Thursday, June 07, 2012

R.I.P. Ray Bradbury and Doc Watson

I've been on the road (more on that later) and haven't had a chance to note the passing of a couple of giants. Author Ray Bradbury passed away on June 5 at the age of 91, and Doc Watson, guitar legend, died on May 29 at age 89.

The first book by Ray Bradbury I read was a second hand copy of The October Country I bought at a thrift store. It was a collection of short stories more gothic horror than sci fi, and deliciously creepy. I tended to prefer the short stories over the novels - they were little polished jewels of language and poetic imagery. The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man both followed the same format, in that they were a collection of short stories bound thematically into a pseudo-novel.

His actual novels were not so much to my taste - the artfully constructed language of the shorter pieces (to me) seemed to bog down the narrative energy of the longer works. I re-read one of his most praised novels,  Something Wicked This Way Comes, a few years ago and found it a chore to finish.

That being said, the book he'll no doubt be most remembered for (and would like to be remembered for) will undoubtedly be Fahrenheit 451: A Novel- cautionary tale about a day when books are illegal, Bradbury has said the novel was not so much about censorship as it was about the corrosive effects of television on reading and literature. The "enemy," he said, was not the government, it was "the people."

Here's an interview when Bradbury discusses Fahrenheit 451.

The other giant we lost was country guitar picker Doc Watson. Blinded by an infection before he was a year old, he went on to win seven Grammys and numerous other awards. Though known primarily for his flat-picking on the acoustic guitar, he actually played electric guitar early in his career.

The resurgence in folk music in the early 1960's brought fame to Doc, though he had to borrow an acoustic guitar (since he didn't own one) to make his first "folk" recording. By the end of the '60's, interest in "old timey" music had begun to wane. It was his appearance on the Nitty-Gritty Dirt Band's Will the Circle Be Unbroken that rekindled interest in Watson and introduced him to a new, younger audience.

President Bill Clinton presented Watson with the National Medal of Arts in 1997. In 2000 Watson was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor.

Here's a young Doc Watson playing "Deep River Blues." Enjoy!

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