This past week, all in the same 24 hour period, we lost Senator Ted Kennedy, Ellie Greenwich, and Dominick Dunne. This sucker punch to the soul inspired today’s blog post.
It used to be that celebrity deaths seemed to come in threes. For some reason that rule was upended this year starting in June. The Grim Reaper seems to have gotten greedier than usual and snatched far more than his usual share. The last week of June he started really racking them up: Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and Sky Sunlight Saxon on June 25. In July we lost Merce Cunningham, Gordon Waller, and Walter Cronkite, among others.
August 2 we lost Billy Lee Riley, August 5 Budd Schulberg, August 6 Willy DeVille and John Hughes (aged 58 and 59, respectively), Les Paul on August 13, Jim Dickinson on August 15, and this week’s trifecta, alongside quite a few more.
I was especially saddened by the loss of Ellie Greenwich (whom I had the privilege to meet and speak to on several occasions). Ellie was responsible for some of the greatest music of our age. She was a singer, songwriter, and record producer. Leader of the Pack, River Deep, Mountain High, Be My Baby, Da Doo Ron Ron, (Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry, Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Not Too Young To Get Married, Cherry Cherry, are only a few of the amazing songs she wrote or co-wrote with her writing partner Jeff Barry. She also co-wrote, along with Jeff Kent and Ellen Foley, the spectacular and extremely underappreciated Keep It Confidential which was recorded by Nona Hendryx and was a 1983 R&B hit.
Senator Ted Kennedy was ill for a long time and his death was not a shock per se, but it is certainly the end of an era. The last of the three golden brothers, and the only one to die a natural death. I certainly see the cold truth in Henry Rollins’ column on the Vanity Fair blog, but I also mourn the Kennedy family’s - and our country’s - great loss. Leaders like Ted Kennedy do not come along every day. We won’t see his like again.
And, finally, Dominick Dunne. He provided many an entertaining hour for me as I read his Vanity Fair coverage of the rich and famous getting away with murder, or trying to. His pieces were always the first thing I looked at when I got my monthly VF fix in the mail. No one wrote like him; no one touched nerves like he did. After the murder of his daughter, Dominique, he was a tireless advocate for the rights of murder victims. He provided a glimpse into high society’s rarefied circles for decades. He knew everyone. He wrote about many. I’ll miss him greatly.
For all three, and for the many we’ve lost this summer and this year, I offer Jane Siberry’s beautiful ode, “Calling All Angels.”
…and every day you gaze upon the sunset with such love and intensity
it’s almost…it’s almost as if you could only crack the code
then you’d finally understand what this all means
but if you could…do you think you would trade in all the pain and suffering?
ah, but then you’d miss the beauty of the light upon this earth
and the sweetness of the leaving
calling all angels
calling all angels
walk me through this one
don’t leave me alone
- Jane Siberry