Archive for the ‘2002’ Category

‘Everything Is Everything . . .’

September 11, 2020

I remember, as does nearly everyone, I guess, what a beautiful morning it was – in Minnesota, it was mildly cool with a sky as clear and blue as I’ve ever seen – nineteen years ago today. I was driving the Texas Gal to work in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie from our home in the suburb of Plymouth, normally about a forty-minute drive. About five minutes into that drive, we began hearing news reports from New York City, the first one indicating that a plane had accidentally flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

The accidental part wasn’t true, of course, and we learned that sixteen minutes later, as we heard reporters’ shock at seeing a second plane hit the South Tower. Both of us shaken, I dropped her off at her office and headed back home, hearing on the way about the attack on the Pentagon. As I neared home, I heard reporters tell me about the collapse of the South Tower.

And less than half an hour later, amid early reports of a fourth plane having crashed in rural Pennsylvania, I watched on television as the North Tower came down. What stands out to me, after nineteen years of pondering the events of September 11, 2001, is the horrifying speed at which things happened. From the time the first plane hit the North Tower to the time that tower joined its twin in collapsing, only an hour and forty-two minutes elapsed.*

And those one-hundred-and two minutes changed us and continue to do so, socially, geopolitically, and – for thousands – in intimately personal ways.

That’s all I’m going to say about that day nineteen years ago. We all know what happened and where we were. Instead, I’m going to think about the response that came from Bruce Springsteen. The story goes that a day or two after the attacks, Springsteen was in Rumson, New Jersey, when an unidentified driver yelled at him, “Bruce, we need you now.” The following July, Springsteen released the album The Rising, a meditation on loss, courage, faith, and grief and on finding one’s way through to acceptance and eventual peace and even more eventual joy.

I listen to The Rising occasionally, and of course, its tracks pop up on random sometimes. The track that affects me the most is “You’re Missing,” with its details of ordinary life left with a gaping hole. Here it is:

*That elapsed time is based on the timeline published this week at the website of Newsweek.

Saturday Single No. 462

September 5, 2015

When I was in elementary school during the last years of the 1950s and the first years of the 1960s, we celebrated birthdays in school. The birthday kid got to bring treats for the class, and the class would sing “Happy Birthday” to him or her. It wasn’t a huge celebration, but it was a nice acknowledgement of the occasion.

(The treats were almost always homemade, cookies or cupcakes crafted by the birthday kid’s mom. There weren’t nearly as many regulations back then, and no one worried about kids being allergic to peanuts, eggs or whatever. In some ways, it was a better time. In many ways, of course, it wasn’t.)

Kids whose birthdays fell into the three or so months of summer vacation didn’t get to celebrate, of course. The thought comes to me today that perhaps the teachers, during the last days of school in spring, should have organized a birthday celebration for those kids who’d mark their birthdays during summer vacation. I’m not sure why that didn’t happen.

There were some kids whose birthdays were, as one might say, on what we’ll call the vernal cusp: kids whose birthdays fell in late May and might or might not fall during the school year. Some years they got to celebrate in school, some years they didn’t. And then there were some kids whose birthdays were on the autumnal cusp: kids whose birthdays were in early September, sometimes falling after Labor Day, when school began, and sometimes falling before – or on – Labor Day.

The thing about kids with birthdays on the autumnal cusp is that it seems as if it took a week or so for the teachers and the moms to get everything organized, so kids whose birthdays fell in early September, as far as I can remember, never got to celebrate with their classmates. I was one of those kids, with a birthday falling on September 5.

Yep, today is my birthday, and that’s something I don’t recall sharing at school during those six years of elementary school. A quick check of a calendar site tells me that my birthday fell after Labor Day and on a weekday – and thus on a school day – in 1961, 1962 and 1963, during my first weeks in third, fourth and fifth grades. (The other three years of elementary school my birthday either fell before Labor Day or on a Saturday.) I remember a lot of things from those three years, but I don’t recall bringing treats for my birthday.

I know what treats I would have brought to school: My mom used to make some bars – among the ingredients, I think, were peanut butter and brown sugar – that were then topped with chocolate and chopped walnuts. I can see them in our metal pan with the sliding lid as I write, and I remember that when she made them, they didn’t last long. And it would have been nice to be able to share them with my classmates.

I think the pan with the sliding lid is on a shelf in the fruit cellar here, but of course, it’s been years since it had bars in it. Maybe it’s time to change that. Maybe Mom and I should go through her cookbooks – she still has several of them at her assisted living center even though she doesn’t really cook anymore – and see if we can find the recipe for those bars. They’re easy enough to make, I think.

Well, if that happens, it won’t be today. And there are no classmates to share the bars with anyway, only the Texas Gal and the four cats. It’s maybe just as well. The chocolate wouldn’t be good for the catboys, and the Texas Gal and I sure don’t need to down a pan of bars on our own.

So there will be no bars to share. There might be cake later on; I do not know what the Texas Gal has planned for the day, but I am certain it will be at least as good as having twenty-five third-graders serenade me with “Happy Birthday.”

And we’ll close this with an appropriate tune: Here’s the Swingle Singers’ take on the Beatles’ “Birthday.” It’s from the 2002 album Ticket To Ride: A Beatles Tribute, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘You Say It’s Your Birthday . . .’

February 6, 2014

Well, in direct contradiction to the headline on this post, my long-time friend Rick did not tell me that today is his birthday. He didn’t need to. For most of the past fifty-six-plus years, I’ve known that February 6 is his birthday. He turns sixty today. (And Babe Ruth would have been 119; during our younger years, Rick made sure we all knew that he shared a birthday with the Greatest Of All Time, and Babe Ruth was certainly that.)

I sent an email off a few moments ago, wishing the Kiddie Corner Kid – as he’s styled himself when he comments here – a happy birthday, and I gave him a brief preview of what it’s like to be sixty: “Strained right elbow and wrist ligaments and a touchy right hamstring and quad. Of course, your mileage may vary. But it’s not all bad: You’ll qualify for more senior discounts.”

He, of course, is left-handed, so if there are complaints from any of his ligaments and muscles as they enter their seventh decade of use, those complaints are likely to come from the left. (There’s a political joke hanging there, just as there is an open spot for a reference to “sinister” as the Latin word for “left,” but we’ll leave both of those alone this morning.) One of my enduring memories from childhood comes from those times when Rick would be at our house for a meal; I would have to change from my regular spot at the kitchen table, shifting one spot to the right with Rick on my left so we would not bang elbows as we ate.

We were once nearly a daily presence in each other’s lives. These days, we see each other two or three times a year, but those two or three occasions are built on the foundation of nearly sixty years of friendship. As I told Rick in my email: “I’ve known you longer than anyone other than my family. (As least I think so; I’m not entirely sure if it was you or Rob in the lead coming across Kilian Boulevard on your tricycles on that spring day in 1957. If you were in the lead, and I think you were, then you have a two-second edge on him.) And our friendship is one of the cherished portions of my life.”

So for the Kiddie Corner Kid (and for the Babe as well), here’s “Birthday” by the Swingle Singers from their 2002 album, Ticket To Ride: A Beatles Tribute.

‘Skippin’ Reels Of Rhyme . . .’

October 17, 2013

Still not certain how many covers there might be of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” I keep looking at the lists at Second Hand Songs and Amazon for some insight. No revelation comes, but I do note, perhaps unsurprisingly, that most of the covers listed at the first of those sites came in a very few years after Dylan recorded and released the song himself.

Dylan’s version came out in 1965 on Bringing It All Back Home, with the album reaching the Billboard 200 chart on May 1; the Byrds’ famous cover of the song hit the magazine’s Hot 100 singles chart on May 15, on its way to No. 1. Between then and 1969, SHS lists thirty-four covers of the tune, with the vast majority of those coming in the first couple of years.

Among those thirty-four covers was William Shatner’s legendarily bizarre version from his 1968 album A Transformed Man. (You can find it easily at YouTube if you feel the need.) One that I like a lot came from the British group the Marmalade in 1968; another that’s not nearly so high on my list was the cover by Don Sebesky from The Distant Galaxy, his 1969 album of what I can only describe as futuristic easy listening.

One of my favorite versions of the song came from 1969 as well, courtesy of the one-off group of musicians who called themselves the Brothers & Sisters of Los Angeles for an album called Dylan’s Gospel. As I’ve noted in this space at least once before, the webpage that listed the musicians involved seems to have disappeared in the past five or six years, but I do recall that among the singers on the project were Merry Clayton and Clydie King.

The frequency of covers of “Mr. Tambourine Man” slowed as the 1960s ended, but every now and then, the song drew the attention of a group or performer, and some of the resulting covers sound pretty good from this vantage point. The R&B group Con Funk Shun took the song uptown on a single in 1974, a performance that wound up on the 2010 anthology How Many Roads: Black America Sings Bob Dylan, and the Fourth Street Sisters recorded the song for the 2002 effort, Blowin’ in the Wind: A Reggae Tribute to Bob Dylan.

A couple of other versions stand out from recent years, though perhaps for different reasons. Jazz singer Abbey Lincoln did a very nice version on her 1997 album Who Used To Dance. And, on an entirely different level, a collection of youngsters from New Zealand called the Starbugs recorded a cheerful and antiseptic version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” for their 2011 album Kids Sing Bob Dylan, and I’m not altogether certain how I feel about their bland take. (Two things to note: The Starbugs – or more realistically, their adult producers – have also fashioned a similar album of Beatles’ songs; and among the members of the Starbugs is Jessie Hillel, who was the runner-up in the 2012 edition of the reality TV show New Zealand’s Got Talent.)

The most interesting version of Dylan’s iconic tune that I’ve found among the later covers – and my explorations have been by no means exhaustive – comes from a group with Minnesota origins. Cloud Cult released its idiosyncratic cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” on a 2010 EP, Running With The Wolves. I don’t know that I’d ever heard much by Cloud Cult before; as with so many performers and groups that I come across when I explore covers of familiar tunes, that lack has to be remedied.

From Bippity Bach To Beatles

July 17, 2012

Somehow, despite writing on occasion over the last five-plus years about my sister’s record collection in the 1960s and early 1970s, I have never mentioned the Swingle Singers.

The group, formed in Paris in 1962 by a singer named Ward Swingle, performed “Classical and Baroque works with a jazz rhythm section, employing a distinctive scat style in the vocal parts,” according to All Music Guide. If that’s a hard concept to wrap one’s mind around on a Tuesday, here’s an example of what that sounded like, with the group taking on Bach’s Prelude & Fugue No. 1 in C Major from (I think) the group’s first album, Jazz Sebastian Bach, released in 1963:

I guess that sometime in the mid-1960s, my sister heard the group somewhere – school, a friend’s house – and selected as one of her regular choices from our record club the group’s 1964 album The Swingle Singers Go Baroque. I have no idea how often she listened to it, but I know I rarely dropped the album on the stereo. The music seemed, well, too bippity for my tastes, for lack of a real and better word. Perhaps the best measure of how little I cared for the record is that, of all the records that my sister took with her when she left St. Cloud in 1972, The Swingle Singers Go Baroque is one I’ve never tried to find. I don’t know if I’ve ever run across it, but if I have, I’ve left it in the bin.

Come the 1970s, the tale gets a bit tangled, with Ward Swingle moving to England and forming a second group, Swingle II, designed, AMG says, “to perform a broader base of repertory.” That second group eventually took on the original name (if I am reading things correctly) and has continued to record, broadening its repertoire to include popular music and incorporating words into its performances along with the scat-style vocals.

And that’s where I caught up with the current version of the Swingle Singers. Somewhere out in the wilds, I stumbled upon Ticket To Ride: A Beatles Tribute. That 2002 collection of rather inventive covers of sixteen Lennon-McCartney songs has piqued my interest, and I will likely dig deeper into the group’s catalog. Here’s the Swingle Singers’ take on “Revolution.” (The visuals provide more background into the group’s history.)

The Price Of Procrastination

June 1, 2012

Originally posted April 15, 2009

I’m one of those folks with a tendency to put off unpleasant tasks. That means that, in the years prior to the Texas Gal’s arrival, April 15 would find me scrambling about to file my tax returns.

I’d generally prepare my returns the evening before, having delayed as long as I could. And the day of the 15th would find me spending my breaks and my lunch hour making photocopies of my returns and forms and getting all of those into the appropriate envelopes. And then I’d drop the envelopes off at the nearest post office on my way home from work.

I imagine that with some effort, I could have been a lot more organized and life would have been a lot less stressful during the middle of April. I tried, year after year. But I never seemed to be able to pull it together. I’d get my forms and everything assembled in January and let the papers sit in a pile on my desk at home until I could put the tasks off no longer.

The Texas Gal, thankfully, has a different approach, and that, of course, has changed things for me. We generally pull our tax information together during the first week of January each year, and I would guess that since 2002, we’ve filed our returns no later than January 7. As a result, I no longer dread the approach of April 15. And as I watch the folks on the news reports line up at the post office late this evening, I will know that there, but for the Texas Gal, would wait I.

A Six-Pack for April 15
“Before It’s Too Late” by Joe South from Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home? [1969]
“Let the Dollar Circulate” by Billy Paul from When Love Is New [1975]
“Pay To The Piper” by the Chairmen of the Board, Invictus 9081 [1970]
“Taxed To The Max” by Tower of Power from Souled Out [1995]
“Poor Man’s Plea” by Buddy Guy & Junior Wells from Buddy Guy & Junior Wells Play The Blues [1972]
“Taxman” by Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings from Songs From The Material World: A Tribute To George Harrison [2002]

Some of these have no connection with the travails of the day except for their titles. The Joe South tune, for example, is one of those “Let’s get together” anthems that were prevalent in the late 1960s, and it happens to sound pretty good, even if its lyrics are a bit simple. The Buddy Guy/Junior Wells tune is a great piece of honking blues, and the Tower of Power track is – typically – a hot piece of horn-heavy R&B.

I’m not sure how I came across the Billy Paul tune. I must have found a rip of When Love Is New and then deleted most of it, because this the only track I have from the album. And from what I can tell, the track wasn’t released as a single at the time. One source I consulted showed that the Paul track was released on a single with a track by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, but I think that was a later release. (If anyone knows differently, let me know, please.)

“Pay To The Piper” was, however, released as a single, and went to No. 13 around the time 1970 turned into 1971.

I wondered if I should post the original “Taxman” from Revolver, but I decided that it’s so well known – and so available – that there was no point. The Bill Wyman version is pretty good.

Heartsfield, Bruce & Murray

March 21, 2012

Originally posted March 19, 2009

Hi, all. It’s Video Thursday!

First of all, here are two performances by Heartsfield from the band’s reunion concert in 2004. The first has the band performing “Shine On,” and the second has the band closing the concert with “I’m Coming Home.” (The DVD then has the studio version of “The Wonder of It All” play over the closing credits. The person who posted the video at YouTube notes that the credits include some footage of the band from 1975.)

And the second:

Here’s Bruce Springsteen performing “You’re Missing” in Barcelona, Spain in 2002.

Last, I found a live performance of “Superstar” from Jesus Christ Superstar with Murray Head backed by a full orchestra and choir. The performance took place in France in 2007 during something called the Night of the Proms, a series of concerts that Wikipedia indicates is the largest annually organized indoor event in Europe.

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to offer a Six-Pack of single tracks from six albums – yet to be chosen – that have been in my stacks for years without ever being played. That means we could have some great music, we could have some odd music, and we could have some music that’s both.

One Of The Missing Is Found

March 21, 2012

Originally posted March 17, 2009

Every once in a while, there’s a story in the newspaper that gives me the chills.

Today, it was about a deck of cards featuring the faces of the murdered and missing, a man who recognized one of those faces, and a girl from the St. Paul suburbs who went missing in 1982 at the age of twenty-three.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

The deck of cards was an educational tool put together last autumn by Cold Case Unit of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), showing the faces of Minnesotans who were either murdered or went missing years ago. It’s a technique that Minnesota borrowed from the state of Florida, and it’s led to seventy tips coming into the state bureau’s offices.

One of those tips came from a man who grew up in the St. Paul suburbs. He thought that the face on one of the cards looked like that of a young woman who lived down the street and disappeared in 1982, when he was ten years old. The face the man saw on the card was actually a reconstruction of a face based on skeletal remains.

In 1989, according to reporter Bill McAuliffe of the Star Tribune staff, mushroom hunters came across a skeleton in a wooded highway median south of the city of Wabasha, Minnesota, more than seventy miles southeast of St. Paul. The remains could not be identified, but the coroner judged the unknown woman to be the victim of a murder. When the BCA put together its deck of cards, technology was used to create the reconstruction of the woman’s face that was put on the four of diamonds.

As he scanned the cards on the bureau’s website, the man who had been ten years old in 1982 thought that the reconstructed face looked like that of Deana Patnode, who’d gone missing then. He turned out to have been right: Genetic technology has helped verify that the body found south of Wabasha was Patnode’s. Now the BCA has a name to put on its murder victim. And Deana Patnode’s family knows at least a little more than it did and can lay Deana’s bones to rest.

Missing person cases have always fascinated me. I’m not sure why. The only connection I can think of is tenuous: When my Uncle Russ, my dad’s brother, did a family genealogy back in the 1960s, he found a fascinating tale. Sometime in the late 19th century, maybe in the 1880s, a girl in our family – about twelve or so, I think – was sent on an errand from the family farm into town. The only thing that family records reveal is that she never came back. That snippet of a tale has haunted me ever since, and – I now realize – was the seed kernel for a novel I’ve been working on sporadically for a few years.

It must be horrendously hard for the families of those who go missing. Comparatively, death is much kinder. Those who die leave a vacancy, yes, but those who go missing must leave a vacancy doubled by questions. I sometimes wander through the files at The Doe Network, an online center for missing and unidentified persons, shaking my head in woe and in amazement at the numbers of the missing and of those found dead who are unidentified. For every family that finally gets some answers, like the Patnodes, there must be hundreds, maybe thousands, whose questions float forever.

(I’m sorry for this ending up as grim as it has, but I write what I think about. And I’m almost reluctant to append music to this, not wanting to seem frivolous. But sharing music is what I do. The lyric content of these don’t always match this topic, but the titles do.)

A Six-Pack of Missing, Lost and Gone
“You’re Missing” by Bruce Springsteen from The Rising [2002]
“The Lost Children” by Julie Felix from the Clotho’s Web sessions [1972]
“Lost” by the Church from Starfish [1988]
“Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone” by the Walkabouts from Satisfied Mind [1993]
“When I’m Gone” by Jackie DeShannon, Atlantic session, Hollywood, January 15, 1973
“Long Time Gone” by Crosby, Stills & Nash from Crosby, Stills & Nash [1969]

Session data for Jackie DeShannon track added July 5, 2013.

‘One Last Chance To Make It Real . . .’

February 8, 2012

Down on East St. Germain – the main street here on the East Side – there’s a pawnshop. It’s right around the corner from Tom’s Barbershop, and I pop in from time to time. Granite City Pawn Shop, it’s called. It’s kind of dusty, and it’s well-stocked with tools and outdoor sports equipment.

And in the middle of the shop, sometimes guarded by a gantlet of other merchandise – a telescope tripod the other day – is an alcove filled with CDs, all priced at $1 apiece. Over the past couple years, I’ve made a few interesting finds there – probably the best was Blue & Sentimental by 1950s sax player Ike Quebec – and filled some gaps, most of them in my country collection.

I stopped by there the other day and found three CDs from the 1990s by country singer John Berry, about whom I’d read a few nice things. They’re all pretty good, and it turns out that one of them – Saddle the Wind – was an album Berry recorded and released in 1990, before he was signed to Liberty Records. Liberty released it in 1994, and that’s the version I found. And when the CD got to the fifth track, here’s what I heard:

He sings it well, but to my ears, the track hews far too closely to Bruce Springsteen’s version to make it more than interesting. But for the last ten days or so, I’ve had “Thunder Road” running through my head as Berry’s cover inspired me to make my way through various versions of one of Springsteen’s greatest songs.

Along the way, I’ve been wondering if the harmonica and piano that lead off “Thunder Road” on Born to Run might not be the very first things that lots of folks ever heard from Bruce Springsteen. My reasoning: It was with Born to Run, of course, that Springsteen made the leap from regional favorite to national artist, and I figure a lot of folks picked up the album on the basis of the national noise without having heard anything from Springsteen before, even the single “Born to Run.” The album reached the Billboard chart on September 13, 1975, showing up at No. 84, a week before “Born to Run” jumped into the Hot 100 at No. 68. And “Thunder Road” leads off the album. So that introduction could have been the introduction to Springsteen for a lot of people.

Well, it’s an interesting thought (to me, anyway), but it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that “Thunder Road” is one of the sturdiest songs Springsteen’s ever put together. Wikipedia notes that in 2004, the song was ranked No. 86 in Rolling Stone magazine’s assessment of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” And, as Wikipedia notes, the song has shown up highly ranked on several similar lists.

Like all sturdy songs, it’s been covered fairly frequently. Among those who’ve tackled the song are Badly Drawn Boy, Frank Turner, Tori Amos, Mary Lou Lord and Bonnie “Prince” Bill with Tortoise. I’ve heard some of those, and I’ve come across a few more. Melissa Etheridge sang the song in concert at least once after Springsteen performed the song with her at an earlier show. (Her solo performance of the song is listed as being in 2009, but I don’t know when the duet took place.) I also found a few studio covers that I thought were interesting: Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners recorded the song for his 1999 album My Beauty, but – according to a comment at YouTube – the track was held back because Springsteen thought Rowland took too many liberties with the lyrics. I thought the Cowboy Junkies did a nice version; it was released on the bonus CD that came with their 2004 album One Soul Now.

And I came across this version by a string quartet calling itself the Section; it came from the 2002 CD Hometown: The String Quartet Tribute to Springsteen:

 There are other covers out there, but my energy waned. Of the covers I found, I think I like the Cowboy Junkies’ version best; Margo Timmins can do little wrong from where I listen. But the best version of the song I found on YouTube isn’t really a cover at all.

In 2005, Springsteen toured as a solo artist after the release of Devils & Dust, and for that tour, he shelved a lot of the songs he normally performed live. But he did “Thunder Road” once, backing himself on the piano. And it’s neat to know that the performance took place in Minneapolis, at the University of Minnesota’s Northrop Auditorium on October 12, 2005. (No, I wasn’t there, but I sure wish I had been.)

Corrected and edited slightly after posting.

A Place With Bread & Cheese & Cookies

May 11, 2011

Originally posted October 2, 2007

Well, the rat cage is empty this morning.

Sometime today, I’ll give it a good cleaning and put it out on the balcony, where it can stay until we donate it to the local Humane Society. We won’t be using it again.

We took Wilbur to the vet yesterday and sent him home to wherever it is pets go when they are done here. Unlike in July, when Wilbur’s pal Darwin left us, this departure wasn’t a surprise. We’d scheduled our visit to the vet about ten days ago.

Wilbur – whom we’d had since Thanksgiving 2005 – didn’t do all that well after Darwin died. He missed his pal. We tried to pay more attention to him, but we’re not sure we succeeded. Rats are incredibly social animals. They bond with their cagemates – and with their people – more than I would have thought possible. With Darwin gone, I’m afraid Wilbur needed more attention than he got from us in his last three months.

And in the last month, his health had started to fail. Rats are prone to tumors, and Wilbur had a small one on his back for more than a year. References we consulted basically told us to keep an eye on it and his behavior, so we did, especially after we lost Darwin. And for the last month, we could see that Wilby wasn’t always comfortable even though he never lost his appetite for bread and cheese and cookies. Some days, he’d huddle up and not engage with us much. Other days, however, he’d perk up at the sound of our voices and want to be held in our laps, where he’d lie down and close his eyes with his jaws grinding in contentment.

As we told our vet in mid-September, a week or so before we set the appointment, Wilbur probably was having two good days to one bad day. For the last week, well, it was maybe one-to-one. It was time.

As I wrote when Darwin died, I had never figured that rats would be good pets. But the little fellows drew me in and captured me. Their antics were funny, they had sweet dispositions and they were far more engaged with us than I could ever have imagined. Wilbur was the clown, always playing, always in motion when we brought them out onto the couch for company. At least he was until the last few months, when he preferred to snuggle up with either one of us and be quiet.

Because we were able to plan for Wilbur’s exit, there isn’t the shock today that there was in July when Darwin died. But there is grief. That’s eased by the vision of Wilbur being reunited with his pals Darwin and Orville in some distant place, a place where there’s always lots of bread and cheese and cookies.

I’m not trying to make this bigger than it is. Wilbur was a rat – a funny, friendly rat – and no more than that. There are millions in the world with griefs greater than ours this morning. But our grief is enough for us today. Those who share their lives with pets will understand while those who don’t might not.

It was difficult to find an appropriate song for today’s cover version. Everything I considered seemed either too cutesy or too grand. So I decided to go with grandness and a track from the star-studded Concert For George. After all, Wilbur was a pretty grand rat.

Paul McCartney – “All Things Must Pass” [2002]