2016, 2017, 5th Beatle, Alan Rickman, Billy Paul, Daniel Berrigan, David Bowie, Gary Shandling, George Martin, Jo Cox, Lakshmi, Leonard Cohen, liberals, Merle Haggard, numerology, Prince, progressives, Ronnie Corbett, Shiva, Space Oddity, Terry Wogan, Trump, Vicotira Wood, Zaha Hadid
Those of a numerological bent will know that 2016 was a ‘9’ which is the number of completion and endings. So we look forward to 2017 with a huge sense of relief and anticipation now that the year is almost behind us. 2017 is a ‘1’, which is about renewal – a new cycle. Words associated with ‘1’ are vitality, union and discipline. I can think of no greater watch words for the British and US leadership than these three as they navigate Brexit and the US Presidency; both ‘surprises’ sprung upon us in the year just closing.
In reflection mode it is also time to pause and think of those no longer with us. For each reader there may be deeply personal partings, but in terms of ‘famous’ people it has been a ‘stellar’ year if that’s an appropriate turn of phrase for those who have re-joined the stars. I would like to reflect on a few who have inspired me, or left some impression on this earth on their way through.
Very few knew he was ill, but this charismatic and constantly evolving musical chameleon used his own death-bed in a video that addressed directly the inevitability of our mortality and how art can transcend the mortal world and create legacy that means we become immortal. His musical catalogue, without a doubt, leaves some of the greatest songs of modern music to this and future generations. It just surprised me that it took so long for an astronaut to take a guitar into space and sing Space Oddity!
A comic genius, Shandling is best known for It’s Gary Shandling’s Show and the Larry Sanders Show. He was a forerunner to Seinfeld and I have the feeling that Shandling cleared a path enabling the success that Seinfeld has become, particularly breaking the fourth wall. One of my favourite witty lines by Shandling, who was brilliant at stand up as well as sitcom and writing, goes something like. ‘I once made love for an hour and fifteen minutes, but it was the night the clocks are set ahead.’
Philadelphia born soul man most famous for ‘Me and Mrs Jones’ whose complete discography was better known to hardened soul fans like myself. Subject to an earlier blog this year, Paul was also an activist on race issues. Check his back catalogue on You Tube.
Symbolic, magical and mercurial are three words to describe what now looks like a troubled soul, whose rivalry for the top slot with Michael Jackson seems to have extended to the dramatic trauma of their demise.
Unless you grew up in the UK in the 1980s-2000s you may not know of Wogan, but he graced BBC TV every week night interviewing celebrities. What distinguished Wogan, an Irishman in ‘enemy’ territory, was the quickness of his wit and his authenticity. To see him at his best was to listen to his ‘commentary’ of many Eurovision Song contests. His hilarious summation of the scoring system, whereby centuries old connections or animosities would bubble to the surface, was a delight to hear. It’s no coincidence that Brexit happened because Terry wasn’t there to lampoon it.
Often known as the 5th Beatle, Martin had a significant role in shaping the Beatles sound. He is probably most known for the strings on Yesterday and the trumpet part on Strawberry Fields Forever. I used to work in Liverpool not far from Strawberry Field so I feel an affinity with anything associated with the Beatles. Claims over the 5th Beatle status caused a rift between Lennon and McCartney, but as Lennon softened so did his attitude to the notion of the value of Martin’s contribution.
Iraqi born, British architect Hadid changed the face of modern architecture and her influence will live on for many decades to come, partly because of her leading the way as a woman in a predominantly male field. She was subject of a previous blog of mine.
Radical Jesuit priest, activist, educator and poet lived his life as an example of radical spirituality which offers a template for those who find our obsession with wealth vacuous. Subject of a previous blog of mine.
You don’t have to like country music to know that The Hag played a seminal role in the American music landscape of the 60s to 80s. He had 38 number one hits on the Billboard Country Charts and has influenced many a modern writers including the Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, George Thorogood and Keith Richards. He famously attended the San Quentin concert of Johnny Cash in 1958 as an inmate but turned his life around.
One of the great comic pairings of all time, in the Two Ronnies with fellow British comedian Ronnie Barker. Scottish-born, he had that marvellous self-deprecating story-telling style often joking at his own expense about his diminutive stature. His cameo in Ricky Gervais’ Extras where he does cocaine at an award ceremony is priceless and created the memorable line. ‘Corbett. It’s always bloody Corbett.’
2016 was a good year for dead comedians! Wood was a staple on British television in the 1980s. She was across all genres of comedy and was accomplished at writing, sitcoms, screen-writing, directing and song-writing. Her funny musical ditties still delight and age better than you might think. Immensely likeable she received 4 BAFTAs from an amazing 14 nominations.
Subject of a previous blog, there aren’t many superlatives left to describe one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the modern era. Had Cohen been alive it would have been a close run thing for the Nobel Prize for Literature between he and Dylan.
In the lead-up to Brexit Yorkshire politician Jo Cox lost her life, killed by a voter not happy with her ‘remain’ stance for Europe. Young, full of energy and by all accounts the politician you really want as your own, she will forever remain the face of what could have been and what actually was: a campaign so vitriolic that an allegedly sane person saw fit to bring he life tragically to an end to make a point.
An actor of real quality, particularly on the stage and particularly of Shakespeare, he had a depth that took him seamlessly from romantic comedy (Love Always) to drama (Sense and Sensibility). Many will remember him for his role in the Harry Potter opus as Severus Snape. Now I have all of the Christmas TV re-runs to work out was Snape a ‘baddy’ or a ‘goody’?
Un-named Progressive Liberal:
It has struck me with the rise of populism that we also saw the death of the progressive or socially liberal in 2016. Politics should at the very least have some degree of equality or improvement manifesto or ideology that underpins it, be it equality of opportunity through access to education, or improvement of one’s position through ‘trickle-down’. Today it would appear that no-one wants to be worse off to assist others. There are times when someone has to be worse off and it is increasingly clear that very few want themselves or their ‘tribe’ to be that person or that cohort.
Without some loss there cannot be reform, nor paradoxically can there be equity. Those sick of losing in 2016 struck back and we now face a year of uncertainty with Trump staring down Putin and Xi Jinping. Maybe the much needed stability in the world order will come when the ‘haves and have yachts’ give a little for the benefit of others. After all, the best way to secure one’s private wealth is to have political and economic stability to establish a solid investment climate.
As my regular readers know I’m not long back from India so it’s still playing on my mind. One of the ‘1’ words is also Goddess of which there are hundreds of thousands in India. There are two prime ones you can choose from depending on your state of mind. One is Shiva, the Destroyer and the other is Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. It’s my new year’s wish for us all, especially in business and politics, that we see the rise of the latter and not the former.