Category Archives: Remembrance

Song of the Day #1966

Song of the Day: Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone, words and music by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, was first released on May 9, 1972 by The Undisputed Truth [YouTube link]. Today, however, marks the fiftieth anniversary of its release on Motown Records by The Temptations—a seminal #1 Hit, that in its full glory went on for 12+ minutes, with extended musical passages (even the single version was 7 minutes!). The song won three Grammy Awards. Check out the full album version as featured on the album, “Psychedelic Soul” [YouTube link].

Song of the Day #1962

Song of the Day: (Ah The Apple Trees) When the World Was Young, music by Philippe Gerard, French lyrics by Angele Vannier, English lyrics by Johnny Mercer, has been recorded by countless artists through the years. Check out renditions by Edith Piaf (in the original French, as “Le chevalier de Paris“), Aretha Franklin, Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, Eydie Gorme, and Frank Sinatra [YouTube links]. Apple is the official fruit of New York, and today, The Big Apple, and all those who have been nourished by its fruitfulness, mark the twenty-first anniversary of 9/11. In memory of those whose lives we lost.

The Twin Towers, from the Staten Island Ferry, May 12, 2001
Photograph by Chris Matthew Sciabarra

See Facebook discussion here.

Joey DeFrancesco, RIP

I was very saddened to hear of the death of jazz organ player Joey DeFrancesco, who died at the age of 51 on August 25, 2022.

RIP [YouTube link]

Courtesy, Wiki Commons

Vin Scully, RIP

A great baseball broadcaster, Vin Scully (1927-2022), has died at the age of 94. Check out retrospectives on the life of the man who started broadcasting for the Dodgers back in 1950, when they were still in Brooklyn! 67 seasons, not only as the Voice of the Dodgers but of so many memorable moments in baseball history …

In the NY Times here and here, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and MLB. It was actually through the NY Yankees that I learned of Scully’s passsing late last night; they put up a loving tribute to him. Also: check out Mike Lupica’s tribute.

Vin Scully (from Wikipedia)

Song of the Day #1956

Song of the Day: A Taste of Honey, words and music by Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow, was first heard in the 1960 Broadway version of the British play of the same name. A 1965 version by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass [YouTube link] would go on to score four Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year. Other notable instrumental versions of the song were recorded by Paul Desmond & Jim Hall, Harry James, Jackie Gleason, Chet Atkins, The Ventures, and Emily Remler [YouTube links]. The first vocal versions were recorded by Billy Dee Williams in 1961 and Lenny Welch in 1962, followed by renditions by The Beatles and Barbra Streisand [YouTube links]. But today’s featured rendition is by the legendary Tony Bennett [YouTube link], who celebrates his 96th birthday.

James Caan, RIP

I first saw the Bronx-born James Caan in a heartbreaking 1971 ABC Movie of the Week, “Brian’s Song“, about the life of Chicago Bears football player Brian Piccolo, who died of cancer at the age of 26. The poignant story was told through the eyes of Piccolo’s friend, Gale Sayers (played by Billy Dee Williams).

Nothing in that tearjerker of a film, about the deep friendship of two men from different backgrounds and different races, could have prepared me for Caan’s explosive portrayal of Sonny Corleone in the 1972 film, “The Godfather“, for which he received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor (along with two of his costars, Robert Duvall and Al Pacino). In 1999, his hilarious sendup as another mob character in “Mickey Blue Eyes” showed yet another side to his talent. And in a standout performance opposite the Oscar-winning Kathy Bates, he made us feel the “Misery” in the 1990 film adaptation of the novel by Stephen King. He was in nearly 70 films in a career that spanned from the early 1960s thru 2021, from “Lady in a Cage” and “Cinderella Liberty” to “Funny Lady“, “Rollerball” and “Elf“.

I was saddened to learn that James Caan died yesterday at the age of 82. RIP. [See some discussion on my Facebook post.]

James Caan (1940-2022)

Ski Trip to Celebrate Aunt Mary 100!

With the amazing assistance of a terrific ambulette company, my sister, Elizabeth (“Ms. Ski”) Sciabarra, took her first trip out of the house since October 2021—to see our Aunt Mary, who celebrated her 100th birthday today. My Aunt Mary is my sister’s godmother. Aunt Mary is accustomed to saying she’s 26. And in spirit, she’s right on target! We were elated to see her, after such a long time. Happy birthday to our beloved Aunt Mary and a Happy Day for us all!

Elizabeth with her godmother, Aunt Mary (f); Chris with his godmother, Aunt Vina (b)

Ski and Sue

Yesterday, we learned of the passing of a very dear friend, Sue Mayham (1958-2022). A graduate of the class of 1976 from Brooklyn Technical High School, Sue first met my sister, Elizabeth Sciabarra (Ms. Ski), in the early 70s when my sister asked her to start the Twirlers as part of the BTHS Cheering Squad. Sue was never a student of my sister’s, but she used to slip into Ski’s classes almost every day to listen to lectures on Shakespeare and Chaucer. After Sue graduated, Ski and Sue became lifelong friends. So loving was their connection that it spread to our families. Sue was also kind enough to sit for an interview with me back in 2017, as part of my 9/11 Memorial Series. As I wrote in that article:

A native Brooklynite, [Sue] first attended P.S. 241, a short distance from the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, before moving onto the Packer Collegiate Institute, where she remained through the eighth grade. She decided to take the entrance test for one of the city’s … specialized high schools, one which had only recently opened its doors to young women. She entered Brooklyn Technical High School in downtown Brooklyn as a freshman and was among the first women graduates of the formerly all-boys school. She was actually in the third class in which women were included, in a school of 500 girls and 5,500 boys. For Sue, Tech was a school that thrived on the brilliance and energy of its student population, but it particularly nourished a young generation of strong, powerful, and brave young women. She would move on to Pace University, where she received a BBA in Marketing, preparing her for a career spent on Wall Street. She worked for numerous banks over the years, but on 9/11, the Bank of New York was her employer. 

The interview detailed Sue’s heroic efforts on that day, exhibiting her strength of character and her love of people.

Upon hearing of Sue’s tragic passing, my sister was hard hit emotionally. She writes:

My recollections of Sue go back to my first years at Brooklyn Tech, where I not only had the pleasure of interacting with her in my classes but on the cheering squad—who could forget “The Sting” (our first Half-Time song)? I even went to Sue’s Sweet 16 Party. Later in life, Sue became a loyal board member of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation. When I became the Executive Director of the Foundation, I was thrilled to work with Sue again to bolster the role of young women at Brooklyn Tech. She started the Ruby Engineers, and was present at all Ruby events, including those where it was clear that she was already experiencing the effects of her ailments. However, this never stopped her from attending functions and participating in so many activities. It is fitting that her last day also marked the Jubilee of Elizabeth II—a strong woman in her own right. Sue was a leader and the dearest of friends for fifty years. My heart is broken. I will miss her so very much.

RIP, dearest Sue. (See too the Facebook post by the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation).

Ski and Sue, 2012

E.T. Turns 40!

Forty years ago on this date, “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” debuted as the final film at the Cannes Film Festival. After its finale concluded, the audience rose to its feet in a lengthy standing ovation. It would not debut in the United States until June 11, 1982, to rave critical reviews and enormous popular success.

The film was both a thrilling sci-fi adventure and an enchanting, loving story of the magic of childhood. Its terrific cast, iconic images, famous lines, and spectacular Oscar-winning, Grammy-winning John Williams-penned score [YouTube link] were key ingredients in its status as one of Steven Spielberg’s landmark films.

It even spawned a Grammy-winning album [YouTube link], released on November 15, 1982, narrated by Michael Jackson, who, 15 days later, would release a little gem of his own called “Thriller”.

I saw this film when it came out in the summer of ’82 and would see it again many times in the years thereafter, including a staging of it on the big screen at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic providing the score in live accompaniment. That May 2017 cinematic screening was one of the most moving and overpowering experiences of my life. (Folks can check out a Hollywood Bowl screening of it on YouTube.) The film remains one of my all-time favorites. Check out an edited version of the rousing finale below.

Robb Elementary School Shooting

This is not a post about the culture of violence that has been embedded in this country for eons. This is not a post about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of gun control or the societal crisis in mental health. It is simply to acknowledge the horrifying and tragic murders of 19 children and 2 teachers at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

My heart goes out to all of those who have lost loved ones and all of those who continue to be affected by the madness of violence.

RIP