Discover more from Frank Beacham's Journal
Bob Weir, founding member of the Grateful Dead, is 76 years old today
Bob Weir, Lockn’ Music Festival, Arrington, Virginia, 2013
Photo by Will Rawls
Bob Weir is 76 years old today.
A singer, songwriter and guitarist, Weir is best known as a founding member of the Grateful Dead.
After the Dead disbanded in 1995, Weir performed with The Other Ones, later known as The Dead, together with other former members of the Grateful Dead.
Weir also founded and played in several other bands during and after his career with the Grateful Dead, including Kingfish, the Bob Weir Band, Bobby and the Midnites, Scaring the Children, RatDog, and his newest band, Furthur, co-led by former Grateful Dead bassist, Phil Lesh.
During his career with the Grateful Dead, Weir played mostly rhythm guitar and sang most of the band's rock-n-roll tunes (Jerry Garcia sang The Dead's more melodic tunes).
He is known for his unique style of complex voice leading, bringing unusual depth and a new approach to the role of rhythm guitar expression.
On April 23, 2014, The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip of Bob Weir premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Here, Weir and friends perform a full two-hour concert at TRI Studios in San Rafael, California.
The Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration at Madison Square Garden in New York City was held 31 years ago tonight.
The concert is preserved in a live double-album release in recognition of Bob Dylan's 30 years as a recording artist.
Recorded on October 16, 1992, the recording captures most of the concert, which featured many artists performing classic Dylan songs, before ending with three songs from Dylan himself.
The house band for the show were the surviving members of Booker T. and the MG's: Booker T. Jones on organ, Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass and Steve Cropper on guitar.
Joining them was drummer, Anton Fig, filling in for the late Al Jackson, plus drummer, Jim Keltner. Longtime Saturday Night Live bandleader, G. E. Smith, served as the musical director.
The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration, which reached #40 in the U.S. and went gold, was released in August, 1993 just before Dylan was about to deliver his second folk studio set inside of a year, World Gone Wrong.
The concert was dubbed "Bobfest" by Neil Young at the beginning of his "All Along the Watchtower" cover.
I watched every moment of that show in the audience. Here is “My Back Pages” from that memorable night.
Angela Lansbury meets the crowd on the street in Times Square after a Broadway performance in her show, Deuce, in 2007
Photo by Frank Beacham
Angela Lansbury, stage and screen actress, was born 98 years ago today.
Born in London in 1925, Lansbury starred in the TV series, Murder, She Wrote, and earned Oscar nominations for her performances in such films as The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Manchurian Candidate.
In Hollywood, a place that prizes youth (particularly for its female performers), Lansbury became one of a rare breed of actresses who managed to carve out a lengthy, successful career.
After fleeing England with her family during World War II, Lansbury eventually ended up in Los Angeles. As a teenager, she earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her first feature film, the 1944 romantic-thriller, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer and Joseph Cotten.
In Gaslight, which was directed by George Cukor and received a total of seven Oscar nominations, Lansbury played a maid who becomes involved in a man’s plot to drive his wife insane.
Lansbury’s next film, 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, based on the Oscar Wilde novella of the same name, earned her a second Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Sibyl Vane, a woman who kills herself after she is betrayed by the movie’s title character, a man obsessed with staying young.
In 1962, she co-starred with Frank Sinatra in the spy thriller, The Manchurian Candidate, and earned her third Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role as the manipulative mother of a Korean War hero brainwashed into becoming a Communist assassin.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Lansbury starred on Broadway in a string of musicals and earned the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performances in Mame, Dear World, Gypsy and Sweeney Todd.
She also continued to work steadily in film, appearing in Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), Death on the Nile (1978) and The Mirror Crack’d (1980), in which she portrayed Agatha Christie’s tweedy amateur sleuth, Miss Marple.
From 1984 to 1996, Lansbury played the role for which she is perhaps best known — the crime-solving mystery writer Jessica Fletcher on the TV series Murder, She Wrote.
“I did it for the money,” Lansbury recalled. “There comes a time in a theatrical life when you say to yourself, ‘Well I can’t make any money in the theatre’, so television was a very specific decision I made. When this came on the horizon I thought, ‘That’s interesting… I think I can make something of this’.”
Interestingly, Lansbury was touched to learn of one fan in particular, during a meal at legendary Los Angeles diner, Matteo’s.
“Frank Sinatra and his wife invited my husband and I for dinner,” she recalled. "He proceeded to ask me all about the show and how we put it together. It turned out he was a huge fan – I mean, Frank Sinatra! I was very touched to realize it gave him some sense of entertainment to watch this silly show.”
Lansbury received 12 consecutive Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her performance as the friendly amateur detective from the fictional town of Cabot Cove, Maine, who constantly stumbled across dead bodies.
After the show ended, she reprised her role in four Murder, She Wrote made-for-TV movies.
In 1991, Lansbury memorably voiced the character of Miss Potts, the singing teapot, in Disney’s blockbuster Academy Award-winning animated feature Beauty and the Beast.
Lansbury also voiced the character of the Empress Dowager Marie in 1997’s Anastasia. In 2005, Lansbury appeared in Nanny McPhee, starring Emma Thompson, and in 2007, she returned to Broadway for Deuce, which earned her yet another Tony Award nomination.
In February 2017, Lansbury joined the cast of the upcoming movie Mary Poppins Returns. It is a sequel to the Academy Award-winning 1964 film, set 20 years later in Depression-era London. Filming began at Shepperton Studios that month and the film is due for release in December, 2018.
Lansbury died in her sleep at her home in Los Angeles on October 11, 2022 at 01:30 PDT — five days before her 97th birthday.
Here, Lansbury and other discuss the history of Murder, She Wrote.
Oscar Wilde in 1882
Photo by Napoleon Sarony
Oscar Wilde was born 169 years ago today.
An Irish writer and poet, Wilde — after writing in different forms throughout the 1880s — became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams and plays, and the circumstances of his imprisonment which was followed by his early death.
Wilde's parents were successful Dublin intellectuals. Their son became fluent in French and German early in life. At university, Wilde proved himself to be an outstanding classicist, first at Dublin, then at Oxford. He became known for his involvement in the rising philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin.
After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles. As a spokesman for aestheticism, he tried his hand at various literary activities. He published a book of poems, lectured in the United States and Canada on the new "English Renaissance in Art.” Then he returned to London where he worked prolifically as a journalist.
Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress and glittering conversation, Wilde had become one of the most well-known personalities of his day. At the turn of the 1890s, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays, and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity and beauty into his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890).
The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, drew Wilde to write drama. He wrote Salome (1891) in French in Paris, but it was refused a license.
Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London.
At the height of his fame and success, while his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), was still on stage in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, prosecuted for libel, a charge carrying a penalty of up to two years in prison.
The trial unearthed evidence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with other men. After two more trials, he was convicted and imprisoned for two years' hard labor.
In prison, he wrote De Profundis (written in 1897 and published in 1905), a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure.
Upon his release, he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life.
Wilde died destitute in Paris at the age of 46.
John Mayer is 46 years old today.
A pop and blues rock musician, singer-songwriter, recording artist and music producer, Mayer attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He moved to Atlanta in 1997, where he refined his skills and gained a following.
Now living in New York City, Mayer’s first two studio albums, Room for Squares and Heavier Things, did well commercially, achieving multi-platinum status.
Mayer began his career performing mainly acoustic rock, but gradually began a transition towards the blues genre in 2005 by collaborating with renowned blues artists such as B. B. King, Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton. He also formed the John Mayer Trio.
The blues influence can be heard throughout his 2005 live album, Try!, with the John Mayer Trio and his third studio album, Continuum, released in September 2006.
Mayer’s fifth album, Born and Raised, was released in May, 2014. He has sold over 10 million albums in the U.S. and 20 million albums worldwide.
Mayer recounted that in 2011 he happened upon a song by the Grateful Dead while listening to Pandora, and that soon the band's music was all he would listen to.
In February, 2015, while guest hosting The Late Late Show, Mayer invited Grateful Dead guitar player Bob Weir to join him in a studio performance. Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann (surviving members of the Grateful Dead) were preparing for their Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead tour, and invited Mayer to join them. He began practicing the band's catalog of songs.
That August, they formed the group Dead & Company, along with Jeff Chimenti and Oteil Burbridge, and began a fall tour in the United States. The tour was well received (Billboard called it "magical"), and continued to tour the U.S. into 2016.
Here, Mayer performs “Free Fallin’” at the Nokia Theatre, New York City, 2008.
Eugene O'Neill, playwright and Nobel laureate in literature, was born 135 years ago today.
O’Neill’s poetically titled plays were among the first to introduce into American drama techniques of realism earlier associated with Anton Chekhov, Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg.
His plays were among the first to include speeches in American vernacular and involve characters on the fringes of society, where they struggle to maintain their hopes and aspirations, but ultimately slide into disillusionment and despair.
O'Neill wrote only one well-known comedy (Ah, Wilderness!). Nearly all of his other plays involve some degree of tragedy and personal pessimism.
After his experience in 1912–13 at a sanatorium where he was recovering from tuberculosis, he decided to devote himself full-time to writing plays (the events immediately prior to going to the sanatorium are dramatized in his masterpiece, Long Day's Journey into Night.
Nico was born 85 years ago today.
Born as Christa Päffgen, Nico was a German singer, lyricist, composer, musician, fashion model and actress. She initially rose to fame as a Warhol Superstar in the 1960s.
Nico is known for both her vocal collaboration on The Velvet Underground's debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967), and her work as a solo artist from the late 1960s through the early 1980s.
She also had roles in several films, including a cameo in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960) and Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls (1966), as herself.
Paul Strand, pioneering photographer, was born 133 years ago today.
Along with fellow modernist photographers like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, Strand helped establish photography as an art form in the 20th century. His diverse body of work, spanning six decades, covers numerous genres and subjects throughout the Americas, Europe and Africa.
Strand was born in New York City to Bohemian parents. In his late teens, he was a student of renowned documentary photographer, Lewis Hine, at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School.
Wall Street, 1915
Photo by Paul Strand
Homage to Edward Hopper
Painting by Phil Lockwood