Monday, June 15, 2015

Music Mon ~ Gemini Two-fer: Erroll Garner, Barry Manilow

As the Sun remains in Gemini I'm sticking with the two-fer style of last Monday, last Friday and the weekend. Two musical birthdays this week: one singer - still with us, the other musician left us in 1977:
Barry Manilow (17 June 1943) and Erroll Garner (15 June 1921). Most people know of the former, not so many, I suspect, the latter. The former, a singer and songwriter of sentimental romantic pop songs, the latter a jazz pianist, widely popular in his day, and still affectionately remembered by jazz enthusiasts. Both though have been, to some extent, the target of much mean-minded criticism. Why? Too many ordinary people enjoyed their talents. To find favour with some critics an artist, of whatever ilk, has to appeal only to a coterie of "hip" and "cool" would-be elites, should be virtually unintelligible to everyday folk who just enjoy a good tune and a sentimental ballad.

In Erroll Garner's case, though loved and respected by fellow-pianists, he was not regarded, in his time, as "one of the elite", probably due to his ability to bridge the gap between jazz and popular audiences. "We can't be having the Great Unwashed appreciating jazz", I'd bet his critics were declaring archly.

Garner's style was unique, self taught. He started playing aged 3, a complete natural, he never learned to read music, didn't need to, it was simply a part of him. As was written by Richard Cook & Brian Morton in The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Edition:
“Erroll Garner was one of a kind. He was as outré as the great beboppers, yet bop was alien to him, even though he recorded with Char­lie Parker. He swung mightily, yet he stood outside the swing tradition; he played orchestrally, and his style was swooningly romantic, yet he could be as merciless on a tune as Fats Waller. He never read music, but he could play a piece in any key, and delighted in deceiving his rhythm sections from night to night. His tumbling, percussive, humorous style was entirely his own.”
As for Berry Manilow, in an interview with Eric Spitznagel in Vanity Fair, while discussing critics the interviewer asked:
I read somewhere that when you met Bob Dylan, he hugged you and called you an inspiration. Are you sure he was being serious?

Manilow: I wish I knew, but that’s what I remember him doing. We were at a Seder at Burt Bacharach’s place, and he walked right up to me and hugged me and said, “Don't stop what you’re doing, man. We're all inspired by you.” It was very important for me at the time, because those were the days when the critics were just killing me. They would have annihilated me if they had the chance.

Interviewer: I’m sorry, I’m still trying to digest the idea of you and Bob Dylan and Burt Bacharach at a Seder.

Manilow: Isn’t that great? Frank Sinatra also said a kind thing about me around that same time. Somebody asked him about me and he said, “He’s next.” That meant a lot. Despite what the critics were saying, I did what I could do and I made the most beautiful music I knew how to make.

Here they are then:

Erroll Garner with a famous piece he wrote himself - Misty; and one he didn't:

One Manilow wrote: I Made It Through the Rain (he did too!)

And one he didn't write, Weekend in New England was written by Randy Edelman (another Sun Gemini by the way - born 10 June 1947).

I was going to leave it at the music and refrain from delving into their astrology, but having prepared this post, a previous tag popped up for Barry Manilow, and I found that I'd already looked at his chart in this 2010 post. Erroll Garner's natal chart is available at, here.


Vanilla Rose said...

Oooh, your name has the same number of syllables as "Mandy". "Oh Annie, you came and you gave without taking, but I sent you away, oh Annie ..."

I'm also thinking of the "Family Guy" episode featuring Mr Manilow.

mike said...

I've never particularly enjoyed solo piano arrangements, with or without vocals, regardless of the musical genre played. As part of a band or orchestra, sure, but not solo. I don't know why, but it's my loss.

I can't say that I'm a fan of Manilow, but I do admire his tremendous accomplishments. I certainly remember when he first appeared on the scene and he simply never went away, and became a huge, continuing success in many platforms. I remember many of his TV specials of the 1970s. I was more into rock & roll than the smooth-listening of Manilow and never developed a taste for his style, or many others within that category like Richard and Karen Carpenter, Wayne Newton, or Tom Jones. It's interesting to me that Manilow was so often criticized, yet was a resounding top performer all the way through his career in terms of audience ticket sales, album & music awards, and prime venue performer. A bit of a dichotomy that he should be harshly critiqued considering his ability to out-shine many of his contemporaries.

Manilow had a protective veil around his personal life that may have been the basis for some of the criticism he faced. He led a strictly professional persona, while so many of his peers' personal lives (disorders and conflicts!) were part of their acts. I believe that Manilow was recently outed as gay by Suzanne Somers, with her discussing Manilow's recent wedding to his manager of many decades. A touch of sadness that Manilow would keep the closet door shut for so long. His hidden personal life may be due to Pluto-Jupiter in the 12th house of secrets and seclusion, and N Node-Chiron in the 1st house of self. N Node is the difficult direction to be taken and is unfamiliar territory; S Node is the familiar and it's in his 7th house of others and relationships.

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~ I hadn't seen the Family Guy episode, but Googled and found this clip

Thanks for the tip! :-) LOL!

Mandy could be replaced by Rosie too... ;-)

Twilight said...

mike ~ I enjoy piano solo pieces, especially jazzy arrangements of standards. I like Bill Evans playing best, but also enjoy Erroll Garner's style; not so keen on Liberace and the more straightforward piano artists though, but even they are good for "wallpaper music" when trying to concentrate on something. I find piano music one of the best for listening while typing etc.

I agree, it's very strange, this Manilow aversion some people have. While I wouldn't collect his albums or pay a lot to see him perform live, I always enjoy hearing his records when played on radio, and as I think I wrote in the archived post, I was very impressed with him when he appeared once as mentor to American Idol contestants. As for his sexual orientation - I don't see that it matters a jot, and is none of anybody's business but his. Whoever Suzanne Somers is, she gets a thumbs down from me. Some individuals feel comfortable revealing their orientation, some do not, and I feel this should always be honoured.

Bob said...

Errol, Frank, Coltrane, and a perfect summer night.

Twilight said...

Bob ~ That'd work for me, maybe throw in a touch of Ben Webster and Billy Strayhorn too, for good measure. :-)

anyjazz said...

Garner sort of "cried all the way to the bank" when he didn't win all sorts of jazz awards. He was a stylist that could be identified in just a few notes. Few jazz musicians can claim that. In addition to having the music being "part of him" he was completely ambidextrous and could play a different rhythm with each hand at the same time. In his later live dates he featured long and rambling prologues to the piece he was going to play. The audience had to guess what was coming.

He accompanied himself with his left hand stroking the keys much like a guitar strum. It sounds at first like a single chord but it is actually a rolling action.

He was also one of those musicians who made vocal sounds while he played. One can hear Bill Evans wail now and then on his recordings. Lionel Hampton bleated loudly, like he was amused at what he was playing. Garner groaned or grunted as though he was unaware that anyone was listening. And perhaps he was.

Good post TWS. Made me remember some stuff about Garner. I think I saw him in a concert review once on the same bill with Billy Exstine and Sarah Vaughn and Lester Young.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~ Thank you for your contribution, adding more depth to the Erroll Garner scene.
I'm wondering, when he was a child, whether he was seen as a prodigy - or even a little fancifully, as reincarnation of some earlier artist. His innate talent, so young, was surely not the norm.