Bidding a legend farewell
I find it interesting that among all of Aretha Franklin’s incredible talent and her ability to cross over and master such diverse musical genres as R&B, soul, rock, pop and even classic opera, it’s her gospel album “Amazing Grace” [“The Gospel According to Aretha Franklin,” Aug. 17] that remains her biggest selling commercial achievement.
To me, it says that Franklin, like Elvis Presley — whose gospel recordings are also epic — was at her core a sensitive, sometimes troubled/challenged soul, deeply connected to her religious upbringing and spiritual self. Both died on the same date in August. I guess that’s going to make quite a duet in heaven, somewhere.
Franklin was the premier soul singer of her day and a terrific piano player. Unfortunately, August Brown went completely overboard describing her as the be-all and end-all of artistic achievement [“Pop Music as We Know It Would Not Exist Without Her,” Aug. 18]. His hyperbole-driven pronouncements (“Without her, nothing comes after”) were preposterous and insulting to intelligent readers. It was enough to make Bill Walton wince. Despite Brown’s dire predictions, I think the world will keep on spinning.
In “Mavis Staples Reflects on Gospel According to ‘Ree’” [Aug. 16], why not explain more about “the man’s version” of “Respect,” where Otis Redding wanted sex to show him respect?
Redding wanted s-e-x for r-e-s-p-e-c-t, but luckily and fortunately, Franklin got back the respect for the female gender.
That article missed the entire point of the reason, the purpose and the goals she sang that song for and the fierceness behind it.
Michele F. Fogel
Levant sparks fine memories
Regarding “Giving a Genius His Due” [Aug. 18]: To fully get a sense of Oscar Levant’s mordant wit, check out his books, especially “The Unimportance of Being Oscar” and “A Smattering of Ignorance,” where you will encounter such unforgettable gems as, “I knew Doris Day before she was virgin.” He was one of a kind.
I have always been a fan of Levant’s talent. The only problem is that your tribute is a little late. Not for me, because I am 89 and have been aware of his genius for a long time. However, if I were to ask both my kids who Oscar Levant is, I doubt if they would know.
Your article on Levant brought back memories. My mother, Ruth Lewis, worked on Levant’s TV show in the 1950s. She often had a problem getting him to the studio on time. On more than one occasion, she had to go to Levant’s house and with his wife, June, actually pull him out of bed. Together they helped get him dressed and into my mom’s car. On one occasion, my mom lectured him on taking better care of himself and suggested he get more exercise. He responded by telling her that the only exercise he got was when he fell into a coma.
La Cañada Flintridge
I remember two Oscar Levants. The one who played piano in the movie “An American in Paris” and the one who was a television host who smoked. On one program, he lighted a cigarette and unconsciously held the match until it burned him.
Robert S. Rodgers
Fashionably smart writing
Reading into a Trump tell-all
Regarding “Critics Fire Zingers at Omarosa’s Tell-All” [Aug. 19]: It’s amazing how critics have condemned Omarosa for telling us the truth about Donald Trump’s lying, idiosyncrasies, insecurities, mood swings and loyalty oaths.
President Trump has become pretty successful at turning lies into his truths and truths into his lies. Fan or not of Omarosa, she told us years ago what kind of man Trump is, yet her critics would rather attack her credibility than accept the probability that her version of confusion in the White House and the knowledge of a lying president is true.
A very sad time in America for me, when someone can write and have published a vicious book personally attacking a sitting president, any president, of the United States. Some are salivating with joy to purchase and read it. Fifty shades of hate.
History of a Cuban singer
Regarding “A Cuban Great Comes to L.A. Phil’s Aid” [Aug. 16]: To call Omara Portuondo “great” is your prerogative, but she was never great. She was a run-of-the-mill singer who very astutely decided to support the tyrannical regime of Fidel Castro. Had she criticized the communist government, as Celia Cruz and Olga Guillot did, she would have been banned by the government and probably would have never been allowed to sing in Cuba again. I am old enough to remember everything. Of the four singers who formed the Cuarteto d’Aida, the real big star was Elena Burke, a terrific singer, who went solo and really became great. Moraima Secada, aunt of singer-songwriter Jon Secada, went to sing with Meme Solis and his combo, but when he left the country in 1969, his music was banned and Moraima Secada’s career ended. Omara’s Portuondo’s sister, Haydee, never made it big. But Omara Portuondo knew what to do every time. If it had not been for the Buena Vista Social Club, Portuondo would have been relegated to oblivion.
Raul De Cardenas
A fine family film
Thank you for your review of “Christopher Robin” [“‘Christopher Robin’ and Pooh Aren’t Too Grown-Up to Have Fun,” Aug. 3]. I enjoyed the film’s attempt to continue the original story, and my children, ages 5 and 8, loved it. The scenes from the book at the beginning of the movie were a nice homage to the original A.A. Milne/E.H. Shepard stories about Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and the Hundred Acre Wood. And the cameo by Richard Sherman — who co-wrote the songs in Disney’s “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” with his late brother Robert — playing piano during the final credits was a delightful nod to the 1977 Disney classic.
Stephen A. Silver
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