Wednesday, December 18, 2013

C'est Noel, Part 10 (Tracks 26-28)

We've been examining each of the 35 tracks that comprise my latest holiday mix, C'est Noel!, with an eye toward offering some background on the whole lot before Christmas Day. Once the today's post is up, a mere seven tracks remain and we've got six days to chat about them, so I'd say we're in pretty good shape. As a reminder, C'est Noel will be available on my holiday music website only through the end of 2013, so be sure to check it out 'twixt now and then.

These next few tracks were selected to honor several gifted entertainers who died during the past year. It's a tradition I started a couple of years ago, and it makes me acutely aware of just how many talented folks are living, and aging, among us. Eight of this years tracks celebrate the lives of artists no longer with us – Tracks 26-32 and Track 35. Here are the first three:

Track 28
Just a Toy, by Annette Funicello (1961)
Annette Funicello
Most of her best professional work was done before my time, but I've always thought highly of Annette Funicello, who passed away this past April at age 70. From her earliest days in show business as one of the original Mouseketeers, to her post-adolescent years frolicking on the beach with Frankie Avalon and their friends, Funicello helped an entire generation of young Americans grow into adulthood. Painfully shy as a child, her parents enrolled her in a Burbank, California dancing school, where she was spotted by Walt Disney himself in 1955 and recruited for his new Mickey Mouse Club program. Disney maintained a close eye on her career, signing her alone to a film deal after the first group of Mouseketeers graduated from the program. In 1961, she starred in Disney’s production of Babes in Toyland, the movie that featured “Just a Toy,” which appears on this year's mix. Unlike so many other child stars, Funicello maintained her wholesome image throughout her life. Except for a brief stint as a spokesperson for Skippy Peanut Butter, Funicello kept out of the public eye for most of her adult years, raising three children and living a relatively modest and by all accounts happy life outside of Los Angeles. In 1992, she announced that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which she fought courageously, both privately and by raising awareness and money to fight the disease. She was a model Mouseketeer and a class act to the end.

Watch Annette and the Other Original Mouseketeers During Roll Call

Watch Episode 1 of the Mickey Mouse Club Serial, "Annette"

Watch the film Babes in Toyland (1961)*
*Annette sings "Just a Toy" at the 1:18:25 mark
Watch the Opening of Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)

Watch One of Annette's Skippy Peanut Butter Commercials

Track 27
Edith Greets the Carolers, The Cast Of “All In The Family,” featuring Jean Stapleton (1971)
Jean Stapleton
Best known for her portrayal of Edith Bunker, the simple, long-suffering, loving wife of America's best-known bigot, Archie (played by the late Carroll O'Connor), on television’s All in the FamilyJean Stapleton played a wide range of challenging roles in films and on stage and TV. Following her death this past May at the age of 90, she was remembered by fellow co-stars and others as a talented professional and a delightful colleague. Actor, director and producer Rob Reiner, who starred with Stapleton in All in the Family, said, "Working with her was one of the greatest experiences of my life." Sally Struthers, who played Gloria in the same show, said, "Jean lived so in the present. She was a Christian Scientist who didn't say or think a negative thing. She was just a walking, living angel.” The short clip I used in this year's mix typifies the Edith Bunker character Stapleton played – and, apparently, Stapleton herself. It’s taken from the episode “Christmas at the Bunkers,” which appears in full below:

UPDATE, 11.18.14:  It seems the video originally posted below is no longer available; however, this same episode can be streamed via Hulu by PRESSING HERE. Fans of All in the Family may also want to check-out the two-part holiday episode that aired during Season 7 in 1977, which posted two days ago HERE.


If you'll notice, at about 22:05 Archie kicks off the same argument I posted about yesterday – namely, are Santa Claus and Jesus white, or black? Megyn Kelly doesn't seem to have moved the ball too much farther down the field than when Archie Bunker tried to field the issue in 1971 – 42 years ago.

Track 26
Holiday Greetings, by Lou Reed (1988)
Lou Reed
When I was 14 1/2 years old, I started my first “real” job as a junior kitchen assistant for the girls’ summer camp my grandmother and godmother ran for more than 40 years in Raymond, New Hampshire. There were five of us "boys" in the kitchen – three juniors and two assistants – plus the chef, and we regularly fed about 250 people, only 15 of whom were male. We worked 70 hours each week and the juniors were paid $25 per week, plus room and board, and I loved every minute of it. Hell, I guess it would have been a dream job for most guys my age. When I first heard that Lou Reed had died this past October, I suddenly remembered something from that wonderful summer that I hadn’t thought of in ages. The senior kitchen assistant had just graduated Andover Academy that year, and he was a big Lou Reed fan. I was considerably younger and liked Elton John. The other “kitchen boys” were “townies” from Raymond and liked mostly country and heavy metal music. They ragged on us something awful at first for our taste in music, although by the end of the first week I noticed we were kicking off most of our lengthy afternoon breaks by playing either Rock and Roll Animal or Goodbye Yellow Brick Road at full blast as we fell asleep on the roof of our tiny cabin. Music can bring people together, and it can expand people’s horizons. Lou Reed’s certainly did both that summer. It can also transport people backward in time, as Lou's timeless record just did for me. I'm grateful.
Jenny said, when she was just five years old
There was nothin' happening at all
Every time she put on the radio
There was nothin' goin' down at all, not at all
Then, one fine mornin', she puts on a New York station
You know, she couldn't believe what she heard at all
She started shakin' to that fine, fine music
You know, her life was saved by rock'n'roll . . .
Listen to "No Lou this Christmas," by Tom Dyer and His Queen's Pajamas

We'll be back again soon with more.

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