By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — While it’s true the saying that “it comes in threes” can be easily debunked, as any three names can be plucked from recent obituary pages to make a case.
Nonetheless, three losses this week have placed the flags at half-staff here in the mystical town of Gordonville.
I am referencing, in order of their recent passings: Eddie Money (Sept. 13), Ric Ocasek (Sept. 15) and Cokie Roberts (Sept. 17).
And the empty world is a bit emptier as a result.
Money (real name Edward Mahoney) was born in Brooklyn, but also grew up – with a passion for music – in Queens and Long Island.
From a large Irish-Catholic family with a rich tradition of police officers, he enlisted as a police trainee in 1968 and found it was not in his heart.
If you can’t picture Eddie Money, our Eddie Money, as a police officer – neither could he.
“I couldn’t see myself in a police uniform for 20 years of my life, with short hair,” he was quoted as saying.
The NYPD’s loss was our gain.
Well, at least it was mine.
I’m not going to try to say that Money was one of my all-time favorites, but many of his songs – such as “Gimme Some Water” and “Baby, Hold On” – were among those that always resonated.
For lack of a better term, he falls in a category they (whoever “they” are) call blue-eyed soul (a cute term for white guys who can hang with the black singers).
Music was clearly in his soul, and that placed his heart on his sleeve. You believed every word, because that’s the way he delivered them.
I think we can all rip a page from that playbook, just in the way we deal with one another, no?
Ocasek (real name Richard Otcasek) was born in Baltimore on March 23, 1944 (same day, different year, as yours truly). The son of a NASA systems analyst, the family moved to Ohio when he was 16. He briefly tried college, at two different schools, but the music bug was too strong to be an academic.
He played in various bands in Ohio with bassist Benjamin Orr, and the pair took off for Boston, where there the multitude of college campuses created a vibrant scene that also produced the likes of classic bands like Aerosmith and Boston.
Several band carnations later, Ocasek and Orr formed a Boston-area super group – with Greg Hawkes on keyboards, Elliott Easton on lead guitar and David Robinson on drums – that the world would come to know as The Cars.
Ocasek (rhythm guitar) wrote the songs with thought-provoking lyrics and split the lead vocals with Orr.
This is when they came into my orbit, as they may have single-handedly rescued us all from the Disco-era with an eponymous debut album that featured the likes of “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Just What I Needed” getting the most initial airplay.
In junior high (yeah, I’m too old to know of middle schools), I played the grooves out of this album, which had deep cuts like “All Mixed Up” and “Moving In Stereo” to give it the depth and breadth to make it an enduring classic.
That said, it was the next album by The Cars – Candy-O – that remains my personal favorite. People say they fell off after the first album, as people like to label bands as one-shot deals, but I’ll fight to death to say they’re wrong. The likes of “It’s All I Can Do” and “Dangerous Type” – and the title track – among others (“Let’s Go”) can’t be ignored by anyone with functioning eardrums.
Being a songwriter of sorts myself, I credit Ocasek as a strong secondary influence, particularly with the willingness to take chances with lyrics.
This was not the end of me going to war on behalf of The Cars, who I considered my favorite band as I crossed the threshold into Northeast High School from Wilson State Pen (I mean, Middle School). People said they weren’t good live, and they were right. The Cars weren’t good live. They were outstanding live, both at a Spectrum show my senior year of high school and at Live Aid.
I stayed in the ring on behalf of The Cars, as it was an abomination that they had to wait until 2018 for an induction into the enigmatic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s nice Ocasek lived to see it, but an abomination he didn’t enjoy it longer.
This brings us to Roberts (real name … get this … Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs). Thanks to her brother, Tommy, she became known to us all as Cokie.
She had the good sense to marry a Jewish guy (wink), fellow journalist Steven V. Roberts, and became Cokie Roberts.
She was born into a Louisiana family steeped in Southern Democratic political traditions. Just about her entire nuclear family ran for political office, but her passion was journalism.
While this seems a million miles away from the background of Money, who didn’t want to be a cop – or Ocasek, who spurned the high academic standards of his family – there is a common thread.
It goes to show how passion to follow your dreams can go a long way.
There isn’t a woman in journalism today, whether in print or television or somewhere in between, who doesn’t owe a debt of gratitude for the trail blazed by Roberts.
When Roberts passed, my first reaction was that, since it wasn’t a rock star, it didn’t count as part of the threes.
Upon further review, I was wrong.
She was a rock star, too.
And, sadly, it did come in threes.
This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Sept. 21. 2019