RIP

RIP, Nate Dogg

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The Long Beach Press-Telegram is reporting that Nate Dogg is dead at 41. The greatest singer in hip-hop history, though I suppose that's a bit of an odd distinction. If I might recommend a record to appreciate Nate beyond the expected, try his album "Music & Me," which features the track above, I Pledge Allegiance. It's a really solid LP, criminally underappreciated in my opinion, and this particular track, which features past TSOYA guest Pharoahe Monch, is one of the highlights. I also love "I Got Love," which I've also included above.

Below, I've included a Nate-heavy 213 track that always makes me feel fantastic, "I'm Fly."

Nate and his voice will be missed.

RIP, Manute Bol

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One of our time's greatest New Sincericists. A man who dedicated all of the power he had to improving the lives of the impoverished natives of his homeland, the Sudan. A Real American (and African) Hero. We were lucky to have been witness to his great life.

Bol's first stint with the Golden State Warriors was in a prime sports-following time of my life - I was 9 and 10 years old. His unusual style and amazing physique (and the rumors that he'd killed a lion) made him my favorite Warrior. When my friend Peter's mom met and took a picture with him, the deal was sealed.

During Bol's second stint with the Warriors, his final NBA season, I listened on the radio to one of the greatest nights of his career. This is how Wikipedia described it (I'm happy it actually happened, that I didn't imagine it):

On a memorable night in the middle of November, Bol finally made his home debut, coming off of the bench to play 29 minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He intimidated and blocked his usual shots and grabbed his usual rebounds. That night, however, served as a "blast from the past" as Bol was back to shooting three pointers like he did in the late-1980s. In that game, Bol connected on all three of the three pointers that he took (each was shot several steps beyond the three point line). The crowd, in disbelief, cheered louder and louder with each shot he took.

I was cheering at home, with my desk radio tuned in to KNBR 68, THE Sports Leader. I'll be thinking fondly of Manute today.

RIP, Teddy Pendergrass

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One of the truly great voices of soul.

RIP to Willie Mitchell

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There's a secret list inside my head of folks I'd love to have on The Sound of Young America, and Willie Mitchell was near the top. He was the architect of Hi Records, the label that defined the career of Al Green, Ann Peebles, Syl Johnson and others. He was peerless as a soul producer. The sound of those records is so beautiful, I simply can't describe it. Among other influences, it defined the sound of the Wu-Tang Clan and D'Angelo's Voodoo. The introduction to "Love and Happiness" is my favorite part of any song ever.

RIP to Willie Mitchell, dead at 81.

RIP to Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops, Motown's Greatest Singer

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No one can sing like Levi Stubbs could. Absolutely no one. His voice carried all the pop tunefullness of Motown, with all the desperate, passionate yearning of the best soul. Listen to Reach Out and tell me you don't feel it in every part of your body -- even with just that little "hah!" after the first bass breakdown. He told the LA Times: "Well, I'm rather loud and raw. I don't really even have a style; I just come by the way I sing naturally. When I learn a song, I try to live it as best I can."

Levi had been sick for some time, but that doesn't make it any easier to lose him.

Above: a medley featuring one of my favorite songs of all time, "Bernadette," one of the great vocal performances in soul history. Below: one of the Tops' Northern Soul classics, "Seven Rooms of Gloom."

On a sillier note, how about Levi tearing apart the role of Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors? I'm missing him terribly already.

RIP Norman Whitfield

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Last week, I posted a couple of videos from the kings of psychedelic soul, Funkadelic. While Funkadelic were wearing diapers and climbing out of the Mothership, Norman Whitfield was pulling Motown into the psychedelic age with his productions for the Temptations and others. I *love* these records -- there's something amazing about the tension between the orchestral grandiosity, uber-tight vocals and the crazy psychedelic... I dunno... outrageousness.

Above is a favorite of mine, "Masterpiece" from the Temps album of the same name. I used to use that loooooooong intro as theme music for the KZSC News back in college. Below is another classic, "Psychedelic Shack," along with "Cloud Nine," which might be my favorite Temps track.

Whitfield also wrote and produced for The Undisputed Truth and Rose Royce, including the latter's big hit "Car Wash." The former's albums are great -- you can hear Whitfield going apeshit in the studio, with crazy strings and complicated basslines and amazing interplay between the voices. I even like Whitfield's later, disco-yer work -- I have a couple singles by a female vocal group called Stargard he produced that are silly, but great.

Oh, and he wrote "I Heard It Through The Grapevine." Did I mention that? 'Cause he did.

RIP David Foster Wallace

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Jules Tygiel

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My friend Jules Tygiel passed this week.

Jules was a cultural historian, focusing on California and baseball. He was my professor at San Francisco State University, and wrote one of my college recommendation letters. When I hastily applied to graduate school, he came through with a letter on short notice without even a hint of complaint. He was an inspirational teacher who shared his passion for both history and baseball unreservedly.

In addition to his research, Jules was a wonderful writer. I read his book "Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and his Legacy" before I'd ever met him. In my childhood and teenage years, I read literally hundreds of books about baseball, and "Baseball's Great Experiment" was one of the best. Then as now I was impressed at its combination of academic depth and lucid, exciting prose. It's certainly the best book about Robinson, and when I sold my baseball books a few years ago, it was one of the dozen or so that I kept -- my special favorites. I have often recommended it to friends, both fans and non-fans. In Jules' San Francisco Chronicle obituatary, I was moved to read that it was Rachel Robinson's favorite book about her late husband. I'm not surprised.

Jules was also a friend, particularly close with the Weinstein-Zitrin family, with whom I spent many hours as a young teenager. He and Richard Zitrin, my childhood friend Gabe's father, would engage in heated discussions of baseball subjects -- I remember Richard having particularly strong opinions on whether Jack Morris was overrated, though I can't remember which side he was on and which side Jules was on. Jules was the commissioner of the Pacific Ghost League, the first fantasy baseball league on the West Coast, which was founded in 1981. I'm sure all the owners of the PGL have Jules in their hearts today.

Jules struggled long and hard with cancer, and his illness in recent months was very severe. I will be thinking of him, and of his family. I hope they can find peace in his passing. I also want to thank Jules Tygiel for all he did for me. He will be missed.

RIP to Tony Silver

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Tony Silver, director of the best hip-hop film ever made, Style Wars, passed last night. Not only was Tony a gifted artist, he was also a close family friend, and he'll be missed both my my family and his. I'm thinking of his wonderful wife Lisa. Tony had been suffering from a degenerative brain condition for quite some time, so in some ways, it is a release.

When Tony made Style Wars, the seminal documentary about hip-hop and particularly graffiti in New York, he wasn't a part of hip-hop or graffiti culture. He and his partner Henry Chalfant made a film that is immensely intelligent and respectful of its subjects, a bunch of New York kids who were discovering something that would really and truly change the world. By allowing these kids to speak for themselves to a world that at the time was at best borderline contemptuous of them was really a watershed decision.

If you want to remember Tony, I can't imagine a better way than by buying or renting Style Wars. For many years, the film was only available in expensive educational VHS editions, sold to university libraries for hundreds of dollars. Graf heads made dubbed copies and passed them to friends. A few years ago, Tony spent quite a long time putting together a definitive DVD edition, which features not only the full film and outtakes, but also interviews with the subjects, some 25 years later.

I'm thinking of Tony today, a kind, intelligent man and a brilliant artist.

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