Category Archives: Music

Song of the Day #1935

Song of the Day: Take My Breath features the words and music of a host of writers, including The Weeknd, whose music I’m highlighting this weekend. This song has a throwback 80s feel, and there’s no doubt that the Weeknd, like so many others in his generation, has been deeply influenced by one of that decade’s most important artists: Michael Jackson. Remixers have even done mashups of their tracks [YouTube link]. Even this track gets an MJ-Weeknd mashup [YouTube link]. Check out the quasi-autoerotic official video and an extended club remix [YouTube links].

Memories of Dad

As ballroom dancers, Mom and Dad met on the dance floor. Nobody could cut a rug doing a swift Peabody or a Lindy-Hop better! Dad always said if he had to die, he wanted to go out dancing.

And that is exactly what he was doing when he died on this date, fifty years ago.

On March 4, 1972, my father, Salvatore Charles Sciabarra (“Sal” to his family and friends), died of a massive coronary at the age of 55. He would have turned 56 on June 11, 1972. At the time, I was 12 years old, suffering from serious life-threatening medical problems, and the news of his passing shattered me. It was my first experience with death as a fact of life. It was so very hard. But the cherished memories I have of him are still very much alive.

Mom was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1919; Dad was born in Manhattan in 1916. As young children, they both moved to Brooklyn, New York and met as teenagers because of their mutual love of dancing. In 1935, she was 16 and he was 19. They had attended a wedding together and Mom missed curfew and didn’t want to go home to the wrath of her father, my Papouli, the first pastor of the Three Hierarchs Church. They decided to elope. Times were very different back then; intermarriage between faiths and ethnicities was frowned upon. Mom was an American-born Greek Orthodox woman whose parents had emigrated from Olympia, Greece. Dad was an American-born Roman Catholic man whose parents had emigrated from Porto Empedocle, not far from Sciacca (hence the last name), in the province of Agrigento, Sicily. Or as I put it, tongue-in-cheek: My maternal grandparents came from the home of the gods and goddesses and my paternal grandparents came from the home of the godfathers; clearly, this Brooklyn-born boy came from tough stock!

My parents were not gods, goddesses, or ‘godparents’. But they were very human renegades for their time. And, in many ways, they raised three renegade children, each of whom danced to their own music. My brother Carl—exposed to my father’s mandolin, guitar, and drum-playing, would go on to become a virtuoso jazz guitarist. My sister Elizabeth—exposed to my mother’s love of education (Mom was the first in her family to graduate from high school, James Madison High School in Brooklyn)—would go on to become a lifelong educator. And both my parents encouraged me to follow my own dreams; I would not have become what I am today without them.

Mom and Dad separated when I was 5 years old. Though my sister and I lived with my Mom, my Dad remained a very strong presence in my life. In fact, in the wake of that separation, his presence in my life only grew. There were difficult times for sure, but these were far outweighed by fun times. Trips to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, its hills like huge mountains to me, its zoo full of wonder, nourished my love of nature. Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, car rides, music, and movies delighted me.

One of those movies was “The Love Bug,” whose action centered around Herbie, a Volkswagen Beetle. Dad had proposed taking my sister and me to see the film, which was playing at the Cinema Theatre on East Kings Highway (previously known as the Jewel Theatre). Mom was flustered by both the title and the theater. “You’re taking them to see a film called ‘The Love Bug’ at the Cinema!”—knowing all too well that the theater was an infamous headquarters for first-run racy porn flicks. Dad explained that it was a Disney film.

Like Mom, who worked in the garment industry for most of her life, Dad too was a factory worker. Initially, he was an eye-setter in a doll factory. We still have some of those dolls, with their life-like eyes, which my Dad brought home for my sister Elizabeth. Eventually, he would become a cargo worker for Trans World Airlines at JFK International Airport. I still have plenty of TWA memorabilia, including TWA soaps and TWA Flying Magic Boards, given to kids of all ages on flights (see the collage below). Today, you’re lucky if you can get complementary snacks! I hadn’t flown on a plane in my Dad’s lifetime, but I got to see planes up close at the airport as a kid. It fueled my awe of the heavens and sparked my lifelong fascination with the human journey into air and space.

Despite losing my Dad in 1972, I continued to be nourished by a very loving and supportive family throughout my entire life. And it was to these family members that I dedicated each of my books. I told Mom that I would dedicate my first book, Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, to her. Alas, she died in April 1995, before that book was published. I told my Uncle Sam—my Dad’s first cousin, who married my mother’s sister (my Aunt Georgia) and who was like a second father to me—that I would dedicate my second book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, to him. But he died in 1994. It got so that I was very concerned about who would have been “sentenced” to death-by-dedication, for my third book, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism. So I opted for strength in numbers, a group dedication—to my brother, sister, sister-in-law, friend Matthew, and dog Blondie, and all, except for Blondie, are still kicking till this day!

I never had a chance to honor my father. I was his “Chrissy Bear”; he was my Daddy. This post acknowledges his joyous impact on my life.

That’s me with Mom and Dad in September 1969, along with that TWA memorabilia …

Song of the Day #1934

Song of the Day: Blinding Lights features the words and music of Max Martin, Oscar Holter, Belly, DaHeala, and Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, known to the world as The Weeknd. This uptempo song recently displaced “The Twist” as the longest-charting song in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, having spent 90 weeks on that chart. This weekend, I’m highlighting two Weeknd songs, among his many enjoyable tracks. Check out the official video to this all-time #1 hit [YouTube link].

Song of the Day #1933

Song of the Day: Bring Back the Time, words and music by Lars Jensen and Donnie Wahlberg, is a throwback tribute to 1980s pop, and features New Kids on the Block, Rick Astley, Salt-N-Pepa, and En Vogue. It’s a hoot to watch this collaboration, which made its video debut on “Good Morning America” today. See if you can catch all the artists referenced in the hilarious video [YouTube link]!

Song of the Day #1931

Song of the Day: In the Line of Fire (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Ennio Morricone, provides a musical landscape of tension that undergirds this 1993 political action thriller starring Clint Eastwood, Rene Russo, and the maniacal Oscar-nominated John Malkovich. This is the first of two back-to-back suites from Morricone the Magnificent, which will conclude this year’s Film Music February Festival.

Song of the Day #1930

Song of the Day: The Adventures of Robin Hood (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, features grand themes from the Oscar-winning score to this rousing 1938 swashbuckling adventure, directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley. It stars Errol Flynn in the title role, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, and Olivia de Havilland. Korngold, along with Max Steiner and Alfred Newman, was considered one of the founders of film music, and no soundtrack suite tribute would be complete without a nod to at least one of his 16 Hollywood film scores.

Song of the Day #1929

Song of the Day: King Kong (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Max Steiner, is credited as the first score written in a way to parallel, enhance, and support the narrative to a film—and “movie music” has never been the same since. So singular was Steiner’s achievement for this 1933 fantasy, monster film that it was not recognized for Oscar consideration because it was not until 1934 that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences established a category for Best Original Score. The film starred Robert Armstrong, Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot, and New York’s relatively young Empire State Building (which would be featured in 250+ films after its use in the Kong finale). Ironically, its trailblazing stop-animation special effects by Willis O’Brien were also not eligible for Oscar consideration because that category wasn’t fully established by the Academy until 1938. But the score and the effects remain among its most spectacular contributions to cinema. Tomorrow, I’ll feature another great soundtrack suite from the 1930s.

In the Facebook discussion that followed, I told this little story:

When I was a 6-year old kid, they were showing “King Kong” on the big screen at our neighborhood theater, in a double-bill with “The Thing from Another World.” I got through the latter film with no problem, and then the screen went dark, and the kids in the audience were screaming louder and louder and louder: “KONG! KONG! KONG!”… and I think my sister and my Uncle saw that I was becoming a bit unhinged, not having a clue what was going to come on the screen.”Are you okay?,” they both asked. And I said that I thought it was a little “loud” (a euphemism for “I’m scared to death”) … and they gently said, “Well, maybe we will come back another day…”So, I was spared Kong-related post-traumatic stress. Though I did eventually see the film on the big screen, I first saw it in repeated rotation on “Million Dollar Movie” (WOR-TV, in NY). “King Kong” was actually the debut film on MDM back in 1956 …

Song of the Day #1928

Song of the Day: Summer of ’42 (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Michel Legrand, provides a glimpse of this deeply romantic Oscar-winning score for the 1971 tender coming-of-age film, starring Jennifer O’Neill and Gary Grimes. On this date, 90 years ago, in 1932, the Legendary Legrand was born.

Song of the Day #1927

Song of the Day: Lady Usher (“Suite”) [site link], composed by Michael Gordon Shapiro, is a lovely suite of selections from the soundtrack to this 2021 creepy thriller with a twist, based on Edgar Allan Poe‘s Gothic tale, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” My friend Mike outdoes himself here. He prepared this suite just for my Film Music February Festival and I’m honored to mark its official premiere today! The full soundtrack album is on the way! (Ed: It’s now out here!) In 2020, it won Best Original Score from the New York Cinematography Awards competition. Terrific!