“I WANT to thank Michelle Obama for my style. Michelle has been my inspiration. I am studying her oeuvre. Her oeuvre is fascinating. Oh, and if anybody can tell me what oeuvre means, I’d appreciate it.”
That was Sean Lennon, onstage at Le Poisson Rouge last Saturday night before introducing his mother, Yoko Ono. I don’t know if anybody explained to Sean what oeuvre means — or why he thinks he has the First Lady’s style — but one guy standing in the crowd did shout out, “Well, whatever you think it means, you are mispronouncing it!”
Then Sean good-naturedly and affectionately introduced his legendary mother. It was Yoko’s 79th birthday. Sean said, “Instead of just going out for good food at some quiet place, as usual, my mother said, ‘This year, I just want to rock the place down! So, here she is to rock this place down!’”
Yoko — looking youthful and petite — appeared in her standard all-black ensemble, dark shades and a jaunty little hat. She took in the roar of her assembled fans and their birthday greetings, but she said, “The thing is, I’m already thinking about the next one, only 12 months to go!” And then Yoko let loose. Her voice, her sound, has always been unique — and not universally admired. At least not back in the day. But her primal singing/songwriting/performing has been re-claimed by a younger generation. Her voice is astonishingly strong. The crowd loved her!
One charming aspect of the celebration was the presence of small trees (or large plants — the place was dark.) All the guests were handed little cards on which they were instructed to write one word for Yoko’s birthday. There were a lot of “Love” cards. But others read “Peace,” “Flow,” “Glow” “Art” “Forever” and other words representing Yoko’s undeniable place in history, along with her strong sense of self and survival. I wrote the word “Courage,” which Yoko has in spades.
Oh, and the bond between Yoko and her son seems strong and loving. He was clearly proud to be onstage with his remarkable mother. She was equally proud and happy to have him there.
Perhaps later that night she explained oeuvre to him.
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SPEAKING OF rocking the stage past the point when the young and the press say you shouldn’t, Paul McCartney tells Rolling Stone‘s Brian Hiatt that “yes” — he can imagine himself doing his thing onstage even in his eighties. Paul is now 69. However, after the RS writer suggests possibly keeling over dead onstage one day, Paul says, “What kind of a question is that? I must say, that’s not in my imagination. Rocking on until a grand old age … the only thing would be when it’s not pleasant anymore, then ‘That’s a good time to stop.’ But it’s way too pleasant at the moment. And it pays.”
Paul, who was knighted in 1997, also has pleasant things to say about Queen Elizabeth, reminding us that when she ascended the throne in 1953, young men in Britain “saw her as a bit of a babe. We were at the right age and we were impressed with her bust!” Paul says years later, when he and John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr met the Queen, they thought, “She’s OK, she’s cool.”
One wonders, however, if Lennon would have ever mellowed enough to accept a knighthood. Lennon did mail back his Member of the British Empire medal. John always thought Paul was too interested in popularity and public opinion. However, if Lennon hadn’t been murdered, he might have come to appreciate popularity and royal acknowledgments in time. At any rate, at the time of his death in 1980, he was more at peace with himself, with Yoko, their child Sean, and his son Julian, than ever before.
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ARETHA FRANKLIN stirred the ire of many Whitney Houston fans when she skipped Whitney’s funeral, claiming “leg spasms.” She then went on to perform in sprightly fashion at Radio City Music Hall the next day.
Supposedly, Whitney’s family was irritated by Aretha’s allusions to Miss Houston’s drug problems, and the Queen of Soul’s remark that “parents have to really talk to their children before they leave home.”
Was Aretha implying that Cissy Houston hadn’t “really talked” to her daughter? Well, you can talk and talk to people, but if they don’t want to listen…
To be honest, I don’t think Aretha — who was not Whitney’s godmother — has a lot of patience with certain addictions and issues. Although she certainly expected latitude with her own issue of obesity. Sure, this is hardly the same as being a drug addict, but it’s still unhealthy and can affect a singer’s voice. (And I know from personal experience never again to critique Miss Franklin’s fashion sense!)
However, let’s give Aretha the benefit of the doubt. She was scheduled to give a concert. People had paid good money to see her. If she thought attending Whitney Houston’s funeral would endanger her work — her professional commitment — she made the correct professional decision. Whitney’s funeral came off fine without Aretha. And it sure went on and on and on otherwise.
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THE APPEARANCE and remarks of Kevin Costner at Whitney’s funeral put me in mind of the phrase “the very parfitt gentle knight” from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Costner, who was Whitney’s co-star in “The Bodyguard” was dignified, affectionate, humane, and sincerely moved by the passing of his former leading lady.
He really is one of the genuine nice guys in the biz. I wish Miss Houston had known a few more like him.