Only when people pass on do we realise how long they have been in our lives, living inside us and yet how little time we allowed them to spend with us. Here are some of them:
Shamshad Begum, for instance, who left us last year. She had a voice that you immediately could tell apart and sang so well back when we were young (Saiyan dil mein aana re, Kahin aar kahi paar, Kajra mohabbat wala and so many other fantastic songs); I still think of the young and very beautiful Waheeda Rehman singing Kahin pe nigahen giving a face to Shamshad and realise that was so long ago. Who can forget Leke pehla pehla pyar?
I remember the first time I heard Manna Dey was in Upkar when Pran (sadly, he passed on last year too) gave role to Kasme wade pyar wafa, a great song, great voice and a great singer. Think Laaga chunri mein daag, Poochho na kaise maine rain bitai, Ae meri zohra zabeen. The wonderful blues and soul singer Bobby Bland (Aint no love in the heart of the city) left us many great albums to remember him by. Will cherish his outing with bluesman B B King in Live at the Coconut Grove, one of the first blues albums I had taped from a friend.
I found Elmore Leonard’s Get Shorty much after I’d seen the wonderful film of the same name and heard the soundtrack a thousand times at least, at a second-hand bookshop somewhere in Kerala. He had style and he could write. Tenor player Yusuf Lateef (I am not even sure if that was his original name) took a little bit of India to the land of jazz, when he used shehnai for some of his bluesy compositions. I remember having a copy of his Live at Pep’s, recorded in the Sixties, in the late Eighties. It didn’t sound dated and was full of good groves (Slippin n’ sliding, Twelve tone blues).
Jim Kelly. I saw him in only two films: Enter the Dragon and Black Belt Jones. What an afro he sported. So also George Duke, who played with many fine
musicians from Frank Zappa to Miles Davis to Michael Jackson (Off the Wall) and Stanley Clark, whose afro was possibly bigger than Duke’s. Another cool pianist who moved on was Cedar Walton, who I witnessed playing in a Jazz Yatra in Delhi in the early Nineties, along with Billy Higgins (who is also no longer physically among us).
I heard Eric Clapton do Cocaine and After Midnight and Santana do Sensitive Kind before I heard JJ Cale, whose songs these were. Such a relaxed style of playing and the delivery, I thought Mark Knopfler got it from him. Another guitarist who left us breathless with his speed was Alvin Lee (Ten Years After). Remember Am going home? The Uriah Heep bassist Trevor Bolder (I really liked their July Morning) who I had the privilege of seeing play, I think in Chennai, back in the Eighties.
The one person who sadly did not make it to cult status was Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietamese general who taught both America and France lessons in warfare they haven’t forgotten and Hollywood has been kind enough to remind us periodically. Talking of films, there was Nagisa Oshima, who made some crazy films, including one in which David Bowie played the lead role (Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence). What a rich legacy they left for us!
Sudarshan is most recently author of Adrift firstname.lastname@example.org