Paradise By the Dashboard Light: Rest in Peace, Meat Loaf

On 20 January 2022 Heaven added a powerful new voice to the Heavenly Choir:  Marvin Lee Aday, better known by his beefy stage name, Meat Loaf.  Meat Loaf passed at the age of 74 surrounded by family.

Celebrity deaths don’t usually hit me all that hard, but Meat Loaf left his mark on me.  My older brother played “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” for me when I was in high school—and I initially didn’t like it!  But a friend reintroduced me to Meat in college, and by then I’d come to appreciate the cheeky melodrama of Jim Steinman’s songwriting combined with Meat’s gospel-drenched vocals.

As one of the early members among the ranks of Obese-Americans—now a protected class, I think—and a young man with ambitions to bring panache and humor back to rock ‘n’ roll (which in the early 2000s was moving from angsty grunge to angsty new rock), Meat Loaf left a big—no pun intended—imprint on my musical imagination.  His powerful, sweaty vocals and Broadway-meets-rock-meets-gospel style really spoke to me:  a perspiring, fumbling mass of dough and latent musical ability.  I don’t go in for all that “representation” stuff, but if a dude like Meat Loaf could make it, so could I.  Fat White Guy Solidarity!

The songwriting of his frequent collaborator (and legal rival), composer Jim Steinman, also captured my fervent imagination.  The ironic lyrics (“but there ain’t no Coupe Deville hidin’ at the bottom of a Cracker Jack Box”), the hilarious titles (“Life is a Lemon (and I Want My Money Back)” and—of course—“I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)“), the bombastic composing techniques.  Suddenly, Broadway, rock ‘n’ roll, and even Southern gospel fused into this incredible music that elevated doughy teenaged ennui and youthful passions to Wagnerian heights.

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In Memoriam: A Triple Obituary

In lieu of Supporting Friends Friday, I’ve decided to dedicate this Friday’s post to the memories of three great men that left us in the past week.  One was a beloved funnyman; the second an influential public intellectual; the third a former colleague’s husband.

That order is not indicative of a ranking by significance or importance, to be clear.  As I noted, I consider all three of these gentleman to be great men.  Each contributed something to the world in their own way.

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Lazy Sunday CI: Obituaries, Part I

Dedicating two Lazy Sundays to obituaries is a bit grim, but after Rush Limbaugh’s death last week and a solid week of cold, rainy weather, it seemed appropriate.

As I began looking back at posts about deaths, I was surprised to see I had written several obituaries and memorials (enough to split this retrospective into two parts).  2020 was a particularly difficult year, as we all know, and it took some of the greats with it.

Too many.  But, as my blogger and real-life friend Bette Cox noted on my Limbaugh memorial, she doesn’t wish for a peaceful rest, but a joyously busy time in Heaven.  I’m sure Rush has a golden mic up there, broadcasting praises to Christ for all eternity.  Excellent in Broadcasting, indeed.

  • Breaking: Conservative Commentator Charles Krauthammer Dies at 68” – This post was the first (I believe) I wrote about the passing of any public figure on the WordPress version of the blog (other than a blurb about Michael Jackson’s death on the old Blogger site).  Krauthammer was a bit of a squish by today’s standards, and it would be interesting to see how he would have fallen on Trumpism after four years, but he was one of the more creative and intelligent pundits on the airwaves.  I always enjoyed his writing, and his interesting insights into human nature.
  • Rest in Peace, Herman Cain” – The Godfather of Godfather Pizza, and one of my favorite political figures of the twenty-first century, Herman Cain was, in some ways, a prelude to Trump:  fun, humorous, controversial, down-to-earth, and populist.  I loved his “9-9-9” Plan, if for no other reason than it was good marketing (and because of his belief that (to paraphrase) “if 10% is good enough for God, 9% is good enough for the federal government).
  • Remembering Ravi Zacharias” – Since his death, allegations surfaced that Ravi Zacharias was a sexual predator; sadly, after intense investigation (fully and transparently conducted and supported by his ministry, RZIM), it seems these allegations are true.  That’s a terrible coda to an otherwise exemplary career.  Zacharias may have fallen to temptation later in life, but it does nothing to erase his impact on generations of Christians.  He still won thousands of souls for the Lord, and his detailed apologia for Christianity still stand powerfully.  His fall serves as a powerful reminder, as The Didactic Mind put it, to “not base your faith on the words of men.”  It’s also an admonition to finish the race strong.

That’s it for this weekend’s obituaries.  Rather than dwelling on them gloomily, let’s think of them as a celebration of life, both in this world and the next.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Rest in Peace, Rush Limbaugh

Talk-radio legend and the master of the golden mic Rush Limbaugh passed away Wednesday after a fight with lung cancer.

Limbaugh—who fans affectionately called Rush (or “El Rushbo”)—pioneered the conservative talk-radio format.  After the lifting of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine in 1987, radio and television no longer were required to present both or all sides of an issue being debated.  That made it possible for entire programs to be dedicated to commentary tilted towards one political worldview or another.

Into that new media environment stepped Rush.  He was the first of many to seize upon the idea of delivering withering attacks on the Left and Democrats through the format of a three-hour radio program.

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Rest in Peace, Alex Trebek

Alex Trebek, the long-time host of Jeopardy!, passed away at 80 after a long fight against pancreatic cancer.

Trebek seemed to have the perfect attitude for a high-brow quiz trivia show that was also hugely popular with audiences:  one of almost passive-aggressive superiority, a certain smugness that was just elusive enough a viewer couldn’t accuse him of it based on a transcript of what was said.  Trebek routinely mocked—but can it really be called mocking?—guests who flubbed questions he believed to be easy.  But he also possessed a Canadian niceness that made him easy-going, albeit curt, with contestants.

None of that is meant to speak ill of Alex Trebek, or to make light of his passing.  Everyone reading this post knows exactly what I’m talking about—Trebek’s ability to get in a subtle jab at a player $1000 in the red, while then glad-handing with them after the return from the commercial break.  Saturday Night Live picked up on it in its playful Celebrity Jeopardy! send-ups, which featured the hyper-masculine (and also recently deceased) Sean Connery goading on a flustered Trebek. 

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Phone it in Friday XVI: Week in Review (5-8 October 2020)

I’m out of town for a few days, so I’m resorting to something I rarely do:  a week in review post.  Some bloggers feature these weekly, such as my blogger buddy Mogadishu Matt.  I sort of did one back with “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap,” but that was more a review of a week-long series of posts, not a review, per se, of the week itself.

Ah, well.  That’s just nit-picking.  Here’s what I wrote about this past week:

That’s it for this edition of Phone it in Friday.  Here’s hoping I wrote some material good enough that you don’t mind reading it (and reading about it) again.

Happy Friday!

—TPP

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Rock in Peace, Eddie Van Halen

It is with a heavy heart that we bid a fond farewell to the Mozart of our time, Eddie Van Halen.  Van Halen passed away after a lengthy struggle with lung cancer.  He is survived by his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen, and his son, Wolfgang Van Halen, who joined the band as its bassist in 2006.

Van Halen was truly one of the guitar greats of the twentieth century, the second half of which witnessed the rise of many guitar heroes to the pinnacles of superstardom, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s.

But Van Halen’s licks didn’t stop with memorable riffs.  He could play neoclassical passages with ease, weaving them into songs about partying and and lusting after one’s teacher.  Learning his signature solo, “Eruption,” became a rite of passage for budding guitarists in the 1980s and beyond.  Van Halen also dominated on the keyboards—much to the chagrin of perennial showman David Lee Roth—as is clear from the entire album 1984, one of the best albums of all time.  Who can resist jumping when hearing the opening strains of “Jump“?

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Passing of Bernard Bailyn

Last week, legendary historian of colonial America Bernard Bailyn passed away at the age of 97, making his own voyage into the next life.  Blogger buddy Gordon Sheaffer at Practically Historical wrote a brief but effective tribute to Bailyn earlier this week.

As Sheaffer wrote Monday:

No other scholar impacted the study of the American Revolution more than Bailyn. His masterwork, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, continues to challenge readers 50 years after it was published. Bailyn was able to express the unique qualities of American civilization without politicizing the history with talk of exceptionalism.

I have not read—to my great shame and discredit—The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, but I have read Bailyn’s The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction, a much shorter work that serves as an introduction to a larger study on the settlement of British North America.  The book is so good, and gives such a flavor for the various peoples that settled in the original thirteen colonies, I once assigned it as summer reading for my very first AP US History class back in 2011.  It’s an accessible book, but it was a bit much for rising high school sophomores.

That said, I’ve been searching for my copy this morning in my classroom, without any luck.  Hopefully it will turn up soon.  My dad and I were talking about Bailyn’s death, as there was a small bit about it in the newspaper, and he expressed interest in reading it.  I also wouldn’t mind rereading it, as I haven’t done so in nearly a decade.

Even so, bits of it stick out to me.  Near the end of the book, Bailyn briefly explores the odd religious sects, mostly German, that came to the colonies.  I distinctly recall him writing about a self-proclaimed prophet or sage living in a cave in Pennsylvania.  There were multiple sects and utopian movements and cults and denominations popping up in British North America during the First Great Awakening, which reached its peak sometime in the 1740s and greatly influenced the American Revolution.

In an age of toppling statues and lurid efforts to erase our national history and faith (to be replaced with… what?), Bailyn’s works take on increased importance.  Let us hope he isn’t summarily cancelled like everything else that is good, decent, and doesn’t inherently hate America.

Rest in Peace, Herman Cain

Yesterday, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and 2012 Republican presidential primary candidate Herman Cain passed away after a long struggle against The Virus.  Cain was 74.

Breitbart calls Cain a “Conservative firebrand,” which was apparent to anyone following the crowded 2011-2012 Republican presidential primaries.  Like 2016, that was a crowded primary field, with tons of conservative darlings and Establishment types alike jumping into the field.  Back in those days, everybody thought Barack Obama was going to be the next Jimmy Carter—an ineffectual, overly-progressive one-termer.  The economy stunk, Obama seemed out of his depth, and conservatives were united and motivated to get out and vote.

Herman Cain quickly set himself apart from the rest of the crowd, though—he wasn’t a career politician, but a successful businessman (according to John Derbyshire, Cain is also somewhat a mathematical genius).  He put out his bold “9-9-9 Plan“—flat, nine percent national sales, income, and corporate tax rates.  Cain’s reasoning:  “If ten percent is good enough for God, nine percent is good enough for the federal government.”  Yes, it was a bit far-fetched, but it was catchy, and in an era of high corporate and income taxes—both of which undermined American business competitiveness domestically and abroad—it resonated with voters.  The implicit reference to the biblical tithe also let voters know Cain was a devoted Christian, which was a welcome change from the open hostility of the Obama administration to religious liberty.

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