Buckwheat Zydeco–An appreciation

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(Alligator Records)

If all anyone knows of zydeco is Buckwheat Zydeco, well, it’s both the perfect place to start and. Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr., who died Sept. 24 at 68, exemplified the zydeco genre of South Louisiana, such that his very stage name embodied it.

“It’s been said many times–I’ve heard it said many times—but it’s true: For multitudes of people Buckwheat Zydeco was the introduction to zydeco music,” says popular radio and TV personality Todd Ortego, who programs zydeco—the propulsive mix of French Cajun music with Creole music and African-American Creole music traditions of R&B, blues, jazz, and gospel–along with Cajun and swamp pop music, on KBON-FM in Eunice, La. Indeed, Dural, who played organ in zydeco king Clifton Chenier’s Red Hot Louisiana Band before launching Buckwheat Zydeco in 1979, was the first zydeco artist to sign with a major label (Island Records, in 1987).

Buckwheat Zydeco also performed in the Summer Olympics closing ceremonies in Atlanta in 1996, won an Emmy in 2002 for the music in the TV movie Pistol Pete: The Life and Times of Pete Maravich, took the 2010 Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album Grammy award for Lay Your Burden Down, and performed with the varied likes of Eric Clapton, U2, Robert Plant and the Boston Pops. Dural and the band also played both Bill Clinton presidential inaugurations.

“If zydeco music had a rock star, it was Buckwheat Zydeco,” says Herman Fuselier, music and eentertainment reporter for The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette. “Buckwheat wasn’t the first zydeco artist to tour nationally and internationally, but no one else comes close to the massive and consistent success he enjoyed.”

Dural’s music “was literally heard by millions for more than 30 years,” continues Fuselier, “a rare feat for not only zydeco and many roots musicians. When he played the closing ceremonies of the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, the TV audience was three billion people. But he also had numerous appearances on David Letterman, toured and collaborated with Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson and other big names, won an Emmy and a Grammy, and the list goes on and on.”

In a statement, Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow said: “Buckwheat Zydeco embodied a genre and represented a community with his signature playing style that brought distinctly Creole zydeco music to fans across the globe. Buckwheat played both for and with legends, performing at both Clinton inaugurations, touring with Eric Clapton, and collaborating with a seemingly endless list of artists over his 40-plus year career. He won an Emmy for his work in TV and a Grammy in the genre he helped define. The world lost a music heavyweight.”

Concludes Fuselier, “He showed how popular a zydeco musician could be and did it on his own terms. He was always adamant that fans, promoters and everyone else knew that he wasn’t playing Cajun music, but zydeco, the black Creole accordion music that he grew up with in Lafayette, La. He shared his roots with everyone and made millions of people happy along the way.”

Paris, 2015, and music

A comment by Bono re Paris got me thinking.

“If you think about it, the majority of victims last night are music fans,” he told an Irish radio personality in an on-air interview Saturday, U2 having been scheduled to perform that night at AccorHotels Arena in Paris in a concert to be broadcast on HBO.

“This is the first direct hit on music that we’ve had in this so-called War on Terror or whatever it’s called,” he added.

I’m not so sure about it being a “direct hit” specifically aimed at music so much as hitting an easy and obvious target, much like the soccer stadium, much like the World Trade Center and the Boston Marathon. Strike where there are a lot of people focused on something else.

But I do find significance in hitting a music venue, because music is something ISIS and Al Qaeda and the Taliban–and any dreadfully repressive power–lack.

Music, and the arts in general, is a beautiful thing, the most beautiful thing about being human. It gives us pleasure beyond instinct, though for many of us it’s essentially instinctive and instinctual. Without it I know at least I, for one, would certainly be much less human, if not altogether empty spiritually.

But these groups that I’ve mentioned want none of it. Rather, they’ve shut themselves off from it and have sought, not without success, to destroy all the beauty of humanity, all that is good and of meaning that we share as human beings on this planet.

“It’s very upsetting,” Bono said. “These are our people. This could be me at a show. You at a show, in that venue. It’s a very recognizable situation for you and for me and the coldblooded aspect of this slaughter is deeply disturbing and that’s what I can’t get out of my head.”

I can’t get it out of my head, either, but it doesn’t stop me from humming a tune.

Bono gets a celebrity pass

Looks here like Bono got Ye Olde Celebrity Pass with his recent bike accident, that is, no one, so far as I can tell, has really looked into what exactly happened.

All I’ve been able to find is that two weeks ago—Nov. 16—Bono was “involved in a high energy bicycle accident when he attempted to avoid another rider,” according to New York Presbyterian orthopedic trauma surgeon Dean Lorich, in a statement to Rolling Stone.

Lorich treated Bono and said he’ll make a full recovery following the “intensive and progressive therapy” required to mend a left facial fracture involving the orbit of his eye; left scapula (shoulder blade) fracture in three separate pieces; left compound distal humerus fracture where the bone of his humerus was driven though his skin and the bone was in six different pieces (these treated by a five-hour operation to “wash out and debride” the elbow, and move a nerve “trapped in the break” and repair the bone with three metal plates and 18 screws); and a fracture of his fifth metacarpal on his left hand, surgically repaired the following day.

High energy bicycle accident, indeed. Left unsaid was whether or not Bono did in fact avoid that other rider, though we’d presumably know if he hadn’t. But in light of the uproar in September following the death of a 59-year-old pedestrian mother after being struck by a speeding 31-year-old cyclist (who was also a musician)—this, after the death in August of a 75-year-old jogger who was hit by a 17-year-old cyclist who was trying not to collide with a pedicab—it’s just really curious to me that no one seems interested in how fast Bono was going, at the very least, and whether or not he was obeying laws like stopping at red lights and stop signs and not listening to any audio device using more than one earphone.

Curious to me, too, is that this has occurred at the time of understandably relentless interest and reporting of the allegations against Bill Cosby. Yet all it would take would be a quick call to the NYPD or Central Park authorities to get a copy of the police report, or accident report, as we don’t know that Bono was actually ticketed.

Just don’t ask me to make the call. I’m still trying to figure out how to lose Songs of Innocence from iTunes.