, not Air Force bombers, in the first place? The answer is "collateral damage." I know this — and so do our enemies, who, as Mr. Luttrell writes, laugh at our ROEs as they sleep safe at night. I find it hard to believe that this is something most Americans applaud. But it's impossible to know, because this debate hasn't begun.
It should. It strikes at the core not only of our capacity to make war, but also our will to survive. A nation that doesn't automatically value its sons who fight to protect it more than the "unarmed civilians" — spies? fighters? — whom they encounter behind enemy lines is not only unlikely to win a war, it isn't showing much interest in its own survival.
This is what comes through, loud and ugly, from that mountaintop in Afghanistan, where four young Americans ultimately agreed it was better to be killed than to kill.
Diana West is the author of the "The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization."
Friday, August 17, 2007
With summer winding down and fall on the horizon, Hollywood is set to launch their Tet-offensive. The movie-going public is about to be swamped in pro al-Qaeda propaganda. Everything from this, to this, to this, to this, to these.
8/17/07, 12:01 pm EST
Late last year Bruce Springsteen invited producer Brendan O’Brien up to his New Jersey house to play him a batch of new songs he had been working on. “It was kind of surreal,” says O’Brien, who previously worked with Springsteen on 2002’s The Rising and 2005’s Devils and Dust. “We literally sat in his living room, he hands me a book of lyrics and he played me the songs on the guitar.” O’Brien then had the unenviable task of telling Bruce which songs worked, and which ones didn’t. “He gauges peoples reactions and I have to be as honest with him as I can,” O’Brien says. “Some of them had a certain voice that seemed to fit all together – and some didn’t have that same voice – so we decided which ones to pursue.” The songs that survived were taken down to Atlanta’s Southern Tracks Studios this March by O’Brien, Springsteen and the E Street Band. The resulting album, Magic, was recorded in eight weeks, and will be released on October 2nd.
The lead single will be “Radio Nowhere,” which O’Brien says changed very little from the version Springsteen played him at his house last year. “It’s a pretty straight-ahead rocker,” O’Brien says. “The most straightforward song I’ve heard him do in years.” “Long Walk Home,” which Springsteen debuted on tour last year with the Seeger Sessions Band, is an emotionally uplifting ballad that invokes 2002’s “My City In Ruins.” “That’s one of my favorite songs that he’s done in a long time,” says O’Brien. “It’s mournful, but also hopeful. It has very introspective verses and then he opens up lyrically as the song progresses. It hits me in a real great spot.” O’Brien describes the song “Living In The Future” as a “throwback to ‘Hungry Heart,’ an R&B thing.”
Recording with the E Street Band proved to be a logistical challenge, largely due to the fact that drummer Max Weinberg had to tape “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” during the week. Springsteen devoted weekdays to overdubbing and cutting vocal tracks, but each weekend a core group of E Streeters – Springsteen, Weinberg, bassist Gary Tallent and pianist Roy Bittan – would record the instrumental tracks. The other members of the E Street Band, including keyboard player Danny Federici and guitarists Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren, were called in as needed to cut their parts. “It’s easier to manage the songs with less people,” O’Brien says. “Once we know what we’re doing, we brought the others in to do overdubs.”
But Springsteen insisted on being in the studio when Clarence Clemons cut his saxophone parts. “I appointed Bruce ‘senior vice president in charge of Clarence’s saxophone,’ ” O’Brien says. “There’s a whole dynamic there that spans decades. I don’t even get in the middle of it. I’m just a cheerleader.”A world tour with the E Street Band will kick off right around the time Magic comes out, but no details have been released. “There’s songs that when we were recording them he would go, ‘I just know this song’s going to work great live,’ ” says O’Brien. “When it comes to being a bandleader and knowing what his audience wants, I think he’s one of the best ever.”
For more on Springsteen’s “Magic,” read Rolling Stone’s exclusive interview with manager Jon Landau here.
-- Andy Greene
By John Perazzo
“White Immigrants Get a Pass; Brown Ones Do Not.” That is the title of an August 12 commentary authored by the Rev. Robert Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches.
In that piece, Rev. Edgar complains that “devilishly clever” conservative “fearmongers” and “demagogues” are using “nearly every scare tactic they can think of to reduce us [Americans] to a highly suspicious lot all too willing to not love the alien[s] as ourselves and to evict them from their homes, get them fired, separate them from their families, in an all out rampage of oppression and prejudice.” “Immigrants have become the contemporary scapegoat,” he says. “It’s time we call it for what it is — racism.” Edgar characterizes illegals generally as “people who have come here in search of the same thing my northern European ancestors were seeking … a better life for their families, more opportunities for their children and to learn English.” “They [illegals] already pay millions in taxes and contribute to their communities,” he emphasizes.
Just a week prior to the publication of Rev. Edgar’s piece, four African Americans (two male, two female) aged 18 to 20 were accosted in a Newark, New Jersey parking lot by a quartet of murderous savages, two of whom proceeded to sexually assault the women before forcing all four victims to kneel on the ground and shooting them in the head, execution style. Three of the four victims died. The two primary suspects are 28-year-old Jose Lachira Carranza and 24-year-old Rodolfo Godinez — illegal aliens from Peru and Nicaragua, respectively. At the time of the attack, Carranza was free on $150,000 bail despite 31 pending indictments related to his having committed repeated sexual assaults over a four-year period against a girl who “was in his care” beginning when she was four years old.
Rev. Edgar, of course, sees absolutely nothing in the bestial cruelty exhibited by Carranza and Godinez that invalidates the sentiments he expresses in his most recent article. Similar anecdotal anomalies could be cited about members of any demographic group, he would argue. But what Edgar and the rest of the religious Left invariably fail to address in any meaningful way are the staggering aggregate facts that go far beyond anecdotal observations of illegal immigrants’ criminality. Consider just a few, as reported by FamilySecurityMatters.org:
* At the end of 2003, approximately 267,000 illegal aliens were incarcerated in U.S. correctional facilities — at an annual cost to American taxpayers of $6.8 billion.
* A Government Accountability Office study of 55,322 incarcerated illegal aliens found that they had been arrested a total of 459,614 times (about 8 times apiece) for some 700,000 criminal offenses (roughly 13 offenses each).
* Human Events contributor Mac Johnson estimates that illegal aliens murder between 1,806 and 2,510 people in the United States each year; Iowa Congressman Steve King places the figure much higher, at nearly 4,400.
* According to a “conservative estimate” by Dr. Deborah Schurman-Kauflin of the Violent Crimes Institute, the illegal alien population in the U.S. includes approximately 240,000 sex offenders who commit about 131,000 sex crimes annually. Sixty-three percent of those offenses are committed by people who were previously deported.
* The website Gangs Or Us estimates that the violent gang MS-13, which originated in Central America, currently has more than 15,000 members and associates in at least 115 separate cliques in 33 U.S. states.
* According to one study, mostly illegal-alien Hispanics were involved in about one-fourth of all fatal traffic accidents, meaning that their involvement in such events exceeded their representation in the overall U.S. population by a factor of 5. Moreover, illegal aliens are involved in DWI arrests at a rate that is 3 to 6 times greater than their representation in the population.
* Tuberculosis is widespread in many illegal alien communities, and a new Multiple-Drug-Resistant (MDR) form of TB — whose treatment costs between $250,000 and $1.2 million per patient — is becoming increasingly common. It is estimated that each person infected with TB will infect 10 others.
On July 26, 2006, Steven Camarota -- Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies — reported the following while testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee:
· “[I]n 2002, [households headed by illegal aliens] imposed costs of $26 billion on the federal government and paid $16 billion in federal taxes, creating an annual net fiscal deficit of $10.4 billion at the federal level, or $2,700 per household. Among the largest costs were Medicaid ($2.5 billion); treatment for the uninsured ($2.2 billion); food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC [Women, Infants, and Children], and free school lunches ($1.9 billion); the federal prison/court systems ($1.6 billion); and federal aid to schools ($1.4 billion).”
. “[C]ontrary to the perceptions that illegal aliens don’t pay payroll taxes, we estimate that more than half of illegals work ‘on the books.’ On average, illegal households pay more than $4,200 a year in all forms of federal taxes. Unfortunately, they impose costs of $6,950 per household.”
Camarota further testified that granting amnesty to illegals would only grow that deficit:
One of my most important findings with regard to illegal aliens is that if they were given legal status and began to pay taxes and use services like households headed by legal immigrants with the same education levels, the estimated annual net fiscal deficit would increase from $2,700 per household to nearly $7,700, for a total net cost of $29 billion. Costs increase dramatically because less-educated immigrants with legal status — what most illegal aliens would become — can access government programs, but still tend to make very modest tax payments. Of course, I also found that their income would rise, as would their tax payment if legalized. I estimate that tax payments would increase 77 percent, but costs would rise by 118 percent.
Another American societal crisis that illegal aliens exacerbate is the scourge of illegitimacy. As Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald points out, half of all Hispanic children born in the U.S. in 2002 were illegitimate — twice the rate for American whites and 42 percent higher than the overall rate nationwide. Nor can this trend be blamed on some factor inherent in American culture, since the illegitimacy rate for foreign-born Hispanics is 40 percent. In El Salvador, it is an astonishing 72 percent.
In April 2006 MacDonald testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims, where she warned of the “illegal alien crime wave” flooding American society. Among the figures she cited were these:
· The L.A. County Sheriff reported in 2000 that 23 percent of inmates in county jails were deportable.
· Illegals were the targets of 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which totaled 1,200 to 1,500) in Los Angeles during the first half of 2004. In addition, as many as two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (which totaled about 17,000) were for illegal aliens.
According to the Arizona Republic, “Arizona taxpayers pay an estimated $1.3 billion a year for health care, education and prison costs of undocumented immigrants.” This figure included $810 million to educate illegal immigrants and their children, $400 million for their health care, and $80 million for prison costs.The foregoing facts represent merely the barest fraction of a crisis that is essentially unacknowledged by individuals like the pious Robert Edgar. Such men view America as little more than a racist snake pit whose capitalist economic structure has corrupted the collective soul of its citizenry. In their view, anyone who expresses an interest in not having himself or his family members slaughtered in the streets by a segment of the population whose criminality is far out of proportion to its numbers, is casually dismissed as a “racist.” Anyone who is reluctant to shoulder the crushing financial burden imposed upon him by the recklessness and incivility of people who have willfully chosen to disregard the immigration laws of the United States, is routinely branded a “fearmonger” or a “scapegoater.”
This approach by Edgar (and his ideological kin) is no accident. It is perfectly consistent with his value system. If we know that someone wishes to see a particular plant wilt and die in the sun, we should not be surprised to find that he will not water it.
John Perazzo is the author of The Myths That Divide Us: How Lies Have Poisoned American Race Relations. For more information on his book, click here. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Washington Post
August 17, 2007
In the fable, the farm boy phenom makes his way to the big city to amaze the world with his arm. At a stop at a fair on the train ride to Chicago, he strikes out the Babe Ruth of his time on three blazing pitches. Enter the Dark Lady. Before he can reach the stadium for his tryout, she shoots him and leaves him for dead.
It is 16 years later and Roy Hobbs returns, but now as a hitter and outfielder. (He can never pitch again because of the wound.) He leads his team to improbable glory, ending the tale with a titanic home run that, in the now-iconic movie image, explodes the stadium lights in a dazzling cascade of white.
In real life, the kid doesn't look like Robert Redford, but he throws like Roy Hobbs: unhittable, unstoppable. In his rookie year, appropriately the millennial year 2000, he throws it by everyone. He pitches the St. Louis Cardinals to a division title, playing so well that his manager anoints him starter for the opening game of the playoffs, a position of honor and -- for 21-year-old Rick Ankiel -- fatal exposure.
His collapse is epic. He can't find the plate. In the third inning he walks four batters and throws five wild pitches (something not seen since 1890) before Manager Tony La Russa mercifully takes him out of the game.
The kid is never the same. He never recovers his control. Five miserable years in the minors trying to come back. Injuries. Operations. In 2005, he gives up pitching forever.
Then last week, on Aug. 9, he is called up from Triple-A. Same team. Same manager. Rick Ankiel is introduced to a roaring Busch Stadium crowd as the Cardinals' starting right fielder.
In the seventh inning, with two outs, he hits a three-run home run to seal the game for the Cardinals. Two days later, he hits two home runs and makes one of the great catches of the year -- over the shoulder, back to the plate, full speed.
But the play is more than spectacular. It is poignant. It was an amateur's catch. Ankiel ran a slightly incorrect route to the ball. A veteran outfielder would have seen the ball tailing to the right. But pitchers aren't trained to track down screaming line drives over their heads. Ankiel was running away from home plate but slightly to his left. Realizing at the last second that he had run up the wrong prong of a Y, he veered sharply to the right, falling and sliding into the wall as he reached for the ball over the wrong shoulder.
He made the catch. The crowd, already delirious over the two home runs, came to its feet. If this had been a fable, Ankiel would have picked himself up and walked out of the stadium into the waiting arms of the lady in white -- Glenn Close in a halo of light -- never to return.
But this is real life. Ankiel is only 28 and will continue to play. The magic cannot continue. If he is lucky, he'll have the career of an average right fielder. But it doesn't matter. His return after seven years -- if only three days long -- is the stuff of legend. Made even more perfect by the timing: Just two days after Barry Bonds sets a synthetic home run record in San Francisco, the Natural returns to St. Louis.
Right after that first game, La Russa called Ankiel's return the Cardinals' greatest joy in baseball "short of winning the World Series." This, from a manager (as chronicled in George Will's classic "Men at Work") not given to happy talk. La Russa is the ultimate baseball logician, driven by numbers and stats. He may be more machine than man, but he confessed at the postgame news conference: "I'm fighting my butt off to keep it together."
Translation: I'm trying like hell to keep from bursting into tears at the resurrection of a young man who seven years ago dissolved in front of my eyes. La Russa was required to "keep it together" because, as codified most succinctly by Tom Hanks (in "A League of Their Own"), "There's no crying in baseball."
But there can be redemption. And a touch of glory.
Ronald Reagan, I was once told, said he liked "The Natural" except that he didn't understand why the Dark Lady shoots Roy Hobbs. Reagan, the preternatural optimist, may have had difficulty fathoming tragedy, but no one knows why Hobbs is shot. It is fate, destiny, nemesis. Perhaps the dawning of knowledge, the coming of sin. Or more prosaically, the catastrophe that awaits everyone from a single false move, wrong turn, fatal encounter. Every life has such a moment. What distinguishes us is whether -- and how -- we ever come back.
Clarence Clemmons and Bruce Springsteen on tour backing up "The River"
8/16/07, 11:51 am EST
Rolling Stone Magazine
On October 2nd Bruce Springsteen will release Magic, his first album with the E Street Band since 2002’s The Rising. “We’ve been together since 1974 and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him more excited than he is right now about this record,” says Jon Landau, Springsteen’s manager.
The album was cut over two months at Southern Tracks studios in Atlanta with producer Brendan O’Brien, who previously worked with Springsteen on 2005’s Devils & Dust and The Rising.
The E Street Band mostly flew down on weekends to record, while Springsteen and O’Brien spent weekdays cutting vocals and recording overdubs. “This album is E Street Band heavy,” Landau says. “Clarence [Clemons] has some great moments on it. You could say that it’s a little more sonically guitar-driven than any past Bruce album. There are a few sort of pop, romantic touches that haven’t shown up recently, but were very prominent on the very early records.”
The lead single will be “Radio Nowhere,” a track Landau says “has a real anthemic quality to it. If it doesn’t get you out of your seat, I don’t know what will.” Landau is particularly excited about “The Long Walk Home,” which was performed live (click here to listen to an audience recording) on one occasion on the Seeger Sessions tour late last year. “It’s sort of the summational song of the album,” Landau says. “I think it’s one of Bruce’s great masterpieces.” Another track, “Girls in Their Summer Clothes,” Landau says has a “little bit of a Pet Sounds-type feeling mixed in with the sound of the E Street Band.” The final track, “Devil’s Arcade,” is described as one of the only songs on the album that delves into politics. “He gets some images across that are very powerful and will certainly give you a feeling of where he’s coming from, but on balance [politics] is not the primary intention of this record.”
A world tour with the E Street Band is reportedly going to kick off in early October, but Landau remains tight-lipped on the details. “As we speak, the tour has not been fully decided,” he says. Springsteen is also planning to promote the album on television, including late-night talk shows.
“What do you think about us doing American Idol?” Landau asks. “Come on, I’m kidding!”
1. “Radio Nowhere”
2. “You’ll Be Comin’ Down”
3. “Livin’ in the Future”
4. “Your Own Worst Enemy”
5. “Gypsy Biker”
6. “Girls in Their Summer Clothes”
7. “I’ll Work for Your Love”
9. “Last to Die”
10. “Long Walk Home”
11. “Devil’s Arcade”
-- Andy Greene
Thursday, August 16, 2007
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN'S 'MAGIC'
SET FOR OCTOBER 2 RELEASE ON COLUMBIA RECORDS
'Magic,' Bruce Springsteen's new studio recording and his first with the E Street Band in five years, is set for release by Columbia Records on October 2, 2007. Produced and mixed by Brendan O'Brien, the album features eleven new Springsteen songs and was recorded at Southern Tracks Recording Studio in Atlanta, GA.
'Magic' Song Titles:
1. Radio Nowhere
2. You'll Be Comin' Down
3. Livin' in the Future
4. Your Own Worst Enemy
5. Gypsy Biker
6. Girls in Their Summer Clothes
7. I'll Work for Your Love
9. Last to Die
10. Long Walk Home
11. Devil's Arcade
'Magic' is the first new studio album by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band since 2002's GRAMMY Award-winning, multi-platinum, number one album 'The Rising' (Columbia Records), which was also produced by O'Brien.
Bruce Springsteen's longtime manager Jon Landau said, "'Magic' is a high energy rock CD. It's light on its feet, incredibly well played by Bruce and the members of the E Street Band, and, as always, has plenty to say. It's also immensely entertaining. 'Magic' is the third collaboration between Bruce and Brendan O'Brien and is a culmination of their very productive creative relationship."
By Greil Marcus
Rolling Stone Magazine
Posted Sep 22, 1977 12:00 AM
August 18th Maui, Hawaii
There was a message to call the mainland, so I did. We don't follow the news much here when we are on vacation; the radio, especially on the outer islands, is mostly static, and this time we had brought along a cassette machine and some homemade tapes and didn't listen to the radio at all. "They want you to write a piece about Elvis," I was told on the phone. "An obituary." What kind of joke is that? I thought. Rolling Stone doesn't keep a ready file of obits. "What kind of joke is that?" I said. "Why, he died today," I was told. "A heart attack, apparently."
I didn't accept it at all, not in any way, but at the same time I knew it was true, and even as part of me withdrew from that fact, headlines began to fly through my brain: Nude body of George "Superman" Reeves found. Singer drowns in own vomit. James Dean spoke to me from the grave, man claims. I went down to the bar at the hotel where we are staying, and while I was waiting for my wife I ordered a Jack Daniel's. I would have asked for Wild Turkey, but this was no night to drink Kentucky whiskey; Jack Daniel's in straight from Tennessee, just like Elvis Presley's first 45.
Like most other people my age -- thirty-two -- Elvis mattered to me in the Fifties; I loved his music, bought some of his records, and never went to any of his movies. He was great, but he was also weird, and I kept my distance. Clearly, though, I had some sort of buried fascination for the man, and when he appeared on TV late in 1968 for his comeback, I found I could handle that fascination; in fact, I was caught up in it, and for five years I spent far more time listening to Elvis' music, from the beginning on down, than to the music of anyone else. I found, or at least decided, that Elvis contained more of America -- had swallowed whole more of its contradictions and paradoxes -- than any other figure I could think of; I found that he was a great, original American artist; and I found that neither of these propositions were generally understood, at least not in sufficient depth. So of course I wrote about it all, feeling, after 20,000 words, that while I had never written anything so good before, I had only scratched the surface.
I did not write about "a real person"; I wrote about the persona I heard speaking in Elvis' music. I wrote about the personalization of an idea, of lots of ideas -- freedom, limits, risk, authority, sex, repression, youth, age, tradition, novelty, guilt and the escape from guilt -- because they all were there to hear; reading my perceptions back onto their source, I understood Elvis not as a human being (his divorce was interesting to me musically) but as a sort of force, as a kind of necessity: that is, the necessity existing in every culture (or anyway ours) that leads it to produce a perfect, all-inclusive metaphor for itself. This, I tried to find a way to say safely, was what Herman Melville attempted to create with the white whale, but this was what Elvis Presley turned out to be. Or rather, made himself into, or maybe, agreed to become. And because such a triumph had to combine absolute determination and self-conscious ambition with utter ease, with the grace of one to whom all good things come naturally, I imagined a special dispensation for Elvis, or, really, read it in the artifacts of his career: that to make all this work, to make this metaphor perfectly, transcendently American, to make it new, it would be free. In other words, this would, as it had to, be a Faustian bargain, but someone else -- and who cared who? -- would pick up the tab.
I thought about all this, sitting at the bar, still believing every word I had written but wondering: if I had not somehow turned myself into the most lunatic Elvis fan of all. Suddenly I began to get angry. I thought: disgusting, sordid, ugly, sleazy, stupid, wasteful, pathetic. I thought of George Reeves again; for some reason I still could not make the event real -- every time I focused on it consciously, the idea of Elvis dead, not here, seemed to imply that he had never been here, that his presence over 23 years had been some kind of hallucination, a trick -- and as a way to avoid the recite, I began to glide toward the corpse. I got tough. I played journalist. No one could tell me he died of anything but booze and broads, I said to myself. Isn't that what everybody in show biz dies from? Why should I think Elvis would be any different? Heart attack, my ass. I dumped the whole affair into Vegas. I wanted to cut loose from it all, but I was still too angry, and confused, not at anyone or anything: not at Elvis, or myself, or "them," or the fans, or the media, or "rock," or "success?" It was simply rage. I was devastated.
The following night I watched two separate television specials on Elvis' death, aired for most of the country the night before but broadcast a day late here in Hawaii. They were strange shows. On ABC one saw Chuck Berry who had never hidden his bitterness at the fact that it took a white man to symbolize the new music Chuck and others, Elvis among them, created; here he did not really try to hide his satisfaction at having lasted longer than "the King." "For what will Elvis be remembered among other musicians?" Chuck was asked. "Oh," he replied, "boop boop, boop; shake your leg; fabulous teen music; the Fifties; his movies." Not a man you'd want to trade ironies with in a dark alley -- but even Jerry Lee Lewis, laughing, raving drunk and packing a pistol outside Graceland, demanding to be let in to see the King, had lasted longer. And could television have possibly aired whatever it might have been that Jerry Lee had to say about all this? One saw Elvis performing in Hawaii in 1973 -- we had been here at the time, too, and I remember feeling like an idiot as I looked for him on the beach -- and in his later incarnation Elvis even began to look like George Reeves.
On NBC's special, hosted in an even tone by David Brinkley, a panel of experts had been assembled: Murray the K, famous DJ, was the "first civilized person [i.e., Northerner] to play an Elvis record" -- The first civilized person [i.e., Northerner] to play an Elvis record -- Steve Dunleavy, the as-told-to part of a quartet of authors responsible for a just-published scandal bio called Elvis What Happened? (his co-writers are former Elvis bodyguards, fired over the last year or so), and my friend and colleague Dave Marsh of ROLLING STONE. Murray the K looked subdued and played the insider; Elvis, he informed America, had told him, Murray, that he, Elvis, would "not outlive his mother," who as it happened also died at the age of 42. Uh huh. Dunleavy looked bored, note his Australian accent, and spoke coolly -- in the manner of, "Well, you know these showbiz types" -- of Elvis in his last few years as a "walking drugstore." It was a classic case of too much too soon,'" Dunleavy said, trying to slide around the cliché. Dave Marsh, however, is a rock critic; in his case that means not that rock is part of his life because it is his job, but that rock is his job because it is his life. Dave looked shellshocked, scared. He looked the way I was feeling, and he said intelligent things that perhaps not a large percentage of those watching were prepared to understand.
"It's that Elvis has always been there," Marsh said. "I always expected him to be apart of American culture that I would share with my children." And of course that was it. Elvis was not a "phenomenon." He was not a "craze." He was not even, or at least not only, a "singer," or an "artist." He was that perfect American symbol, fundamentally a mystery, and the idea was that he would outlive us all -- or, at least, live for as long as it took both him and us to reach the limits of what that symbol had to say."
Since I had already read Steve Dunleavy's book, though, I could not help but think that Elvis' death might mean that those limits had already been reached, that the symbol had collapsed back upon itself and upon those who had, over the years, paid attention to it. The moment I enjoyed most in Elvis What Happened? came when I read that in 1966 Robert Mitchum offered Elvis the lead in Thunder Road -- perfect role for Elvis, and one that would have given him the chance to become the serious actor he had always dreamed of being -- and I enjoyed that moment most because I knew that Mitchum had already made Thunder Road, in 1958, and so could conclude that the accuracy of the test of the book might be suspect. Because while many of the events detailed in What Happened? are trivial, of the most unforgettable pillow fight I ever had sort, and some of the most sensationalized (Elvis demanding that his bodyguards set up a hit on the man who took away his wife) clearly inflated, what Red West, Sonny West and Dave Hebler have to say rings mostly true.
The Elvis of What Happened? is a man whose success had, simply, driven him nuts. As presented here-in, of course, the present tense, the authors make much of their desire to save Elvis from himself -- Elvis has no sense of the real world whatsoever. He is schizophrenic, a manic depressive, insanely jealous, crazily "generous," desperate to hay loyalty and able to trust no one. Each of these characteristics is seen as inherent in his personality and his unique situation; each is intensified by huge, constant doses of uppers and downers, by an entourage of paid sycophants, by Elvis' obsession with firearms and by his paranoid fantasies of vengeance and death. Each of these neurotic dislocations seeks some sort of resolution in Elvis' desire to check the limits of what he can get away with (Can the near death of a young girl be overdosed --according to the book --- be covered up? Sure it can.), coupled with his desire to bring punishment upon himself for breaking rules he booms are right. Commentator after commentator on the night of Elvis' death mentioned that his life was never complete after his mother died, implying that had she lived he would have also; it seems clear, after reading What Happened?, that one route of Elvis' pathology was his inability -- from, inevitably, the beginning -- to be as good a boy as his mother must have wanted him to be.
I thought of this, however, only after Elvis' death; before that, I had not taken the book all that seriously. Now I realize that what I had read in it was at the source of my anger at his death, my sense of ugliness, and waste. The book had disturbed me when I read it, but not that much; I wrote a brief review and forgot about it. It is only now that I can see through the padding and the mean-spiritedness of the volume to what it has to show us: a picture of a man who lived with almost complete access to disaster, all the time. The stories that illustrate this are not all that important; you can read them, or you can make them up, whether they have to do with the onstage freak-out brought on by dope and who knows what else; the M-16 that went of at the wrong time; the rage no one could cool down. There is nothing in this book. I think, that would have ended Elvis' career had he lived (perhaps today, even the worst possibilities imaginable regarding Elvis' Army relationship with the then 14-year-old Priscilla might not really biter him with Middle America; Elvis did finally marry her, after all.) But the book's last pages, purportedly the transcript of a telephone conversation Elvis had with Red West sometime after Elvis fired him a conversation in which they discussed the book that had come out as What Happened? -- are themselves ending enough.
The feeling I get, reading stuff like this, is that Elvis may well have wanted this book to appear; that he wanted the burden and the glory of acting the King removed once and for all; that he wanted, finally, relief. Of course, that may only be what the authors of What Happened? want us to think. Peter Guralnick has often written about Elvis, and always brilliantly; every time, I think, he has headed his pieces with a quote from William Carlos Williams: "The pure products of America go crazy." In Elvis' case both Peter and Williams were obviously right. But it still seems too pat to me, as do the detailed explanations of What Happened?, because the merely reduce something we cannot quite get our heads around to something that can be laid to rest by a line.
With Elvis in the ground his death is still out of my reach. This isn't, I know, just another rock & roll death; it isn't any kind of rock & roll death, because it is the only rock & roll death that cannot he contained by the various metaphors rock & roll has itself creased. Nor can it be contained, as Steer Dunleavy, and as times I, try to contain it, by showbiz metaphors. The problem-and it may take us years to really understand this, years during which some of us will base so keep these tiles clean and she stacks in order, reminding others that Elvis was not influenced by Chuck Berry, but by Roy Brown, and soon-is that there is just too much there, and that all of it -- the art, the buy, the man, the source in the South, his reward is Hollywood, the recognition and adulation all over the world far more than twenty years -- is all mixed up together.
The problem is that Elvis did flat simply change musical history, though of course he did that. He changed history, pure and simple, and in doing so, he became history -- he became part of it, attached to is, as those of us who were changed by him, or changed ourselves because of things we glimpsed in him, are not. And it must be added that so change history is so do something that cannot be exactly figured our pinned dawn; it is to create and so pursue a mystery. That Elvis did what he did-and we donut know precisely what he did, because "Milkcow Blues Bougie" and "Hound Dog" cannot be figured out, exactly-means that the world became something other than what it would have been had he not dune what h0 did, and that half-circle of a sentence has to be understood at the limit of its ability to mean anything at all. Because of Elvis' emergence, because of who he was and what he became, because of his recur and what we made of it, she American past, from the Civil War to the civil-rights movement, from Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln, looks different than it would have without Elvis. Because of that event, its moment-the mid-Fifties-was convulsed, and started over. Because of that event, she future has possibilities that otherwise would have been foreclosed.
And you see, we all knew this. We knew it, I think, all the time. You can hear it in the music. Somehow, Elvis must have had a sense of it, too That is why, really, his death makes no sense, no matter if he died of an "irregular heartbeat," an overdose, as a suicide, is an accident, or m any other way. And this is what, I think, Dave meant when he said that Elvis had always been there, and hinted thus, at least for those of us who helped make Elvis' event, Elvis would of necessity have to outlive it. As with the death of FDR far another generation, it is not simply a man's death that wakes no sense, and is in same crucial, terrible way not real when history is personified and the person behind that history dies, history itself is no longer real.
My wife and I talked about some of this down at the bar, while I watched the ice melt in my Jack Daniel's. She mentioned that she had asked me to take Elvis' "Long Black Limousine," from the 1969 comeback album, for our trip; for some reason I had never gotten around suit. It is quite a song: the story of a country girl who goes off to make it in the city, sell her soul, and come home, as she promised, riding in a fancy car -- a hearse. Elvis never sang with more passion; he was bitter, and of what other recording by Elvis Presley can you say that? Of course, Elvis was no fool; he knew the song was about him, the country boy lost to the city if there ever was one, but he sang as if he liked that and loathed it all at once. He contained multitudes. His singing cut through the contradictions, blew them up. William Carlos Williams might say thus "the pure products of America go crazy," but you might also say that the crazy product of America are pure, or something like that. When the stakes are as high us they always were in Elvis' case, the neat phase is not to be trusted; always it will obscure more than it will reveal. So we talked about "Long Black Limousine" and about the only Elvis music we did have along, an outtake of "Blue Moon of Kentucky," from Elvis' very first sessions in July of 1954, with studio dialogue bouncing back and forth between a nineteen-year-old Elvis, his accompanists Scotty Moose and Bill Black, and producer Sam Phillips. They were jammin' like crazy, they said. And they were.
We sat for a while longer, and I ordered another Jack Daniel's. My wife explained the rationale behind the drink to the bartender, who seemed amused. There was, he said, much more appropriate drink. We asked what. "Why, a Blue Hawaii, of course," he said. "You know, the movie?" That was two nights ago, but I still haven't been able to bring myself to try one.
Elvis' fans surrendered to him instinctively, willing to take what he gave (no master how silly), always confident that he could possess them completely any time he chose. Their faith, coupled with the complacency of his advisers, was both his glory and a plague. For if he was so great an artist in an environment where his were presence was enough to incite riotous devotion, what might he have become in an atmosphere where creative challenge was fostered, risk encouraged, banality derided?
Three is no denying that the final few years were depressing and humiliating -- especially since their mediocrity followed the great moments of redemption, the 1968 TV show and the string of vital hits that surrounded is. "If I Can Dream," "Kentucky Rain," "The Wonder of You" and "Suspicious Minds" were among the greatest records he ever made. As depressing as the musical backsliding -- perhaps more so -- was the physical deterioration. From a lithe, athletic and infinitely sexual creature, Elvis became the antithesis of our dreams.
Still, many of us turned to each new record with expectations that must confound thaw who missed even the final glimmerings of his majesty. Why did we bother?
Because Elvis was unique. He had is all Every element of the rock & roll dream was his -- pink Cadillacs, beautiful women, untold wealth, true genius and inspiration -- and that was a claim no one else could ever make. A few others might have had some hope of it, most notably Chuck Berry. Berry united his own set 0f opposites: black and white, adult and teenage, verbal and nonverbal. But Berry was also black, and though he, too, blazed a tough and glorious path, his race denied him the full honor due his genius.
In a way, though, it was Berry's story, because of songs like "Johnny B. Goode" and "Promised Land," even though those songs came to stand as prophecies of Elvis, and finally as epitaphs for him. (It is especially ironic that those two songs were among the finest recordings of Elvis' final years.( "Johnny B. Goode" was a story Elvis, and Elvis alone, lived out to the hilt. "Promised Land" must have seemed a plain fact so him -- at least some of the time.
Perhaps I make too much of Elvis Presley -- he was, after all, not a saint or a guru. But if any individual of our time can be said so base changed the world, Elvis Presley is the one. In his wake more than music is different. Nothing and no one looks or sounds the same. His music was the most liberating event of our era because it taught us new possibilities of feeling and perception, new modes of action and appearance, and because it reminded us not only of his greatness but of our own potential. If those things were not already so well integrated into our lives that they have become commonplace, it would be simpler to explain how astonishing a feat Elvis Presley's advent really was.
Of course, it is unquestionable that there would base been rock & roll music without Elvis Presley. But oh it's just as unquestionable that the kind of rock & roll we have -- a matter of dreams and visions, not just facts and figures or even songs and singers -- was shaped by him in the most fundamental ways.
His life must have been brutally lonely, for Elvis went it alone, took the biggest chance of all. One reason the Beatles did better, or at least lasted longer at their peak, was that they had learned from his mistakes and successes. Elvis had no such map to guide him, so he had to invent himself, over and over, come up with new terms for dealing with each situation. In the process, he invented us, whether or not we all know it. We are a hero-worshiping, thrill-crazy mob, I suppose, but at any best one that's tuned into the heart of things -- open, honest, unpretentious. Which is to say that he made us in his image.
Elvis was the King of rock & roll because he was the embodiment of its sins and virtues: grand and vulgar, rude and eloquent, powerful and frustrated, absurdly simple and awesomely complex. He was the King, I mean, in our hearts, which is the place where the music really comes to life. And just as rock & roll will stand as long as our hearts beat, he will always be our King: forever, irreplaceable, corrupt and incorruptible, beautiful and horrible, imprisoned and liberated. And finally, rockin' and free, free at last.
(RS 248 - September 22, 1977)
Published 5:54 am PDT Thursday, August 16, 2007
Story appeared in SCENE section, Page E2
On the long walk from his dressing room to the Las Vegas stage, Elvis Presley would often stop. He'd close his eyes and begin singing a gospel song, and soon his backup singers would join him. "Let's have a little prayer," he'd say afterward.
This is one of the stories Joe Moscheo, a member of Presley's backup group, the Imperials, recalls in his new book about Presley, "The Gospel Side of Elvis" (Center Street, $19.99, 224 pages). The book, with a foreword by Priscilla Presley, has been published on the 30th anniversary of the King's death.
"There are hundreds of books on him, but no one has written that gospel music was really a big part of his life and a big part of who he was," says Moscheo, on the phone from his home in Nashville, Tenn. "His fans should know this if they want a complete picture of the man."
How much did the music mean to Presley?
"He was a great student of gospel music. ... He was addicted to it," Moscheo says.
Presley was so knowledgeable about the genre that he knew the lyrics to obscure gospel songs, memorized arrangements by different groups and could name members of various bands, according to Moscheo.
Priscilla Presley says she and her former husband watched Sunday morning worship services on TV every week. "Elvis made sure he had my undivided attention as he would go through every performance," she writes.
Many probably don't think of religion when they think of Presley, but Moscheo says that his faith was a big part of his life.
"We've all heard about the other side and all his failings," Moscheo says. "I'm not saying they didn't exist ... but the man I knew was a deeply religious man."
Presley first heard the music growing up when he and his mother attended an Assembly of God Church. He liked the music so much that at one point Presley wanted to be a gospel singer, and he tried out for a group called the Songfellows in 1954, according to Moscheo.
"He had a different destiny," Moscheo says.
Even when Presley became a huge star, he never left gospel. He was no longer able to attend church -- it created a disturbance when he did -- but he kept up on the latest in the gospel world. He attended the National Gospel Convention, where he acted like any fan.
"Elvis introduced me to all those he was influenced by and those he admired," writes his former wife.
Presley's favorite gospel songs were "Sing Sweet, Sweet Spirit," "How Great Thou Art" and "He Touched Me," Moscheo says.
Presley won three Grammy Awards for his gospel recordings, the only Grammys he ever won. In 1999, he was inducted posthumously into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
The author says Presley often turned to these songs to cope. "He was a very lonely person, he lived a fast life, but when everything got to be too much he'd go back to what his mother taught him and what he learned at church," says Moscheo. "And that was gospel music."
But toward the end of his life, not even this music was enough, and the author describes watching Presley's downward spiral. "It saddens me to this day," he writes.
It was only fitting, he says, that gospel music was played at Presley's funeral, Moscheo says. "It was the music he loved the most."
The Bee's Jennifer Garza can be reached at (916) 321-1133 or email@example.com.
August 14, 2007
Though George Bush was not given the natural gifts of a Ronald Reagan, his victories in Texas, followed by successive victories in the presidential contests of 2000 and 2004, put him in the history books alongside Reagan, who won California and the presidency twice.
None of Bush's wins were nearly so impressive as the Reagan landslides in the Golden State and the nation. But it is a testament to Rove that he and Bush never lost a statewide or national election in the four they contested from 1994 to 2004. Rove has two Super Bowl rings. How many political advisers can say as much?
But if Rove's contribution to the career of George Bush will put him in the Hall of Fame, the Bush-Rove legacy for their party is worse than mixed. Rove wanted to be the architect of a new Republican majority. Instead, he and Bush presided over the loss of the Reagan Democrats and both houses of Congress.
The house Nixon and Reagan built, Bush and Rove tore down, leaving rubble in its place. Rove's failure was a failure of vision. He and Bush believed the future of the party lay in adding to the Republican base the Hispanic vote, now the nation's largest minority, approaching 15 percent of the population.
They went about it the wrong way.
Pandering to that voting bloc, Bush stopped enforcing the immigration laws and offered amnesty to 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens and the businesses that hired them. Bush and Rove were going to lure the Hispanic vote away from the Democratic Party by putting illegals on a path to citizenship.
But as we saw in June, when the nation rose up in rage against the Bush amnesty, the pair did indeed unite the GOP—against themselves, and they severed themselves from the Reagan Democrats and the country.
It was cynical politics, and it backfired, crippling the presidential candidacy of John McCain in the process.
But even before the disastrous immigration reform bill, Bush had become a zealot of NAFTA, GATT and most-favored-nation status for China. These have left his country with the worst trade deficits in history, put the United States $2 trillion in debt to Beijing and Tokyo, cost Middle America 3 million manufacturing jobs and arrested the income rise of the middle class, as our capitalist pigs and hedge-fund hogs have happily gorged themselves at the capital gains tax trough.
Bush's original idea of "compassionate conservatism" was a fine one. But under him and Rove, compassionate conservative turned out to be code for a cocktail of Great Society Liberalism and Big Government Conservatism. How could professed admirers of Ronald Reagan think that by doubling the budget of the Department of Education the tests scores of school kids would inexorably rise?
Even earlier in the Bush years, the president, after the trauma of 9-11, had a Damascene conversion to neoconservatism, a neo-Wilsonian ideology and secular religion. Among its tenets: that we are a providential nation whose mission on earth is to liberate mankind and democratize the planet; that we are in a world-historic struggle between good and evil; that our triumph is to be accomplished by the robust use of American military power—beginning with the benighted nations of the Islamic Middle East that represent an existential threat to America, democracy and Israel.
Sometime between Sept. 11 and his axis-of-evil address, Bush sat down and ate of the forbidden fruit of messianic globaloney. Consuming it, he got up and committed the greatest strategic blunder in American history by ordering the invasion of a country that had not attacked us, did not threaten us and did not want war with us.
The Bush-Rove rationale: For our survival, we had to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction that we now know it did not have.
The great political architects of the 20th century are FDR and Richard Nixon. After the three Republican landslides of the 1920s, FDR put together a New Deal coalition that controlled the White House for 36 years, with the exception of two terms for Gen. Eisenhower.
After the rout of the Republicans in 1964, Nixon pulled together a New Majority that held the White House for 20 of 24 years, racking up two 49-state landslides for Nixon and Reagan, even as FDR had won 46 states in 1936. In his re-election bid, Bush won 31 states.
In seeking a new GOP majority, Bush and Rove rejected the Nixon-Reagan model. Instead, they embraced the interventionism of Wilson, the free-trade globalism of FDR, the open-borders immigration ideas of LBJ and the budget priorities of the Great Society. It was a bridge too far for the party base.
Now, Rove walks away like some subprime borrower abandoning the house on which he can no longer make the payments. The Republican Party needs a new architect. The firm of Bush & Rove was not up to the job.
Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from Amazon.com.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
By Mike Bauman
August 14, 2007
Rizzuto, sliding safely into home against the Detroit Tigers in 1949, was only 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 150 pounds. “I hustled and got on base and made the double play,” he said of his role with the Yankees.
Phil Rizzuto represented the triumph of the spirit in baseball.
He was the little Scooter who could. He was only 5-foot-6, but he became a fixture at shortstop on some of the greatest New York Yankees teams of all time. He became a Most Valuable Player in 1950, and eventually, a Hall of Famer.
His death saddens everyone who ever knew of his career. But that career will remain as a reminder of what could be accomplished through determination and relentless hustle.
He was not a promising physical specimen. Rizzuto described himself, by saying, "I'm short all over, but my legs are very short." One of his classic recollections was of a tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937. As Rizzuto told it, then Dodgers manager Casey Stengel "took one look and me and ... he said, 'Listen, kid, you better go and get yourself a shoeshine box. That is the only way you'll make a living.' "
In the height of irony, Stengel was the manager of the Yankees when Rizzuto's career was at its peak.
From left, Rizzuto, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford on Old-Timers Day at Yankee Stadium in 2004.
Rizzuto was a superlative defensive shortstop and that, combined with an exceptional offensive year in 1950 (.324 average, 125 runs, 36 doubles), won him the MVP. While he was obviously not going to hit for considerable power, his ability to make consistent contact and his wonderful touch on bunts kept him batting at or near the top of the order for years.
He was an integral part of the Yankees' success, playing on nine World Series teams, seven World Series champions, from 1941 until 1955, with three seasons spent in the military during World War II.
He was an indispensable part of Yankee teams that dominated an entire era. That sort of thing says more about his worth as a player than any number can. He played with style and effervescence and joy, but he was also a winner.
As a popular player and a Brooklyn native, Rizzuto was ideally placed to continue with the Yankees in the broadcast booth after his playing career ended. He was not exactly Vin Scully in the booth, but he was spirited. Everyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with baseball has heard a recording in which Phil Rizzuto shouts "Holy cow!" on the occasion of an exceptional play.
He was so big as a broadcaster that he went, although unintentionally, cross-cultural. Rizzuto was featured on Meat Loaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" epic. Although Rizzuto had no idea of the song's salacious subject matter when he recorded his portion of it, and the whole episode eventually embarrassed him, his appearance on that hit record was a type of a tribute to his standing. When the rocker wanted a baseball broadcaster to perform on his song, he went to one of the genre's most recognizable voices and styles.
In the end, Phil Rizzuto will be remembered, especially by Yankees fans -- but also by all baseball fans -- as someone who embodied the qualities of will and perseverance, and someone who played and broadcast the game with a pure, unvarnished joy.
The little guy who was supposed to earn a living with a shoeshine box instead became a Yankees fixture, a Yankees legend, and a Hall of Famer. He went from unlikely to stardom in a truly singular career. Phil Rizzuto will always be part of the game.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.