“Can I Do This?”

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Just under two minutes away from the fields, the car’s audio system thundered that ever-familiar “Thud– Thud–CLAP!” bass beat. I knew what it was. The kids didn’t. I could use this. They needed it.

All I said to them was, “Boys, listen to this. It’s an omen.” It’s good to have been an AM disc jockey (back in the days when they used to play music).

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

It captivated the boys. They couldn’t turn away from its allure. The a cappella voices meant Continue Reading ““Can I Do This?””

The Decade the Music Died

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We’re a few days away from February 3rd. It’s a day that forever lives in Rock and Roll infamy.

It was on a cold winter’s night precisely sixty years ago – February 3, 1959 – that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson boarded a Beechcraft Bonanza and found Rock and Roll heaven in a barren cornfield outside of Clear Lake, Iowa.

Much has been written about this, including two film biopics (The Buddy Holly Story in 1978 starring Gary Busey and La Bamba in 1987 starring Lou Diamond Phillips). Perhaps the seminal tribute, though, remains Don McLean’s 1971 hit “American Pie.” It was his song that first used the phrase “the day the music died” to describe the plane crash that took the lives of those young rock stars.

I’m not going to add to the litany of previously published thoughts on “the day the music died.” Rather, I’m going to share with you a conversation I had with a reporter. We sat at a high table in The Menches Brothers Restaurant in Green, Ohio (between Akron and Canton, for those using a GPS). I sipped my Diet Pepsi as the reporter asked me questions about what inspired me to write Hamburger Dreams (my latest book that looks at the evidence refuting and supporting the various hamburger origin stories).

At one point, he asked if I had written any other “food” books. I mentioned A Pizza The Action (albeit it’s more about business than food). Then I added that I had penned a short article on my grandfather’s pizzeria, mapping its beginning to the emergence of Rock and Roll.

That’s when the fun started. Little did I know this reporter, though nearly my age, still Continue Reading “The Decade the Music Died”

Declaration of (Italian) American Independence

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“They all laughed at Christopher Columbus/When he said the world was round…” So begins the lyrics of Ira Gershwin for brother George’s 1937 composition “They All Laughed.” The Gershwins wrote the song for the movie Shall We Dance, starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Frank Sinatra famously included the tune in his masterpiece Trilogy album, where he sings the closing lyrics “Who’s got the last laugh now?” with a knowing wink.

From Christopher Columbus to Frank Sinatra, it’s clear that Italians and Italian-Americans have had a tremendous impact on America. Over the next three weeks, we’ll focus on those names history books seem to have neglected.

Did you know Italian-Americans played a prominent role in the founding of America? For example, three of the first five American warships were named after Italians. These were Continue Reading “Declaration of (Italian) American Independence”

The Secret to Winning: Look for Patterns of Success

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Would you like to know the secret to winning? It’s a system you can easily learn. It works every time. There’s only one trick. I’m guessing you already know what it is.

I’m a Frank Sinatra fan. That means, like any other Sinatra enthusiast, the song “My Way” inspires. (You can read my thoughts on that in “Ruling the World My Way.”) I thank my parents for this, for it was listening to their records that convinced me the Hoboken Hero deserved my attention.

Of course, I was born too late to experience Old Blue Eyes at his vintage best, but I was Continue Reading “The Secret to Winning: Look for Patterns of Success”

Ruling the World My Way

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As I write this, alone, past midnight on June 12/13, 2012, I listen to an endless replay of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, a tear welling in my eye, as I see my life passing before me.

For a long time, the song that most defined me was Sinatra’s My Way. Not Paul Anka’s My Way, but Frank Sinatra’s. I know it’s a cliché, and I’ve asked my family never to play that song as an homage to life at my wake. I’ve asked that primarily because it’s a cliché, not because it’s not appropriate, or, at least, wasn’t appropriate.

There was something about Sinatra’s defiance that makes his interpretation of Anka’s lyrics so alluring. Even as a high school teenager, I found myself attracted to the song and, in particular, Sinatra’s stiff chinned version. Sure, I liked the eternal optimism of The Impossible Dream, but that tune, without a definitive version, had only the poetry of its Continue Reading “Ruling the World My Way