At this time of year, without fail, we will all start seeing “In Memoriam” pieces pop up in magazines, newspapers, and on television. Well, I am going to throw my hat into that crowded ring to recognize those that were most influential in my life. These people all left us way too soon in this bastard year of 2016.
Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure to see Prince in concert, but his music played a big part in my life. I listened to his Purple Rain album over and over as a teenager in the eighties, so, like so many of these people I will touch upon today, they harken me back the care-free time in my life growing up in middle America. A great video of Prince performing Purple Rain in concert can be found here. Also, a very touching video taken in Minneapolis the night of his death shows just how much he was loved by his fans.
Earlier this year, I made the trip up to Minnesota to tour Paisley Park. Quite an experience. If any of you out there are Prince fans, the experience is well worth the trip. So many things to see and hear. You can feel Prince in the building. It was truly a magical experience for me.
Prince was 57.
Another musical star associated with the eighties, George Michael, just passed away on Christmas day. Michael, along with Andrew Ridgeley, formed the pop group Wham! back in 1981. The duo was known for their white t-shirts that said,”CHOOSE LIFE” and their sometimes day-glo colored shorts. They were a big hit with the girls in high school, but their catchy tunes also appealed to the boys as well. Michael lent his smooth voice to “Careless Whisper” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-G0” to name just a few.
George was 53.
I must admit, I was never much of a boxing fan, but you couldn’t help but pay attention to Muhammad Ali. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” was one of my favorite quotes from the champ. My grandfather loved boxing, thus I spent many a weekend afternoon with him watching Ali dance across the ring on the television. Even though the boxing meant little to me, the time spent with my grandfather meant the world.
Muhammad was 74.
Who didn’t grow up watching Florence Henderson on the Brady Bunch? She was everyone’s “Mom”. If she couldn’t solve the problem in the half hour she was given, it couldn’t be solved. She was always cool even though she was dealing with six kids, three of which could refer to her as a step mom.
Living in Indiana, I had seen Florence several times in the Indianapolis 500 parade. She was always smiling and waving to her fans in the crowd. That’s the way I will always remember her … with a big smile on her face.
Florence was 82.
On the flip side, Alan Thicke was a father figure to many in the eighties, thanks to his role as Dr. Jason Seaver on the hit show, “Growing Pains”. I have seen him referred to as the “Father Knows Best” of the eighties. Like Mrs. Brady, Jason Seaver was a master at solving life’s problems in a half-hour time slot. I spent many evenings around the television with my family watching Mr. Thicke’s work on Growing Pains. For that, thank you, sir.
Alan was 69.
I think Garry Marshall took away much of my childhood. Not in a bad way. I think I spent so much time indoors watching shows he produced, such as “Happy Days”, “Laverne & Shirley”, and “Mork & Mindy” to name a few. Marshall also directed the movie “Pretty Woman”. All I can say about this is … SHAZBOT!
Garry was 81.
I must admit that I never really was able to watch “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” or the “Larry Sanders Show” because they were on Showtime and HBO, which were not on basic cable. My exposure to Garry Shandling was mostly via his standup routines. I remember watching him on the Tonight Show with my parents, while laughing and having a good time. Garry brought a lot of laughter into my house growing up and for that, I thank you, Garry!
Garry was 66.
I don’t know about you, but for me, watching “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”as a kid was appointment television. Back then, shows like that only came on every so often. If you saw that in the TV Guide, you made sure you were available to watch. Watching Gene Wilder in the title role of Wonka was truly a magical experience as a kid. Heck, who didn’t want to tour a chocolate factory?!?!? Again, family time comes into play here. Many nights were spent with family around the big console television admiring Mr. Wilder’s work.
Gene was 83.
Sir George Martin,
I was not a huge Beatles fan until recently after I took a college course on the history of the Beatles. Sir George Martin was huge in the success of the Fab Four. I seem to remember one of the Beatles saying there was only one person that could hit the record button in the studio and that was Martin. Martin signed the Beatles to their first record contract back in 1962. He was instrumental in many of the iconic Beatles songs we know today. Thank you, George, for giving us all the gift of the Beatles!
George was 90.
As you can see, 2016 has not been a good year. Many of my childhood influences have now left this earth. The “In Memoriam” tributes always get to me, but this year will be a little worse than usual. So much talent gone way too soon. It really does make you question your own mortality.