Top 20 Tearjerker Songs

Posted April 26, 2010 by Jerry
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Sad tearjerker songs stick in the memory forever.

The song that stands alone at the top is… Alone Again (Naturally) by Gilbert O’Sullivan. It has a great title, self-pitying lyrics, whiny vocal and an infuriating catchy tune (which forms the basis to any true tearjerker) all with the backing of a lush orchestra.

Three of my top four choices are sung poignantly by one hit wonders. (Gilbert O’Sullivan, Eric Carmen, Terry Jacks) There are others that are sung by truly tragic figures. (Karen Carpenter, Roy Orbison, Maurice Gibb) And there are maudlin offerings by some of the top artists. (Beatles, Elton John) Plus there are some truly touching melodies. (Vincent, Faded Love, Are You Lonesome Tonight?)

So here are my Top 20 cringe-worthy, teeth-curling, fingernails-on-the-blackboard, depressing, heartbreaking, ripe, maudlin, sentimental, self-pitying, self-serving, irritating, tasteless and sad anthems of the Me Generation.

1. Alone Again (Naturally) Gilbert O’Sullivan
2. All By Myself Eric Carmen
3. Vincent by Don MacLean
4. Seasons in the Sun Terry Jacks.
5. Where Have all the Flowers Gone? Kingston Trio (wr. Pete Seeger)
6. At Seventeen Janis Ian
7. Eleanor Rigby Beatles
8. Goodbye to Love The Carpenters
9. Honey Bobby Goldsboro
10. Faded Love Patsy Cline
11. My Eyes Adored You Frankie Valli
12. Patches Clarence Carter
13. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? Bee Gees
14. Without You Harry Nilsson
15. Are You Lonesome Tonight? Elvis
16. Candle in the Wind Elton John
17. Crying Roy Orbison
18. Fire and Rain James Taylor
19. Green Green Grass of Home Tom Jones
20. Mr. Bojangles Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (wr. Jerry Jeff Walker)

Other similar lists include Spinner’s Top 25 Exquisitely Sad Songs and the Top 25 Top Sad Country Songs from About Country Music.

If you have any I missed, please check in!

Sports Team Curses

Posted April 14, 2010 by Jerry
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Famous baseball curses include The Curse of the Bambino, (Red Sox) The Curse of the Billy Goat (Cubs) and The Curse of the Angels, whose stadium is built on old Indian burial grounds, a phenomena which turns out to be both palpable and well-documented.

The Angels’ tragic history includes the January 2010 death of 54-year old Angels broadcaster Rory Markas, last year’s death of 22-year old pitcher Nick Adenhart, killed in a drunk driving auto accident, the 2008 death of scout Preston Gomez, who was hit by a truck at a service station, the 1989 suicide death of pitcher Donnie Moore, who gave up the game-winning home run in the 1986 pennant game, the 1978 mistaken identity drive-by shooting death of Lyman Bostock, as well as earlier Angel players Minnie Rojas, Chico Ruiz, Bruce Heinbechner, and Mike Miley who were all killed in tragic car accidents.

More recently, a couple of Angel players witnessed a New York resident jumping to his death off the roof of Le Parker Meridien Hotel, where the Angels were staying for a series against the Yankees. And on 5/29, the Angels’ Cuban star Kendry Morales fractured his leg after hitting a walk-off grand slam against Seattle. He jogged around the bases and celebrated the game-winning hit by jumping high on home plate. His teammates all tackled him at the same time.

Other stadiums built on ancient Indian burial grounds include Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the seemingly cursed Buffalo Bills, Three Rivers Stadium, former home of the team with a 16 year losing streak, the Pittsburgh Pirates as well as persistent rumors about the new Citi Field, home of “the worst team money can buy,” New York Mets, who saw their first-ever pitch in the ballpark sail over the fence for a home run against them.

Note to Angels’ owner Arte Moreno and Bills’ owner Ralph Wilson: Get new stadiums! (not built on burial grounds)

Hockey Crazy

Posted April 4, 2010 by Jerry
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Riddle: What’s even better than hockey?
Answer: More hockey!

As you saw in my goon-afflicted Episode #7, The Brute, I’ve been playing street hockey since I was eight. When I was 23, I joined organized dek hockey leagues. I was mostly on very bad teams. I remember one Sunday morning, our last place team got pasted 33-0!

But there were enough successes (scoring is fun!) to keep going and after years of eating dirt, I finally lucked into getting on a championship team called “The Nutbags” at age 39. Then I quit and joined the rag-tag forty-somethings who play in pick-up (aka “Glue Factory”) dek leagues because I simply got too old to keep up with the youngsters. But after awhile, each game my body felt like a train wreck, and there were fights and other types of BS going on, so I started to teach myself rollerblading. I struggled mightily, but I got my reps in as a basis and in July 2009, I met Coach Dennis Chighisola, a genuine old-school hockey coach from Boston who has taught hockey to people in the thousands, from mites to NHL players.

“Coach Chic,” as he is called, took me on as a project to serve as a test case on his hockey website. He’s been writing about my progress for his coaches and players as a learning tool and some of the awkward video clips he took of me are truly comical. But I’ve made great strides and now I’m playing in pick-up roller hockey leagues. There’s still some BS going on but not as much as the dek leagues, and thanks to Coach Chic, I’m enjoying the game more than ever.

Chopin Celebration

Posted March 3, 2010 by Jerry
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“Hats off, gentlemen; a genius.” Composer Robert Schumann on Frederic Chopin

March 1 2010 marks the 200th birthday (*disputed) of Frederic Chopin, the greatest piano composer the world has ever known. Celebrations kicked off with a marathon 171-hour concert of Chopin’s music in his native Poland on February 23. The featured video (above) is from that marathon… Polish pianist Marek Drewnowski plays Grande Valse Brillante op. 34 No. 2 at the Palace of Łancut, Poland.

The G Minor Ballade was reportedly Chopin’s personal favorite.

Here are mine: Berceuse Op. 57, Waltz in C-sharp Op. 64 no. 2, Grand Valse Brillante,, Prelude No. 15 “Raindrop”, Op.64 no.1 Minute Waltz, Op.10 no. 3 Tristesse, Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 17, No. 4, Ballade No. 4, Nocturne op. 15 no.3 in G minor, Fantasie-Impromptu Op. 66, and his pop masterpiece Polonaise As-Dur Op 53 “Heroique.”

The best Chopin interpreter is unclear. However, most mention Arthur Rubenstein first and then in no particular order: Vladimir Ashkenazy, Vladimir Horowitz, Ivan Moravec, Krystan Zimerman, Alfred Cortot, Maurizio Pollini, and Guiomar Novaes.

And then there was Art Tatum. Horowitz once said that if Tatum ever seriously took up classical piano, he’d quit the next day.

Laurel and Hardy

Posted February 9, 2010 by Jerry
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Laurel and Hardy were The great comedy team from Hollywood’s Golden Era.

Their best films were made before 1935. They won an Academy Award for short subject with The Music Box in 1932. Eventually, their popular improv-style shorts were turned into expensive and structured features and they became too old to be knockabouts. But television brought them back into the limelight in the 50s and 60s with a cult worship that keeps regenerating.

Some of their best include Sons of the Desert, (1933) Helpmates, (1932) Busy Bodies (1933) and Big Business (1929). with archfoe James Finlayson, aka “Mr Doubletake” who invented the Homer Simpsons’ d’Oh! expression.

Recently-found rare clips include their final farewell to their fans via The Water Rats, the English music-hall performers’ union, and their final appearance together in a home movie shortly before Hardy’s death, as well as an insightful interview with Stan Laurel one week after Hardy’s death in 1957. (Laurel died in 1965.) And then there’s this one.

The classic soundtrack for the Laurel and Hardy films was created by Leroy Shield and their opening theme song was Dance of the Cuckoos by Marvin Hatley.

And there’s the persistent rumor that Laurel and Hardy were actually portraying gay characters. I think that there are enough unusual moments in their films to suggest that they were at least playing it as a gag. But I think it was just a gag.

You too can join Sons of the Desert, the international Laurel and Hardy appreciation society, by going to their website.

The Big Snit

Posted January 10, 2010 by Jerry
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A most hilarious and unforgettable apocalyptic cartoon is The Big Snit by Winnipeg’s Richard Condie for the extraordinary National Film Board of Canada. The HD version is here.

Canadians are some of the world’s funniest, most inventive filmmakers and comics. I’ve been awestruck by Guy Maddin, John Paizs’ Crime Wave, Donald Shebib’s classic Goin’ Down the Road, Tom Green and the inimitable Jim Carrey.

The Strange Life of Barry Sadler

Posted December 26, 2009 by Jerry
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Barry Sadler was born in Carlsbad, NM in 1940. He dropped out of school in tenth grade and wandered across the country. He eventually joined the US Air Force at 17 and later joined the Army and became a Green Berets medic in Vietnam, where he was severely wounded. He recovered from a harrowing knee injury that left him near death and suddenly catapulted to instant stardom with the release of his mega-hit #1 single The Ballad of the Green Berets in 1966.

Sadler tried to duplicate his success with other Vietnam-related songs but there were no hits, so he turned to writing a series of books about soldiers. In the late 70s, he shot and killed Lee Emerson, a country songwriter. He pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and ended up serving only 30 days out of a 4-5 year sentence.

Mystery still surrounds Sadler’s death. He moved to Guatamala City in the mid 80s and was allegedly shot in the head one night in a taxi. He languished for months in a coma, and was transferred to a US hospital by friends from Soldier of Fortune Magazine. Later, he was kidnapped and returned while still in the coma. Sadler died after fourteen months in the hospital. It’s still unclear whether his death was a suicide, a botched robbery or a result of his training Nicaraguan contras, which prompted death threats.