Royalists Among Us

THE MYRIAD AND DEFERENTIAL appreciations of Queen Elizabeth in the American media since her passing I find most curious. Even if you haven’t seen Hamilton, the most cursory study of our nation’s founding provides a reminder that George Washington, John Adams and other 18th century colonists risked their lives rebelling against the English Crown so as to forge a new republic free of fealty to a monarchy. Yes, we brought the language, some cultural traditions and English common law with us to these shores, but the American Revolution made the political separation permanent, as evidenced when soldiers from the mother country returned to burn the pesky new nation’s capital during the War of 1812.

While we became allies in World Wars I and II, the monarchy remained an anachronistic symbol and emblem of what America was not: a nation tethered to inherited privilege and the authority of kings and queens. So what’s with the elegiac tributes to the House of Windsor?

In a New York Times op ed, the British-Indian novelist Hari Kunzru pointed out: “Elizabeth was queen when British officers tortured Kenyans during the Mau Mau uprising. She was queen when troops fired on civilians in Northern Ireland. She spent a lifetime smiling and waving at cheering native people around the world, a sort of living ghost of a system of rapacious and bloodthirsty extraction. Throughout that lifetime, the British media enthusiastically reported on royal tours of the newly independent countries of the Commonwealth, dwelling on exotic dances for the white queen and cargo cults devoted to her consort.”

The weepy cable TV anchors seem to have forgotten this, if they ever knew or cared. Ditto, friends who posted things like “Long live the king!” on Facebook. Really? I hope they were being facetious.

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Remembering Michael Hahn

When I think back to my time on College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island in the late 1960s, I often think of Michael Hahn. To me he was the best of Brown, the kind of worldly, cultured and literary person I hoped to meet when I arrived on that distant campus from Dallas, Texas. It is hard for me to accept that he is gone.

Coming from Dallas, I had some fanciful notions of what the Ivy League would be like and how interesting the students would be. As it happened, my freshman dorm did not quite live up to those expectations, but the next year I found my way to a non-Animal House fraternity that included people like Michael – though in truth there was no one like Michael. He was unique: European (he wore a beret) and intellectual but also self-deprecating, gracious and funny, with a keen sense of the absurd, evidenced by his nickname “Sidney Hook,” the origins of which I cannot explain now – if I ever could.

We played music together (guitar and piano) in the fraternity lounge, sometimes with horn man Doug Gillespie, drove to Boston to see Santana and to Washington D.C. to march against the Vietnam War. We discussed music and philosophy and writing, creating a bond that would last a lifetime.

A few years after graduation, when I was breaking into print as a freelancer for the Washington Star-News and Michael was in grad school at Georgetown, we painted houses together in D.C. to help finance our budding careers. We listened to the radio all day and talked about music.

We always wanted – without much conviction (a favorite word of his) — to start a band. The closest we came might have been the weekend he flew to Dallas in the mid 70s, and the two of us played for a friend’s backyard wedding reception, in 100-degree afternoon heat. I think we got paid $100. I don’t recall the set list except that it included a song or two by Jimmy Buffett.

Later, when I had become the Dallas Times Herald’s rock critic and was sent to D.C. to check out the debut of a new stage show by the Texas boogie trio Z.Z. Top, Michael was still in Washington and available to accompany me. The two of us rode to the concert in a stretch limo provided by the the band’s publicity firm – a total hoot and improbable luxury that made us recall the nights at Brown we had driven to concerts in Boston packed into someone’s VW bug, the guys in the back seat rolling joints.

We didn’t have to search for a parking place this time; the limo driver simply cruised down a ramp at the arena, passing security guards and crowds of waving fans, finally gliding to a stop on a concrete platform backstage. Someone opened the doors for us. We hadn’t become rock stars, but just this once we had arrived at a venue in a manner befitting The Rolling Stones or The Who, in a scene we could only have imagined back at Brown. It was a moment I’ll always remember, just as I remember the excitement we felt playing music together in our humble anonymity, part of the invaluable exracurricular education we got in that non-Animal House fraternity.

Not long after that evening, we lost touch – for years. This was before email, and Michael was working for the State Dept., serving as a cultural attache in embassies around the globe. I never was sure where he was. I had moved to California, and we had both moved on to the next phase of our lives, marrying and raising families, unbeknownest to each other. Decades went by. 

But after he returned to the States, we managed to reconnect, meeting for dinner in Washington and once in Dallas in 2017 when he and Chris Dunn came to attend a multi-class reunion of their American School in Rome. I was reminded then how much he meant to me and how lucky I was to have met him during those formative years in Providence. We picked up where we left off and regularly sent each other YouTube clips of bands old and new, recalled our enchantment with John McLaughlin and Steve Winwood, the night we saw Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers at a club in DC, the enduring memories of listening to Blind Faith, the Beatles, the Stones and so many more on the turntables in our college dorm rooms clouded with ganja smoke.

After one of his medical procedures a few years ago, he emailed me: “Promise we’ll have our Sigma Nu jammin’ reunion when this is all over!” Damn. I was looking forward to that. I guess I still am.

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WHOSE ALL STARS ARE THEY?

Of the many misguided changes made by Major League Baseball since the leagues expanded beyond the original 16 teams in 1969, none is more questionable than the idea to have fans select the players for the all-star teams, voting as many times as they like. Really? A wag might say, no wonder our democracy is in trouble, but let’s not say that, let’s just say, how can you expect true merit to be measured by a popularity contest where the big market teams have the clear advantage of more fans and therefore more voters? Plus, the mind-numbing exhortations by management to get out and vote for your local heroes is the most desperate and dumbed-down PR. People who watch baseball on TV must endure this nonsense every year about this time, leading up to the mid-season “classic.” It’s a joke.

Which is why I lost interest in the all-star game years ago. The sports pages and web sites breathlessly track the voting week by week now as a paean to the millions of fans suffering from attention deficit disorder, the same affliction that causes them to do “the wave” at the stadium when the game is on the line, oblivious to complexities underlying each pitch and situation on the field.

It stands to reason that the players themselves should be the ones determining who’s the best at each position (and maybe not being allowed to vote for themselves or teammates). Managers, too, might have a vote, as they once did. Or even the sportswriters who cover the teams (and vote for the Hall of Fame). But the fans? The people in each city who eagerly answer their cheerleading stadium PA announcer when asked to root, root, root for the home team? The wisemen who run the game must know how silly this is, but they don’t care. It’s all about fan-involvement by any and all means necessary, which now includes league-sanctioned betting on games online after all.

I’m not following this season’s teams and players closely enough to have an opinion about the starting lineups, but I do remember one year back in the early ’80s when Buddy Bell was playing 3B for the Texas Rangers at such a high level both offensively and defensively that he clearly deserved to be starting for the American League all-star squad. But no, I forget who — probably George Brett — got more votes because he was already familiar to lots of folks who had never heard of Arlington, Texas, where the Rangers played their games. USA Today however polled the players in each league that year to come up with a players’ all-star team, and Buddy Bell was selected by his peers as the AL third baseman. As a Rangers fan I took solace in knowing that the guys wearing fifteen different uniforms who saw every third basemen in the league under game conditions, had picked Buddy Bell. It meant something. I wish I could say the same for the current all star selections.

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Sacred Cowboys

What’s the difference between the Dallas Morning News and The New York Times? When Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Rayfield Wright died this week, the long obituary in the News said he had been hospitalized with a “severe seizure” but waited until the last sentence to reveal that he had been diagnosed with dementia in 2012. The Times’ obit mentioned his dementia in the first sentence, adding that Wright believed his dementia “was most likely caused by repeated blows to the head” and so many concussions he couldn’t count them.

I sent a note to David Moore, the Cowboys beat writer who penned the obit, pointing out that not mentioning Wright’s dementia until the last sentence suggested that the NFL has co-opted even the press to hide the inconvenient truth that football damages the brains of linemen in particular (as studies have shown). “I realize that someone who makes his living covering the Cowboys has an investment in the game, but you are also a reporter. Basic principles still apply.” I sent a copy to the new editor-in-chief of the Morning News, Katrice Hardy. Twenty-four hours have passed, and neither has responded.

Which is not surprising because what are they going to say? Are they going to agree that Moore’s burying the lede in Wright’s obit is simply in keeping with the News’ tacit policy that football must be protected at all costs against the mounting evidence its violent collisions can lead to premature physical and mental decline — and death? The Rayfield Wright obit is just more proof that football is a religious brand in North Texas and carries the same unassailable status as scripture and unregulated capitalism.

“Rayfield Wright is the epitome of what it takes to be a Hall of Famer,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was quoted saying in the News‘ obit. “Rayfield was a champion on and off the field.” etc. etc. “Our love and support go out to his wife, Di, and the entire Wright family.”

Of course it does. How much are the Cowboys worth? $6.5 billion?

What’s the value of a single human being? An impolite question that no one at the Morning News will be asking today — or tomorrow, certainly not in the sports pages.

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THE ACCOMMODATION

I WAS in California when my former Times Herald colleague Jim Schutze’s book about the history of race relations in Dallas, The Accommodation, was published in 1986. I don’t remember even hearing about it — or how it was mysteriously suppressed and not published by Dallas’ Taylor Publishing at the last minute. What was that about? Subsequently, I learned that the book had been published eventually in New Jersey, but for some reason very few copies existed, and by now those had attained the status of valuable contraband, shared privately by journalists and other traders in hidden truth.

So when Dallas’ Deep Vellum publishers announced it had reached a deal to republish the book last fall, 35 years later, I knew I would read it. It’s a stunner, a career-defining triumph for Schutze and a belated indictment of the city’s oligarchic racism that managed to keep the Civil Rights Movement at bay in Dallas for decades. No wonder the business elite and perhaps the Dallas Morning News did not want this shameful history made public.

It’s embarrassing to learn that Black homeowners were bombed out of neighborhoods where they weren’t wanted in the 1940s and ’50s; that the city government, time and again, seized Black-owned housing via eminent domain, paying the homeowners a fraction of the land’s worth; that Blacks were only allowed attend the State Fair on “Nigger Day” until 1953; that department stores in Dallas prohibited Blacks from trying on clothing; that influential First Baptist Church pastor W.A. Crisswell thundered against integration from the pulpit; that the white-managed Black Ministers Alliance gave Martin Luther King, Jr. short shrift when he came to town early on; that advocates for truly integrating the schools were branded as communists by civic leaders; that District Attorney Henry Wade made sure a grand jury investigating those neighborhood bombings would not reveal who the plotters were. And on and on.

THROUGH IT ALL, the Dallas Citizens Council, led by plutocrats like former mayor R.L. Thornton, shrewdly kept the peace, such as it was, making accommodation with the Black ministers to avoid violence and public protests — until finally the attempt to drive Blacks out of the neighborhoods around Fair Park led to the federal court order implementing single member city council districts, dismantling the old guard’s rigged system. That didn’t happen until 1978.

Schutze sees a menacing congruence in the “patriotic” rhetoric hurled at the art museum in the 1950s for its exhibitions of “red art,” the angry mob that surrounded U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson (spitting on him) in downtown Dallas in 1963 and the ways the Morning News reviled the Kennedys and suggested that defiant Black leaders were communists.

“Only now,” Schutze writes here (in 1986), “has Dallas even started to be able to admit to itself what it had worked so hard to deny and repress all those years: that Dallas did kill Kennedy. Not deliberately, not conspiratorially. For years, the Dallas Morning News was so eager to prove that nobody in Dallas had been in on it that that the paper became the main engine driving the cult of conspiracy surrounding the assassination, passing on any and every conspiracy theory it could lay its hands on — as long as the conspirators hadn’t been members of the Dallas Citizens Council.”

FILLING IN the big picture, he reminds us of the thinly veiled hostility to Martin Luther King expressed by former Governor John Connally, who said after King’s murder five years later, “He contributed much to the chaos and the strife and the confusion and the uncertainty in this country, but whatever his actions he deserved not the fate of assassination.” That was just Texas talking, Schutze points out. Ironically it had been Connally’s resistance to the civil rights legislation championed by the Kennedys that had brought JFK to Dallas in the first place. And to his death.

This is history worth knowing. Maybe it’s not surprising that Taylor Publishing, best known for producing high school yearbooks, caved to pressure to yank The Accommodation from its presses 35 years ago. But I’d love to know more details about that — the who, what and why, conspicuously absent from John Wiley Price’s foreword to the new edition and the news stories I’ve seen about it. Seems like a big story about how power is exercised in Dallas, the very thing Schutze wrote about in the book itself — so well.

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Leather

WITH MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL’S first work stoppage since 1994 looming, here’s a question: Do your remember your first baseball glove? This was mine:

I remember my dad taking me to buy it at a sporting goods store near Bachman Lake. On the caramel-colored leather was inscribed the name of the manufacturer, HUTCH, of Cincinnati, Ohio; and the words SAIN MODEL. I was 9 or 10 and needed Dad to explain to me that SAIN referred to Johnny Sain, who was then retired but had been an all-star pitcher for the Boston Braves and the Yankees in the ’40s and ’50s. Not sure I ever bothered to find out how good he was — or that sports editors in his era were capable of poetry.

From his obit in the LA Times when he died in 2006 at the age of 89:

His best year as a pitcher was 1948, when he and Spahn led the Boston Braves to the World Series, where they lost to the Cleveland Indians.

The popular saying — “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” — came from a poem written by Boston Post sports editor Gerald Hern that reflected the state of Boston’s starting pitching.

Spahn and Sain were dominant — especially during the pennant stretch — and the rest of the rotation was unheralded.

First we’ll use Spahn, then we’ll use Sain,

Then an off day, followed by rain.

Back will come Spahn, followed by Sain,

And followed, we hope, by two days of rain

So wrote Gerald Hern.

During the pennant drive, the right-handed Sain pitched nine complete games in 29 days, winning seven.

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Crushed by a Crowd

WHEN THESE crushed-to-death-at-a-concert stories appear now and then, I am reminded of the scare I had senior year at Brown when some of us drove up to Boston to see Santana at a large club (The Boston Tea Party maybe). General admission, and before the show even started we found ourselves in a scrum being pushed toward the stage, bodies pressing in from every direction, no chance of escape. Could not move. Did not get to the could-not-breathe stage, but that was next. Frightening. I was not going to get to hear “Oye Como Va” and “Black Magic Woman” live after all, though that’s not what I was thinking about. I was thinking about whether I was going to remain alive. Then, mercifully, something gave, and it all loosened up. I don’t remember where we positioned ourselves after that, but I know, stupidly, we stayed for the show. College kids. But ever after, I could see how these terrible things happen at concerts, and I never wanted to be in the mosh pit again. Rock promoters rarely gave much thought to crowd control then. Looks like that tradition is still in place. Sadly.

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When Kaepernick Was a Kid

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick will surely go down in history as a profile in courage for daring to take a knee during the national anthem played before San Francisco 49er games in 2016, incurring the wrath of President Trump, team owners and bar stool patriots everywhere. Kaepernick’s gesture, which inspired players throughout the league to join him, was a way of calling attention to mounting acts of unchecked police violence against unarmed Blacks, a way of questioning whether the phrase “land of the free” in the anthem truly applied to all Americans. Images on the nightly news suggested otherwise.

For this entirely rational protest, Kaepernick was demonized by conservatives and blackballed by team owners after he became a free agent at the age of 30. As a result, he never played another down in the NFL despite having abilities many teams could have used. His name is likely to be included with U.S. track Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos and Muhammad Ali as Black athletes who used their status to call attention to the nation’s racial inequity, risking their careers in the process.

But Colin in Black and White, the new six-part docudrama on Netflix, does not tell this story, only references it while focusing on Kaepernick’s coming of age as an adopted bi-racial kid in a white supremacist Central Valley town in California. This will come as a disappointment to anyone hoping to get the full, ugly story of how an elite athlete with anti-establishment political views was run out of the NFL for exercising his right of free speech. Instead, the series aims to explain how Kaeperkick got woke from the get-go, struggling against racial prejudice in youth sports leagues, having to prove himself repeatedly to patronizing coaches and officials. That’s a story worth telling, too, but here in the docudrama created by Kaepernick and the esteemed director Ava DuVernay (Selma, When They See Us), we get a Scholastic Magazine approach to drama, with narration by Kaepernick, who also steps in front of the camera as himself to provide instructional asides about the history of racism in America.

THE HISTORY is significant, as are the examples of discrimination in his own life, but the two are slapped together in what feels like a middle school lesson plan, with unsubtle storytelling making the same points over and over again, as if the writers were being paid by the page. The NFL “Combine” that inspects and evaluates prospects has been compared in the past to slave auctions, considering the number of Black players on display, but it may never have been caricatured as starkly as it is here in Kaepernick’s scenario.

Jaden Michael is winning as the young Colin if not entirely believable physically as a superstar high school pitcher and quarterback. Veteran thespians Mary-Louise Parker and Nick Offerman get the thankless roles as Colin’s underwritten earnest white parents, whose inner lives and personalities remain well disguised under the knowing, caring expressions they must substitute for character development. By the way, Mom and Dad have two other children about whom we learn almost nothing.

A whole episode is devoted to his attending his first prom. There are complications, as he accepts a date with a white girl arranged by his parents after his Black crush gets tired of waiting for him to come back from travel tournaments and practices. More interesting and relevant is to learn that Kaepernick was heavily recruited by colleges to play baseball but judged unworthy for football until Nevada offered him a scholarship at the last minute. He had a golden arm but didn’t want to play baseball; he wanted to be a quarterback.

IT’S NOT A STRETCH to believe that so many of the coaches, umpires and other adults Kaepernick encountered in his formative years were jerks and bigots, but the obviousness of their villainy on screen sometimes strains credulity. Was there a director in the house? is a question this Netflix show raises. If so, it does not appear to be the same person who directed Selma. DuVernay only directed the first episode, but she served as executive producer, along with Kaepernick.

Colin in Black and White ends before he even gets to Reno, but we know he set multiple passing and rushing records in the Western Athletic Conference before being picked in the 4th round of the 2011 NFL draft by the 49ers. The football coaches at USC, UCLA, Wisconsin and other D I schools that failed to see his potential get some deserved shade thrown their way. And the series arrives at a happy ending, with Kaepernick reminding us it was his perseverance and unshakable belief in himself that delivered him finally to the promised land — or at least a place where he could be a college quarterback. The NFL would be another story.

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Nomadland

I HAVEN’T READ many reviews of Nomadland, but I believe the praise has been comparable to that of such “indie” successes as Roma and Moonlight. Golden Globes are tonight, though a total joke and this year more than ever with recent LA Times, NYT and Huffington Post stories exposing (yet again) the Hollywood Foreign Press Assoc. as a corrupt storefront of “critics” — like FIFA, built on bribery as modus operandi. But Hollywood is happy to go along with the scam — merely another line-item in promotion and advertising.

Nomadland might get a bump, who knows? But Frances McDormand doesn’t dress up even for the Oscars; I can’t imagine she will get out of her sweats to Zoom the Globes.

REAL CRITICS might try to separate the socioeconomic backdrop of Nomadland from Fern’s personal story of loss and existential angst. To me it was an elusive blend, which gradually took on its own mesmerizing force as the film progressed, no matter that all character questions were not answered or economic factors examined Paul Krugman style. It’s a movie, and a poetic one, with its meaning more than the sum of its parts, or that’s how it hit me and stayed with me.

I was struck by the Times Literary Supplement critic who found echoes of John Ford — and even cinematic quotes from The Searchers— in director Chloe Zhou’s scenario. I need to see The Searchers again. I can’t imagine it has music as good as the restless score by Ludovico Einaudi that Zhou found for Nomadland. Essential to the film’s mood and effect.

I DO BELIEVE if we don’t raise the minimum wage, there will be more caravans of temp workers like Fern grazing across an Interstate landscape stripped of hope and dreams. Not sure why Biden and Harris can’t send the parliamentarian to lunch and push that bill through.

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Tom Jans Revisited

MUSING ON the pros and cons of being an only child recently, I was reminded of the title of an album by the late singer-songwriter Tom Jans, The Eyes of an Only Child, released on Columbia in 1976. I loved that record and used to play it a lot, along with his eponymous debut LP on A&M, featuring his best known song, “Lovin’ Arms,” recorded by Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge, Dobie Gray, Frank Sinatra, Elvis and many others. I had not listened to either album in years and thought I might play them for Elizabeth as she made dinner. She had never heard of Tom Jans but is always eager to learn something new and has great ears. Using my laptop and Apple Music, I entered “Tom Jans” in the Apple Music search field and got back the complete works of Tom Jones. Apple Music’s library of “60 million songs” apparently has none by Tom Jans.

Good to know. Even more reason not to unload what’s left of my LP collection! I still have those two on vinyl, so I retrieved them, album covers, sleeves and all; the only problem was that the turntable is in the other room, and I had to crank up the volume to hear the music in the kitchen. But I did this while explaining to Elizabeth who Tom Jans was, supplementing my own memories with his Wikipedia entry and a few other online biographical sources, as she prepared a beet salad with goat cheese, orange and walnuts. This is an occasional hobby of ours, happening upon a singer or piece of music and then finding how many dots we can connect while listening and scouring internet data bases. Does anyone else do this while making dinner?

TOM WAITS, LOWELL GEORGE, MIMI FARINA AND GARY STEWART are among the forgotten or unknown references that turned up in this quick review of his career. Jans was a songwriter and performer of some standing in the 1970s, a “folk” singer strumming an acoustic guitar, but he also played keyboards, plugged in and toured with a backup band. He was born in 1948, a year we had in common. He was from California and had majored in English Literature at UC-Davis (graduating Phi Beta Kappa) before playing clubs in San Francisco and being discovered by Joan Baez and her sister Mimi Farina.

He and Farina toured for a year as a duo, opening for Cat Stevens and James Taylor. They made an album for A&M before he went his own way with the self-titled disc for A&M, recorded in Nashville, followed by The Eyes of an Only Child, produced in part by Little Feat’s Lowell George, with backing by marquee talent like Fred Tackett, David Lindley, Billy Payne, Jeff Porcaro, Herb Peterson, Valerie Carter and Jim Keltner. The best.

Little Feat was one of Elizabeth’s favorite bands when she was growing up in Ithaca, N.Y., so the Lowell George connection was an ah-ha moment in our search and seemed only fitting.

Jans recorded a final LP for Columbia, Dark Blonde, that I never heard, though I see now it was produced by Joe Wissert, who produced the historic Silk Degrees for Boz Scaggs. One music website calls it his masterpiece.

BUT THE ENDORSEMENT of music royalty and a hit song for others were not enough to make a place for Jans on the big stage of American pop in those years. After none of his albums clicked commercially, he went to Europe for a while, returning to the states and settling in L.A., at a house in Brentwood. In 1983, he was badly injured in a motorcycle accident and six months later died suddenly at the age of 36 “of a suspected drug overdose,” says Wikipedia.

Paul (“We’ve Only Just Begun”) Williams recited the lyrics to “Lovin’ Arms” at his funeral. Bette Midler took out a full page tribute in Billboard. Tom Waits dedicated the song, “Whistle Down the Wind,” to Jans on his album Bone Machine. A painter and former musician named Robert Florczak, who knew Jans in L.A., posted a recollection on a posthumous website that mentioned he often recorded funny greetings on his answering machine and did a good impression of the singer Nat King Cole.

I SAW JANS PERFORM in Dallas at the old Electric Ballroom on Industrial in 1976 and reviewed the show for the DTH, finding comparisons to Van Morrison in his delivery: “deep-throated blues-colored vocals with understated arrangements…a gutsy sound complimented by genuinely poetic lyrics.” Before I had located that old review, Elizabeth also heard echoes of Van Morrison while listening to him for the first time. On some songs she detected the piano and vocal stylings of Elton John that had not occurred to me but that I had to acknowledge all these years later. Jans was so versatile, and that might have been an obstacle in the biz at the time — not sounding the same on each cut. He could write a tender standard like “Lovin’ Arms” and an uptempo two-step like “Out of Hand” that honky tonk hero Gary Stewart (more royalty) made into a #4 country hit.

Other keepers include “Gotta Move,” “Struggle in Darkness,” and “Green River.” Somebody should be playing these on the radio.

WHEN I SPOKE to Jans after that Dallas show, he said he was worried about the shock and awe trend then powering the popularity of groups like Kiss and Queen. “But there are so many good people around,” he added, “like Lowell, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris and Janis Ian. I guess there’s still hope. Obviously there’s an audience for this type of music and we plan to keep on doing it if for no other reason than I can’t imagine what else to do.”

I have no inside info on Jans’ life and personality and can only speculate on what led to his untimely demise, but it’s sad and sobering to be reminded of how briefly he was here and gone, someone of such talent and promise. Hard not to see him as an unnecessary casualty of the music business — its fast fame and money, punishing expectations and concomitant drug culture — that claimed so many young lives in the 1970s. Tom Jans is on that list, along with Lowell George himself, Gram Parsons, Tim Buckley, Judy Sill, Danny Whitten, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and so many others. But we still have his music, on vinyl at least.

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