Curtain call for the legendary writers, musicians, actors and artists that the world lost in 2016 | The Washington Post

31 Dec

They touched the world in diverse, indelible ways: David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Glenn Frey, Phife Dawg and Merle Haggard. The Washington Post writers gather their thoughts for a final appreciation of these and other.


Prince: We’ve lost our single greatest pop star

By Chris Richards | April 21

The most significant scene in “Purple Rain” — the 1984 blockbuster that introduced Prince to the entirety of America — comes deep in the action when the young maestro finally strolls onstage to unleash the film’s transcendent title track.

As the camera pans across the crowd, we see Jheri-curled funk dudes, Aqua Net glam girls, mulleted wastoids, preps and punks. And that’s exactly who Prince wanted to see when he looked out into this vicious world: a radical congregation of disparate individuals being different, being together, being free.

Whether we’ve gotten any closer to that purple paradise over the past three decades is up for debate, but here’s what isn’t: Modernity has produced no greater pop star than Prince.

The unexpected news of his death April 21 at age 57 certainly felt cruel to anyone who has ever believed in music as a force of enlightenment. This man was a superhero who summoned humanity onto a new dance floor with an effortlessly utopian swirl of funk, soul and rock-and-roll. He was a visionary songwriter, a top-shelf guitarist, a master-architect of rhythm, a breath-stealing vocalist and an unparalleled tornado of a live performer. Since his auspicious debut in 1978, he projected a mysterious, enduring invincibility. And now he’s gone. The shock is enough to make your brain go blank. Read complete story



Glenn Frey: ‘The one who started it all’ with the Eagles

By Geoff Edgers | Jan. 18

It was 1971, and Jackson Browne was working on a new song that he just couldn’t finish. Frustrated, he told his buddy, Glenn Frey, to give it a try. And with a single phrase — “It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford” — Frey invented the California country-rock sound and launched one of the biggest bands of all time.

“Take It Easy,” recorded by the Eagles and released in 1972, rose to No. 12 on the pop charts and introduced the world to the Detroit-born singer with the bloodshot eyes and outlaw moustache. The song also marked the beginning of the sometimes glorious, sometimes dysfunctional reign for the Eagles, a band that would go on to sell more than 150 million records. Read complete story



The humanity and humor of Carrie Fisher

By Ann Hornaday | Dec. 27

Carrie Fisher went into the family business as an actress, vaulting from off-screen Hollywood royalty to the on-screen version as a generation’s most revered space princess, along the way picking up and dropping a drug habit, turning it all into fodder for one of the finest, funniest show-business memoirs ever written, albeit in the form of a semi-autobiographical novel. Movie fans may consider “Postcards From the Edge” a piquant Meryl Streep comedy, but writers worship the book for the same tough, wry self-awareness Fisher brought to her script-doctoring work (including uncredited improvements to the dialogue in “The Empire Strikes Back” and other “Star Wars” sequels), her one-woman show, “Wishful Drinking,” and her actual memoir, the just-published “The Princess Diarist.” Read complete story



Leonard Cohen: Eavesdropping on conversations with the void

By Chris Richards | Nov. 7

Before you can learn a body of music, you need to find a way in. For other listeners my age, the portal into Leonard Cohen’s songbook materialized in 1993 on the lips of Kurt Cobain. “Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld,” Cobain groused during “Pennyroyal Tea,” one of Nirvana’s gnarlier mood swings. “So I can sigh eternally.”

Hell of an introduction. To escape Cobain’s world and drift into Cohen’s was to abandon a miasma of teenage despair for the mystical introspection of adulthood — a strange kind of sanctuary where Cohen’s consummate elegance seemed to drain all of the self-pity out of feeling blue. Cobain was howling into the void. Cohen had engaged it in polite conversation. Read complete story



Edward Albee: The last of the giants

By Peter Marks | Sept. 16

“I try to, but I can’t control the world,” Edward Albee once said. He was being modest — and uncharacteristically so. Because in the world of his creation, a world in which the stage churned with resentment and bubbled with anxiety and simmered in ambiguity, Albee was consummately in control.

A maestro of linguistic control of international caliber, to be sure, on a par with his fellows in the pantheons of modernism and absurdism, Ireland’s Samuel Beckett and Britain’s Harold Pinter. Both of those giants were awarded Nobel Prizes for literature, and how Albee eluded the Nobel Committee’s similar approbation is a puzzlement that leaves, in the wake of his death Sept. 16 at the age of 88, a lamentable missing passage on an extraordinary résumé. Read complete story



David Bowie: The limitless potential of renewal

By Chris Richards | Jan. 11

Mourning David Bowie requires tremendous energy because there are so many David Bowies to mourn. The lost cosmonaut. The alien balladeer. The pansexual glamourpuss. The rake. The maestro. The fashionista. The freak. He was humanity’s ultimate and most giving rock star. A chameleon bearing gifts.

For five decades, Bowie — who died Jan. 10 at age 69 — reimagined himself over and over again, colorfully implying that music should change while quietly insisting that human beings can change. In that sense, Bowie’s mutations were a manifestation of his generosity. Being yourself is fine, but being every iteration of yourself is living. Renewal is possible. Still. Always.

He made sure that we learned that big lesson with our eyes as well as our ears. As rock’s greatest shape-shifter, Bowie always had fresh ideas about love, alienation, pleasure and progress churning beneath each new haircut. With an imagination deeper than his wardrobe, he was an omni-star, casually drifting across a vast terrain at high speeds. Read complete story

Source: Curtain call for the legendary writers, musicians, actors and artists that the world lost in 2016 | The Washington Post

David Bowie: The limitless potential of renewal
Glenn Frey: “The one who started it all”
Maurice White: He shaped the essential playlist of black lives
Harper Lee: How she lost control of her legacy
George Martin: One of his best decisions
Phife Dawg: Humor and humanity for A Tribe Called Quest
Garry Shandling: Father of the cringeworthy
Zaha Hadid: The mixed legacy of the unstoppable architect
Merle Haggard: Carrying life’s burdens to the end of the road
Prince: We’ve lost our single greatest pop star
Edward Albee: The last of the giants
Leonard Cohen: Conversations with the void
Florence Henderson: A reassuring sense of adulthood
George Michael: Absolutely serious about pop
Carrie Fisher: Distinctive honesty
Debbie Reynolds: A trouper all the way




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