National Obituary Review

DPD Emeritus: Aretha

Comments Off on DPD Emeritus: Aretha 16 August 2018

Choked up and a bit stunned here at the HQ.

I’m about an hour and half into a Spotify binge and it took all my strength to sit up and get this down.

The Queen of Soul. Gone.

I knew things didn’t look good a few days ago when I saw the news about her but how much can you prepare for a thing like this?

My first brush with Aretha was brief. I heard Respect driving around in the car with my parents listening to the oldies station. It sounded good. Real good. But I didn’t really get it then. I was too young.

Later, some time around 15 or so, I caught Aretha’s rendition of The Band’s old standby The Weight. Then it stuck. Being thoroughly ensconced in my Classic Rock Phase the song was familiar but not like I heard it on the radio that time I heard Aretha sing it. The voice I heard kind of made everything go fuzzy for me. Not mentally. I’m talking literally my vision went fuzzy like there was a blip in the cosmos that was happening just for me at that moment. The hairs on my arms stood up and something kind of shifted inside me. The whole feeling was disarming and weird. As a teenager I took to that feeling immediately.

As soon as I could I had my mom drive me to Circuit City so I could try to find a CD with that track on it. As luck would have it right there in the budget bin was Aretha Franklin’s 30 Greatest Hits for $8.99. I was amped. You know those tracks you used to just put on repeat for like 45 minutes and really wear out the song’s welcome in your brain? That’s what I did with The Weight – except it never wore out.

Not really being ‘into music’ I’m sure my parents were probably alarmed to walk by my room and see me lying on the floor, eyes closed with (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman blaring out of my Aiwa stereo. They let it ride though god bless ‘em.

It’s tough to articulate but that was a time in my life when I was just starting to listen to James Brown & Otis Redding. What Aretha brought was different but in the same sphere. Listening to that sound at that point in my life made an awkward teenager think he might know what rhythm felt and tasted like. I’ll never forget it and I’m so, so grateful.

So until further notice the flag will be at half mast here at The Shade HQ. I don’t know how long I’ll be… but if you need me I’ll be takin’ time to make time to lament the Queen of Soul


National Obituary Review

DPD Emeritus – Gregg Allman

Comments Off on DPD Emeritus – Gregg Allman 29 May 2017


The love light is turned down way low tonight. We lost a good one. For yours truly Gregg Allman brought a lot of things in focus. At a weird point in my life, going to music festivals, I’d see the Allmans on the venue and find it reassuring. I couldn’t tell you why. I just did.

As I got older I’d read about them. Learn about the feuds. All the weird stories you’d hear about how they couldn’t stand each other and when they were out on the road they’d travel separately. They were a family that had some issues going on too.

Then there was the music. Sweet jesus. I always felt that because Gregg Allman was white it gave us hope that white people had rhythm too.

Not to mention it was a non-threatening concert my parents would let me go to with my friends without supervision. Steve Miller was in that bucket too…along with the Doobie Bros and a few others.

I learned and saw many things at Allmans’ shows. I saw Derek Trucks for the first time. How about that? I got a Case Logic CD book stolen. The big kind with 4 discs on each page. One time I slept through the entire show in the Lawn. Well worth it to take a snooze under the stars listen to that sound.

I’m not sure about the rest of you guys but there are very few bands that have been relevant to me from the time I was 13 to present day. The Beatles obviously. And maybe some Oldies you used to listen to driving around with your parents. But the Allmans always felt filthy. Classic and current at the time.

Gregg Allman’s musk will infuse the smell of American music for years to come. I think he can be heard from legacy acts such as the Black Crowes to contemporary stars like Chris Stapleton (the relations is particularly strong in this example).

Gregg Allman was rock, soul, R&B, Rhythm & Blues, Country & Western and a whole bunch of other stuff too.

We lost a good one today. If you’re so inclined we’ll be celebrating the Allmans at the HQ all weekend. We just refilled the cookie closet too (Thanks Earl!)




The Written Word, National Obituary Review

DPD Emeritus: Prince – A Remembrance

Comments Off on DPD Emeritus: Prince – A Remembrance 21 April 2016

Needless to say, sad day here at The Shade HQ. On the heels of Bowie and Toussaint I found myself asking ‘When is enough, enough?’. I paced around the house for hours chasing shadows. Not even Mingus could help me sort things out. I found myself in my rocking chair, cat on my lap, wrestling with the same questions about the passage of time we all do. What the fuck?

I can distinctly remember Prince at every transitional point in my formative years. Starting with Linda. I was 14 and had no job with parents that wanted me out of the house. The idea of a few bucks in my pocket seemed appealing. It was early Spring and my pal Steve had a job filing at some small potatoes appraisal company. By small potatoes I mean the business was run out of a slowly falling apart converted home with a pile of concrete in the back lot.

I had no idea what filing was really but Steve was starting baseball season and leaving the job. I could walk right in and take over. All mine. A few hours a couple of days after school and I’d get $40 a week. Big money. Believe it or not that was plenty back then.

I showed up, got the walk through from some dude that worked there:

  1. When you come in there’ll be a stack of files there
  2. You take them, sort them alphabetically, by name of client,
  3. Then put them in those cabinets over here.

Pretty easy. I was on my way. Then a curve ball. A file with no client name. Back then my problem solving skills weren’t what they are today.  I heard some conversation from the front room so I figured I’d check it out and ask my question

I come around the corner and see these women really hootin’ and hollerin’ with the stereo way up. I guess they didn’t hear me coming because as I approached I startled them. One of the women – Linda – caught my attention. While she was probably 50 she was all dolled up with tight jeans and dancing practically out of her seat. She had teased, dyed blond hair that would have been stark white otherwise and plenty of make-up. Lip liner, TONS of lip liner.

Without the slightest interest in answering my question she asked me if I was into Prince as she turned the volume up on the CD she was listening to. I wasn’t but I sure as hell wanted to be. At that time in my life I was into Kurt Cobain and the teen angst that came along with that. Back then, at no point did it occur to me that girls listen to music and get all hyped. At that point, and moving forward, it did – thanks to Prince. So I looked into him.

National Obituary Review

Allen Toussaint – A Remembrance (RIP)

Comments Off on Allen Toussaint – A Remembrance (RIP) 10 November 2015

When you talk about heavy hitters in the music that is most influential in my life you don’t get any heavier than Allen Toussaint.

The first time I came in contact with Toussaint and his music was a fortuitous coincidence. Many moons ago on my first trip to NOLA for Jazz Fest I was instructed by a very nice vagrant women in the Quarter that it was in my best interest to catch Toussaint’s show at some bar down on Frenchman street that night. Always up for adventure and never one to turn down advice from a vagrant I grabbed some shrimp and looked the place up.

The name of the place escapes me now but I CAN tell you it was a hole-in-the-wall place that seated MAYBE 30 people. To my surprise the place was PACKED. Luckily they had a tiny bar/anteroom at the front of the venue that was simulcasting the show on a few TVs that were non-strategically placed. Waves of people were milling around, getting drunk and excited for the show. All shapes, sizes, ages & colors (in true New Orleans fashion).

Everything was both starting to make sense and getting more confusing. As I mentioned the advice of a vagrant had never let me down. But when I caught a glimpse of Toussaint on the TVs as he was warming up I was somewhat perplexed that SO MANY people were turning out to see this old guy play piano by himself. I wasn’t very bright back then and have made little improvements since. Either way I did have that thought.

The next 2 hours were one of the handful of live performances that I will remember until the day I die. I got to see him the next afternoon at Jazzfest too. It was a hairy conglomeration of all the different sounds I was into at the moment but listening to separately. Jazz, blues, funk and heavy, heavy beats & rhythm. I was hooked.

Of course, the more I investigated I learned about The Meters and I’ve been enjoying the audio bath ever since.

The other somewhat notable memory of Allen Toussaint happened in Disney World of all places. I was subjected to that rat’s nest for a work conference many years ago. Three nights into the trip I was at a dinner with some colleagues and clients at a middling Italian restaurant. Not much to tell here other than I had about 7 of those small Sutter Home bottles of red and told a few off color stories.

After dinner I snuck off to one of those piano bars where two pianos face each other and the two pianists sort of ‘battle’. You know what I mean? Anyways, at least this place had liquor so my companion and I immediately ordered a few rounds of 1800. I was feeling good and full of zest.

The pianists were smug and putting together the worst list of music I’d ever heard. So I did what any of you would have done and started heckling. Well, to be fair, I was just aggressively suggesting they mix up their playlist of crap and include a few Allen Toussaint songs. I was also sitting in the front row….maybe 10 feet away from these guys. And I was drunk, so do the math.

Their shitty set went on as did my insistence on a Toussaint tune. Things boiled to a head and one of the guys stopped and asked what my ‘problem’ was. So I told him that as a professional pianist he should be more than happy to play a Toussaint song. His response was that he’d never heard of Allen Toussaint. Needless to say I didn’t leave at his insistence. I left in disgust.

I come out of this with a few conclusions:

  1. Allen Toussaint is a legend
  2. Assholes are everywhere
  3. Particularly in Disney

RIP Allen Toussaint and thanks for everything


National Obituary Review

DPD – B.B. King

No Comments 15 May 2015


We lost a good one yesterday. I was up late stretching and listening to Charlie Mingus when the fax came through. As soon as I read the message my blood ran cold – “The King Is Dead”.

I was spooked. I didn’t know what to do so I reached for the Laphroaig (15 year), flipped the Mingus record and laid down on the floor.

I didn’t sleep a wink. I couldn’t shake the feeling that things were slipping away. When Mingus had finished I tried to put on Singin’ the Blues but when the needle hit the sound was too jarring, the wound too raw. So I put on The Birth of Cool hoping Miles would numb the pain. Then it hit me.

Back in the 1950s the lifeblood of American culture pulsed through juke joints, country dance halls and back alley nightclubs. In such locales B.B. cut his teeth and made his contribution. King plugged into the current spawned from 1957’s release of The Birth of Cool. It was a different flavor but it all tasted similar. Coltrane was in that recipe. So was James Brown, Otis Redding, George Clinton and Michael Jackson (pre all that weird shit).

Hell, as a country we’ve been wading in this current for the past half century. Now the stream is dry and we’re out of ideas so Ryan Seacrest fills the void. Sure, we’ve had ebbs and flows since. Vogues in-and-out of style. But every so often you’d see B.B. (or Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf) and it was like an omniscient face smack reminding you where it all came from.

By his own admission, King could not play chords well and always relied on improvisation. In a time where curriculums and career paths are over curated it makes you wonder if true creativity can still thrive.

The flag is flying at half mast today at The Shade HQ.

Not surprisingly those quacks over at the NYTs contributed a steaming poop for a memorial to The King. So do yourself a favor and read the Chicago Tribune’s.


National Obituary Review

DPD: January 3rd – Ivan Mackerle

No Comments 03 February 2015


The wait is over. You’ve flooded our inbox enough. We get it. You CAN’T live with out DPDs. So, we’re happy to reinstate. We thought it nice to get kicked off with a bang and focus on the world of Cryptozoology and Ivan Mackerle

Mackerle was an interesting bloke interested in:

  • Obscure military vehicles
  • Voltage
  • Wenceslas Square
  • Rare animals – most notably the Mongolian Death Worm

Upon graduation from university Mackerle had a brief stint hawking gyros in Prague while moonlighting as a foot sniffer for the Czech aristocracy to make extra money.

Once he had amassed a small fortune from his olfactory racket he hit the road in search of the Mongolian Death Worm. He made 2 trips in total. Other than contracting a bad case of athlete’s foot the first trip was fruitless. However his second trip in 1992 was a bit more interesting.

Upon arrival at a Buddhist Monastery he was warned that the Death Worm had ‘supernatural evil’ that not even Sly Stallone could tame (it was the early 90s, Sly was HUGE). Unaffected Mackerle pushed on.

After his first day of pursuit, Mackerle awoke convinced he was close. He recalled having a vivid dream about the worm, and states that he woke up with unexplained blood-filled boils on his back. Convinced it wasn’t his night terrors he carried on.

But I’ll stop there and let Crytozoology Digest take over with Ivan’s obit.

Come get your obits while their hot you animals!

National Obituary Review

DPD Emeritus – L. Ron Hubbard & A Lament

No Comments 23 January 2014


We’ve got a special one today. Everyone’s favorite lunatic – the venerable L. Ron Hubbard.

Hubbard called Dianetics “a milestone for man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his invention of the wheel and the arch”

While we’re still not sure if he meant the golden arches of McDonalds or the architectural convention that sure is one hell of an understatement.

We here at The Shade have modeled our ‘auditing’ process after Hubbard’s innovative approach. Although no one on staff has a mental capacity even approaching Hubbard’s. So, our ‘auditing’ process usually breaks down into laughing fits when one of the involved parties breaks wind. It never fails, given the junk food in the snack basket here at the office.

Hubbard and his works are a close personal passion for Reins. He moonlights as a black market expert on Hubbard’s early art (circa 1949-1957). On a cheese snarling expedition years ago, Reins came across an old mom n’ pop consignment shop somewhere in Burma. Or was it Columbus? No matter.

The sharp eye of Reins spotted a Hubbard original leaning behind a Shasteen mirror and amongst a scourge of yapping Jack Russell terriers. Risking life and limb he leaned in and plucked the piece virtually from obscurity.

The spaceship had the off-black lacquer mystique. The genitals of Xenu were just right and Hubbard’s stylized signature could not be mistaken.

Knowing what he had, and always the consummate professional, Reins played it cool. He sifted through the Paul Anka vinyl. He surveyed the second hand women’s jackets selection for T.W.

After a spell the Jack Russells were too much for any sane human to have to deal with so,  he proceeded to check out.

The girl behind the counter was young, pale and thin…sickly. The piece being 42’x65′ was awkward for her to handle. Not able to find a price she said “This is a new one…not priced yet. Let me just check on that”. Reins, not want to leave anything to chance threw 3 balled up $20s on the counter trying to stop the inquiry. But it was too late.

She was already in the doorway talking to “Gill”. A pudgy, ruddy faced squat man rushed to the doorway and snatched the piece. Sweating, Gill said “No, no…this made its way on the floor by accident”. He looked at Reins shaking his head and said “Sorry, this isn’t for sale”.

With that, he turned and faded away into the jaundiced light of whatever happens behind closed doors in places like that.

Rein’s hopes were dashed. Another Hubbard original had slipped through his fingers. After scribbling a few notes in his field guide he headed to his El Camino to enjoy his last cheese stick before the Motel 6.

So, while we celebrate L. Ron’s very special DPD nomination today, it is with mixed emotions that yours truly laments the missing Hubbard original that could be hanging above our commode. Not to mention another crack in Rein’s fragile mental well-being.

L. Ron’s Obit from January 1986

National Obituary Review

Dead person of the day – January 2 – Ian McKeever

No Comments 02 January 2014


After the NOR staff took a well earned, end-of-year vacation we’re back. It’s true. We feel rejuvenated. Those jerks down the hall at The Shade gave us a bigger office, less oversight and even replenished the K-Cup tree.

Needless to say we’re all excited. But enough about us, lets talk about dead people.

Ian McKeever. A real go-getter and a personal favorite of that nice young man Reins.

An Irish international, moutaineer and devoted member to the human race. In 2004, McKeever set the Five Peaks Challenge world record, climbing and descending all five peaks in 16 hours 16 minutes. He climbed the 26 peaks of the island of Ireland in 98 hours in 2006. McKeever broke the world record for the Seven Summits Challenge in 2007, climbing the highest summit on each of the seven continents in 155 days, 32 less than the previous record

At the very least he should have gotten a trophy with a cool guy on it.

He had one hell of an ending. It makes me wonder what would have happened to those humans building the Tower of Babylon had they reached the heavens and not been scattered by the wrath of God.

Cheers to you Ian.

Adventurer Ian McKeever is killed by lightning on Kilimanjaro

RECORD-breaking mountain climber and adventurer Ian McKeever was tragically killed on Africa’s highest mountain after being struck by lightning. Continue

National Obituary Review

DPW Visual – Stay High 149

No Comments 12 June 2013

National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – June 11 – Wayne Roberts (Stay High 149)

No Comments 11 June 2013


This week’s DPW was an avant garde artist in the medium of street graffiti at a time when the art form was a valuable expression of urban angst that gave a voice to a generation.

Wayne Roberts…aka Stay High 149.

He set the standard for how to do an elegant tag. How to be distinct from other artists doming something similar. In its own way it was like corporate branding. His tag borrowed thehaloed stick figure from the title sequence of the 1960s television series “The Saint,” put a joint in its mouth and turned it around.

The Smoker figure was a departure from the tags of the early 1970s, which relied on simple, straight letters, often done by young teenagers who were active only briefly. Soon stylistic flourishes like arrows and loops were added, but none were as successful as the Smoker.

Robert’s art really took off when he became a de facto star of the venerable Norman Mailer’s 1974 piece The Faith of Graffiti where Mailer collaborated with photographer Jon Naar. The book elevated teenage vandals, most of whom feared the police and refused to be photographed, into art heroes. While the youth of New York were not the first to tag their names in public spaces everywhere, Faith became graffiti’s portable catalogue of style.

Robert’s had a checkered past in terms of struggles with drugs and never really experienced the fame (or financial compensation) of a Banksy. Nonetheless he was a righteous dude, had a great haircut and made some bodacious art.

We’ll be featuring his work intermittently throughout the week.

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