Those remembered and those forgot
Seventy years ago, a group of Americans stationed on a tiny island in the Pacific came under attack from Japanese fighter planes and bombers.
Herbert L. Zincke was one of those to survive the initial assault. When the air raid was over, he combed through the wreckage searching for the dismembered bodies of his fellow airmen.
It was Dec. 8, 1941.
At the time, Mr. Zincke was serving in the Army Air Forces at Clark Field in the Philippines.
That first Japanese attack on U.S. troops based across the South Pacific island chain is a much forgotten drama of World War II history.Continue reading this post »
Three deep soul men have died
This has been a sad couple of weeks for deep soul and soul-blues fans. We’ve lost three of the most memorable stylists in the genre.
Philadelphia’s Howard Tate, who in collaboration with producer and songwriter Jerry Ragovoy, recorded such late 1960s soul classics as “Ain’t Nobody Home,” “Stop” and “Look At Granny Run Run,” died Dec. 2 at 72. After struggling with cocaine addiction and homelessness, Tate became a preacher only to re-emerge in 2003 with the critically acclaimed album “Rediscovered.” His Billboard obituary is here.
J. Blackfoot sang lead with Stax recording artists The Soul Children. The 1970s vocal group had two male and two female singers and is perhaps best remembered for the classic cheating song, “I’ll Understand” and the funky “Hearsay.” They benefited from the songwriting and production of David Porter, who also worked with Sam and Dave. Blackfoot had a coarse quality to his voice. His later solo ballad, “Taxi” (1983), brought him a following on the chitlin’ circuit and comparisons to singer Bobby Womack.
A trouper to the end, Blackfoot, who died on Nov.23 at 65, was reportedly performing up to the last week of his life. In recent years, he had formed a new version of the Soul Children. His obituary from the British newspaper The Guardian is here.Continue reading this post »
‘Son . . . . if you want to be a writer, someday you’ll be.’
Yesterday we published an obituary of Piri Thomas, the author of the 1967 memoir “Down These Mean Streets.” Mr. Thomas died Oct. 17 at his home in El Cerrito, Calif., of complications from pneumonia.
The book recounted his coming-of-age in Spanish Harlem, his descent into crime, his seven years in prison and the redemption he found in writing. It was an immediate sensation and helped inspire the generation of “Nuyorican” writers that came from the Puerto Rican community in New York.
The obituary ended with a story from Mr. Thomas’s childhood. Here’s how it went:
Some of Mr. Thomas’s earliest prose showed a knack for stirring reaction. He told the [New York] Times he had once tried to woo an English teacher with a composition that went into intricate detail about her beauty.
When the woman returned his 2 1/2-page tribute, he found an unexpected note: “Son, your punctuation is lousy; your grammar is nonexistent. But if you want to be a writer, someday you’ll be. P.S. We both love my wife.”
It was signed by his teacher’s husband.
After the obituary was posted online, I received an e-mail from Mr. Thomas’s wife, Suzie Dod Thomas. She said that Mr. Thomas loved recalling that story about his teacher. She continued:
He would finish it, though, with another sentence:
“I learned two things that day:
One, that someone had recognized in me the ability to be a writer; and two, not to fool around with another man’s wife.”
The audience, . . . usually teachers, would howl in laughter, but the lesson to encourage, not discourage, their students was never lost.Continue reading this post »
‘I should be as lucky when I go’
During the 1930s and 1940s, Norman Corwin was a superstar in radio, the leading news and entertainment medium of the day.
A phone call to the past
Last week I picked up the phone and dialed a Minneapolis-area number.
“Is this the home of Ken Dahlberg? Kenneth H. Dahlberg?” I asked.
I was trying to get in touch with a member of his family to confirm some details about his life for an obituary in The Washington Post.
Mr. Dahlberg — a highly decorated World War II ace and multimillionaire venture capitalist — was best known for his notable role in the 1972 Watergate scandal.Continue reading this post »