Author Archives: Cmsciabarra

Song of the Day #2060

Song of the Day: DI4RIES (“Isole”) features the words and music of Giordano Colombo, Amedeo Radaelli, Vincenzo Colella, and Italian singer, Tancredi, who performs the song, which serves as the theme to this coming-of-age Italian Netflix series that debuted in 2022. Its second season begins in September 2023. Offering a fresh take on first crushes, first kisses, and first protests, this heartwarming show is filmed entirely in the scenic Gulf of Naples. Check out this montage from the first season, in which the singer himself has a few cameos [YouTube link].

Hip Hop 50! / Song of the Day #2059

Song of the Day: Fresh Prince of Bel Air (“Yo Home to Bel Air”), composed by the Fresh Prince (Will Smith) and DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeffrey Townes), is a storytelling narrative rendered in rap that opened this NBC series, which aired from 1990 to 1996. Fifty years ago, on this date in music history, at a party in The Bronx, DJ Kool Herc played dance music before a large crowd, using two turntables to extend the “breakbeat” in what is recognized as the “official” birthday of hip hop. Tonight, New York City—from Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and Staten Island’s Stapleton Waterfront Park to Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, 50 Years of Hip Hop is being commemorated with a huge musical celebration. The origins of hip hop are, of course, much older. But its impact across many genres of rap has been enormous, influencing even TV show themes. This one is among the most memorable. Check out the full rendition [YouTube link].

Song of the Day #2058

Song of the Day: Life with Lucy (“Every Day is Better Than Before”) [YouTube link], words and music by Martin Silvestri, Jeremy Stone, and Joel Higgins, opened this short-lived series starring Lucille Ball. Unlike her other huge hits (“I Love Lucy“, “The Lucy Show“, and “Here’s Lucy“), this ABC show lasted only 13 weeks in 1986. But it left behind a wonderful theme song, sung by the great Eydie Gorme. On this date in 1911, Lucille Ball was born. What a legacy of laughter she left behind.

Mark “Hector Salamanca” Margolis, RIP

Fans of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” will never forget the unforgettable character of Hector (“Tio”) Salamanca! On the role he played, Mark Margolis said: “I was only coming onto ‘Breaking Bad‘ as far as I knew for that one episode, but there’s no accounting for taste, and the fans took a fancy to me,” he said. “Somebody asked me recently, ‘How did you manage to play such a horrible guy?’ and I said, ‘Have you talked to my friends?’ They’ll tell you I’m pretty miserable to begin with.” lol

His “Face Off” with Gus Fring is probably one of the most startling events in the Breaking Bad “Gillverse”. He was in quite a few other films and television series, from “Scarface” to “Oz“.

RIP, Mark Margolis, who died today at the age of 83.

Song of the Day #2057

Song of the Day: The Addams Family (“Main Theme”), composed by Vic Mizzy, opened this ABC show that starred John Astin and Carolyn Jones. Though the series only lasted for two seasons (1964-1966), its iconic theme—with its harpsicord, finger snaps, and Ted Cassidy voiceover (as “Lurch“)—remains a TV classic [YouTube link].

RIP, E. Devers Branden (1933-2023)

I awoke this morning to the very sad news that Estelle Devers Branden passed away on July 26, 2023, after a long illness. Devers was a very dear friend of mine.

Born on October 2, 1933, Devers was a businesswoman who subsequently turned to the profession of psychotherapy. She married writer and psychologist Nathaniel Branden in 1978, and though they later divorced in 2002, they remained close friends. With Nathaniel, she coauthored The Romantic Love Question and Answer Book (1982, subsequently republished as What Loves Asks of Us). Her enormous impact on the lives of those who were touched by her perceptive insights and caring guidance—both in Nathaniel’s various intensives and in her therapeutic practices—will be remembered by anyone who had the privilege of getting to know her.

In the aftermath of Nathaniel’s death in December 2014, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies published a grand symposium on his life and legacy. Devers provided us with a photo of Nathaniel for that December 2016 double issue. Of the sixteen featured essays in that symposium, several discussed Devers’s various contributions, including Deepak Sethi (“Personal Reflections on Nathaniel Branden”), Andrew Schwartz (“Adler, Branden, and the Third Wave Behavior Therapists”), Joel F. Wade (“Nathaniel Branden and Devers Branden and the Discipline of Happiness”), and my very close friend, the late Michael Southern, whose essay “My Years with Nathaniel Branden” explored, on a very personal level, the ways in which Devers’s innovative Jungian subpersonality techniques helped him through enormous mental health challenges. Nathaniel credited Devers for having enabled him to integrate these techniques into his eclectic arsenal of psychotherapeutic practices.

I first met Nathaniel in 1993; he had provided me with invaluable feedback on an early draft of my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Nathaniel’s influence on me was immeasurable—not just as the author of countless essays during his years of association with Ayn Rand, not just for his pioneering work in the realm of the psychology of self-esteem, but also as a person who would become a dear friend over the years, a source of immeasurable love and support. So, it was only a matter of time for me to finally meet Devers. The two of them visited me in Brooklyn in the spring of 1998, and I took them for a whirlwind tour of the borough. From Nathan’s hot dogs in Coney Island to pizza at L&B Spumoni Gardens, from the mansions on Bedford Avenue to the waterfront at Manhattan Beach, we had a wonderful time. I still have vivid memories of the two of them dancing on the famed pedestrian bridge in Sheepshead Bay. Before they departed for the airport, I asked them both to inscribe my copy of their coauthored work, The Romantic Love Question and Answer Book (an image of which appears below).

The following year, my sister Elizabeth and I took an early spring trip to California. We had left New York City, which was enjoying temperatures in the 80s, to travel to Sunny California, where it was snowing in the San Fernando Valley. Snow aside, that trip would not have been complete without a visit to the Beverly Hills 90210 home of Nathaniel and Devers (image of me with them below). It was a spectacular experience. Our lengthy conversations spanned from the personal to the professional, the spiritual to the intellectual. We shared so many stories, we ate well, we laughed, and we held each other in a warm embrace before we left. Though that was the last time I saw Devers, we continued to talk on the phone for many years thereafter, a source of enormous joy for one another.

I last spoke to her in mid-April 2023, knowing how sick she was. She had told me that she had made her peace with death. But there was still so much life left within her. Knowing how enormous my grief was in the wake of my sister’s passing in November 2022, she comforted me. She knew how much my sister meant to me and how deeply my sister loved me. I cherished her gentleness with me.  We ended our phone call saying “I love you” to one another. At her request, I sent her copies of all my recent essays, and she sent me a recent photo of her with her beloved dog, Gigi (image below).

Devers was a kind, humane, caring soul. And a remarkable human being. I will miss her enormously.

I extend my deepest condolences to her family and friends.

Also see my Facebook post.

Song of the Day #2056

Song of the Day: Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”), written and performed by Fred Rogers, opened this PBS series, which aired from 1968 to 2001. There’s a certain poignancy in the gentle lyrics to this lovely TV theme. It was also featured in the 2019 film, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” starring Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers. Hanks sings the theme in the film, but there’s nothing like the original [YouTube links].

Song of the Day #2055

Song of the Day: Living Single (“Main Theme”), written and performed by Queen Latifah, opened this Fox comedy series, which ran from 1993 to 1998. The show had an impact on the development of many sitcoms, from “Friends” to “Insecure“. The theme is a poppin’ jack/jill swing groove. Check out its use in the opening credits as well as an extended version [YouTube links].

45 Years Ago: The Birth of Disco 92

Forty-five years ago on this date, July 24, 1978, at precisely 6 pm (ET), the Soft Rock station, “Mellow 92” (92.3 on the FM dial) morphed into “Disco 92“, changing the landscape of FM radio, swiftly becoming the #1 station in New York City. I know Disco is a dirty word for a lot of folks, but this station is memorable for giving us a fiery blend of dance, disco, Latin, and R&B music unlike no other station. (Much credit for the commercial success of KTU goes to general manager, David Rapaport, father of actor Michael Rapaport, whose purchase of 200 disco records initiated the station’s playlist.) Among its disc jockeys were Paco, G. Keith Alexander, Jim Harlan, JD Holiday (Paul Zarcone), Dale Reeves, Freddie Colon, Carlos DeJesus, Joe Causi, Rosko, and Al Bandiero, with whom I spoke on several occasions in later years, reminiscing about the station’s legacy. With artists like Thelma Houston, the Puerto Rico All Stars, Constellation Orchestra, Rick James, and Donna Summer, whose Oscar-winningLast Dance” was the first featured song, here are 39 minutes in the birth of a radio phenomenon …

Check out the interesting Facebook conversation sparked by this post here.

Tony Bennett, RIP

I am so saddened to learn of the death of Tony Bennett, at the age of 96—one of the finest interpreters of the Great American Songbook. I’ve featured so many “Songs of the Day” by him throughout the years. We are so lucky that this native New Yorker left behind such a great musical legacy. A multiple Grammy Award– and Emmy Award-winning artist, he was a Kennedy Center Honoree, and a painter as well.

My sister, Elizabeth Sciabarra, had the pleasure of working with him and his wife Susan Benedetto, during the lead-up to the opening of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens.

Among my all-time favorites:

I Wanna Be Around

The Good Life

The Best is Yet to Come

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

For Once in My Life

If You Were Mine

Live at the Sahara: From This Moment On

And his timeless recordings with legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans

… the list goes on and on and on…

Postscript: I should also note that Tony Bennett was among the first artists to inspire my rhythmic sense! As a child, I used to walk around our living room coffee table to his bouncy version of “Put on a Happy Face” (from the musical, “Bye Bye Birdie“)

By City of Boston Archives from West Roxbury, United States – Unidentified woman with singer Tony Bennett, CC BY 2.0