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Archive for the tag “James Dean”

Happy Birthday, James Dean

When I was an adolescent, I took a lot of pride in telling my friends that I was born on the same day as Elvis Presley and David Bowie. Then I met my best friend and she retorted that she was born on the same day as James Dean.

It was the only time I’ve ever felt a tinge of birthday jealousy.


Happy birthday to both of them. Today would have been Mr. Dean’s 78th birthday.

James Dean’s road safety PSA

This is James Dean‘s 1955 road safety Public Service Announcement wherein he tells youngsters to “take it easy” when driving. It’s sadly ironic considering he died 13 days later while speeding in his custom Porsche:

Dean was only 24. I don’t think any of the young Hollywood stars who have been called “the next James Dean” can hold a candle to him. He was an amazing actor.

Time for a list! 29 songs about actors and actresses

We haven’t done in a list in a while and life seems empty.

How about “29 Songs About Famous Actors and Actresses”? I’ll start:

Elton John, Candle In the Wind (Marilyn Monroe)
10cc, Somewhere In Hollywood (Marilyn Monroe)
Elton John, Roy Rogers
Gorillaz, Clint Eastwood
Nirvana, Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle
Madness, Michael Caine
Serge Gainsbourg, Intitals B.B. (Brigitte Bardot)
Russell Crowe‘s band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, Other Ways of Speaking (Jodie Foster)
James, Fred Astaire
Bertie Higgins, Key Largo (Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman)
Roxy Music, 2H.B. (Humphrey Bogart)
Lou Reed, City Lights, (Charlie Chaplin)
Lenny Kravitz, It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over, etc (Lisa Bonet)
Bree Sharp, David Duchovny
Woody Guthrie, Ingrid Bergman
The Eagles, James Dean
Sonic Youth, Madonna, Sean and Me (Madonna and Sean Penn)
R.E.M., Man on the Moon (Andy Kauffman)
Toto, Rosanna (Rosanna Arquette)
Bauhaus, Bela Lugosi’s Dead
Bananarama, Robert DeNiro’s Waiting
The Clash, The Right Profile (Montgomery Clift)
Nine Inch Nails, Starfuckers, Inc (Rose McGowan)
Matthew Sweet, Winona (Winona Ryder)
R.E.M., River (River Phoenix)
Natalie Merchant, River (River Phoenix)
Peter Murphy, Marlene Dietrich’s Favorite Poem
Kim Carnes, Bette Davis Eyes
Alanis Morissette, You Oughtta Know (Dave Coulier)

Now it’s your turn. Add more! Why stay at 29?

Allen Ginsberg gets a bio-pic

It was bound to happen and it should happen: the Hollywood Reporter reveals today that Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg is getting his own bio-pic.

The movie will chronicle the 1950s obscenity trial of Ginsberg’s Howl. In a move Ginsberg himself would relish, the poet will be played by Hollywood hunk James Franco.

Franco-philes will recall this isn’t the first cultural icon portrayal for the actor. He earned rave reviews in the title role of 2001’s James Dean. He also plays the lover of slain politician Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant‘s upcoming Milk. Hmmm, Franco plays a lot of gay guys. Is he trying to tell us something?

More graves of the (mostly) young and tragic

After it occurred to me that most of the people in my favorite videos from The Guardian’s list (see earlier post) died young and tragically, I found pics of all their graves. I already posted Billie Holiday’s (go back two posts).

Here are the rest – with the exception of Sid Vicious‘s grave because he was cremated and scattered in undisclosed places. In his stead, I included Stiv Bators’ grave. Bators, lead singer of both the Dead Boys and Lords of the New Church, died in his sleep after being hit by a car while he was walking around drunk.

Stiv Bators (Ile-de-France, France):

John Coltrane (Farmingdale, New York):

Maria Callas (Paris, France):

Vladimir Nabokov (Vaud, Switzerland):

James Dean (Fairmont, Indiana):

Jean-Michel Basquiat (Brooklyn, New York):

50 Greatest arts videos on YouTube

The Guardian of Great Britain published what it thinks is The 50 Greatest Arts Videos on YouTube, everything from Joy Division‘s television debut to readings by Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac.

Here are my faves from the list. (Wow, looks like I have a jones for people who died young and tragically. Heroin junkies a plus!):
Jazz’s greatest saxophonist John Coltrane performing My Favorite Things in 1961 in Germany:

An emotional Billie Holiday performing Strange Fruit five months before her death at age 44 from cirrhosis of the liver. (Holiday, whose body was ravaged from years of drug and alcohol abuse, was arrested for possession of drugs on her deathbed.)
I have never before seen live footage of Holiday singing.:

Doomed punk icons Sid and Nancy on New York public access television, 1978. Sid was the bassist of the Sex Pistols. That’s Dead Boys singer Stiv Bators on their left. Watch them laugh when a caller mentions Ted Nugent and the Bee-Gees. Months after this, Sid killed Nancy.

The brilliant Vladmir Nabokov discusses the racy Lolita, 1950s:

James Dean and Paul Newman joke around about being gay during a screen test for East of Eden:

Artist SAMO (aka Jean-Michel Basquiat) interviewed about graffiti on New York cable television, 1978, several years before Basquiat was recognized as a fine artist:

The great Maria Callas singing in Puccini‘s Tosca , 1964:

I bet you think this song is about you

I’ve got a blog post at today concerning famous songs about famous people. It’s inspired by Full House‘s Dave Coulier recently admitting the song “You Oughtta Know” by Alanis Morissette is about him.

I know, I can’t believe she went down on him in a movie theater either. It’s hard to imagine those two in such a passionate relationship that could skid so wildly out of control, right? I mean, Uncle Joey? At any rate, the drama inspired Alanis to write one of the best break-up songs of all time and it put her on the musical map.

I am fascinated by songs about well-known people. I don’t just mean love songs. I mean songs about famous actors and writers. Lots of bands, including the Eagles, have songs about James Dean. Elton John wrote about Marliyn Monroe in “Candle In The Wind.” Seems like half the bands in existence in the 1990s wrote a song for River Phoenix after he died.

Lots of musicians write homages to other musicians. For example, Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke.” (Click photo to enlarge:)

It’s a tribute to jazz’s greatest composer Duke Ellington. It also namedrops Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

Or, Sting writing “An Englishman In New York,” about eccentric British writer Quentin Crisp. The Pixies wrote a puzzling song about the man who created the Eiffel Tower (“Alec Eiffel”) proving even architects can be the subject of a pop song. Although, I guess Simon & Garfunkel proved this first in the 1960s with “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright.”

How about these:
Sonic Youth, Madonna, Sean and Me (Madonna, Sean Penn)
The Commodores, Night Shift (Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson)
Toto, Rosanna (Rosanna Arquette)
R.E.M., Man on the Moon (Andy Kauffman)
Bauhaus, Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Bela Lugosi)
Bertie Higgins, Key Largo (Humprhey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (Judy Collins)
10,000 Maniacs, Hey Jack Kerouac (Jack Kerouac)
The Replacements, Alex Chilton (Big Star’s Alex Chilton)
Bryan Ferry, Kiss & Tell (Ferry’s ex-girlfriend Jerry Hall)
Joan Baez, Diamonds & Rust (Baez’s ex-boyfriend Bob Dylan)

I’ve done quite literally hours of research on the subject. If any agents read this, I’m ready to pen the book.

What’s your favorite musical homage? Or, maybe it’s a kiss-off song to a well-known somebody?

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