Tuesday

EDITORIAL: LUKE PERRY'S EXAMPLE


THE KILLER ROCKS ON: Beloved rock and roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis (pictured above) is expected to make a miraculous recovery after suffering a minor stroke in February 2019. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Riverdale and Beverly Hills 90210 star, Luke Perry, who succumbed to a major stroke on 04 March. Perry's death most disconcertingly parallels that of many a pioneering giant in the world of music, and tragically hits too close to home due to the horrific passing of Blitz Magazine's own Audrey McDowell under similar circumstances in October 2014. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes a closer look as some of the major losses in music in that respect, and calls for an increase in research and tangible support (Click on the above image to enlarge).

YOU'VE GOT ME CRYING AGAIN:
DEATH OF RIVERDALE'S LUKE PERRY
IS AN ALL TOO FAMILIAR SCENARIO
By Michael McDowell
On a typical day, dozens of music-related news items find their way to Blitz Magazine's headquarters.

Inevitably (and most disconcertingly), a number of those news items are obituaries, chronicling the passing of many a beloved veteran musician. 2019 to date alone has already seen the untimely homegoing of beloved Monkees bassist and keyboardsman Peter Tork, Marmalade front man Dean Ford, the Captain And Tennille's Daryl Dragon, Angels co-founder and original lead vocalist Linda Jansen, One Hundred Ways vocalist James Ingram, Broadway legend Carol Channing, Talk Talk's lead vocalist Mark Hollis, bluegrass pioneer Mac Wiseman, R&B visionary Jackie Shane and Browns co-founder Maxine Brown. 

Because of the sheer volume and magnitude of the losses, sometimes it becomes necessary to detach one's self from the impact of such news, simply because of the emotional toll that it can take.

But in some cases, doing so is simply not possible. 

The horrific passing of veteran actor Coy Luther "Luke" Perry at age 52 on the morning of 04 March after suffering a major stroke the previous week was one such case. Since 2016, Perry has starred as construction boss Fred Andrews in the CW Network's acclaimed drama, Riverdale. Currently in its third season, Riverdale basically reimagines in dramatic fashion the lives of the primary characters of the long running Archie Comics series: Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Forsythe "Jughead" Jones, Veronica Lodge, Cheryl Blossom, Marmaduke "Moose" Mason and Reggie Mantle. 

Ironically, Perry was not the only prominent entertainment figure to have suffered a stroke in recent days. On the evening of Thursday 28 February, beloved rock and roll giant Jerry Lee Lewis also endured what was termed a "minor stroke" at age 83 in Memphis, Tennessee. Miraculously and thankfully, Lewis is expected to make a full recovery and resume his rigorous recording and live performance schedule later this year. 

Given Lewis' trademark intense on stage persona, there has been a degree of speculation as to whether that attribute contributed in any way to his current health challenges. But some maintain that is not the case.

"Living legend, icon and sweetheart", veteran comedienne and former Laugh In great, Ruth Buzzi said in an online tribute to Lewis.

"We enjoyed working together onstage. Sending prayers to Memphis. We need ya and love ya, Killer!"

While current medical industry wisdom infers that that maintaining a certain decorum and life style can contribute to reducing an individual's risk of a stroke, the evidence at hand suggests that is not always sufficient in and of itself.

Among the outpouring of testimonies and tributes from colleagues and friends in light of Perry's passing, a number of them maintained that he was invariably selfless, genial and affable in his off stage demeanor. And while in his signature role of Dylan McKay in the Fox Network's long running, iconic Beverly Hills 90210 series, Perry rarely veered from the sullen and moody persona that was his character's trademark, such attributes rarely followed him off camera. 

In turn, friends and acquaintances who interacted with Perry during the course of the past two weeks also maintained that there was nothing in his demeanor to suggest any sort of imminent heath concern. In other words, his sudden illness pretty much came as a complete shock to all.

And that is exactly where his passing has hit far too close to home.

It was of course in October 2014 that my own world was shaken to the core by the nightmare of the passing of my beloved Princess and wife of nineteen years, Audrey from a major stroke and brain hemorrhage. And while Audrey had exhibited occasional symptoms of fatigue during her final weeks, there was nothing to suggest that such horrible circumstances were imminent.

Audrey had always maintained a deep appreciation for Jerry Lee Lewis' work, and had several of his recordings in her archives. However, her admiration for Luke Perry's work ran much deeper, and on a more personal level.

When Audrey relocated from Metro Manila to Van Nuys, California in August 1991 in the wake of her own father, Alfred's own sudden passing from a major stroke and brain hemorrhage, she immediately turned tragedy into triumph by embracing her new found home and immersing herself not only in her relationship with Jesus Christ as a believer, but in the prolific culture of a nation that she had previously admired from afar. 

Not surprisingly, one of the first television programs with which Audrey was enamored was Beverly Hills 90210, which at that time was entering its second season on Fox. As she diligently researched and caught up on American culture, she found herself invariably drawn to programs that depicted an idyllic life style, with an emphasis on characters that were in their high school years. 

For Audrey, that included everything from such classic fare as Bachelor Father, Leave It To Beaver and My Three Sons to more recent offerings, including Saved By The Bell, California Dreams and the aforementioned Beverly Hills 90210. Audrey had attended a parochial high school in her native San Fernando, Pampanga, and found such American television offerings far more in line with the sort of academic experience she had envisioned for herself. 

Meanwhile, although we were still months away from our initial meeting in 1993, I in turn was an ardent fan at that time of both Beverly Hills 90210 and its acclaimed spin off series, Melrose Place. From my perspective, both series personified the Southern California dream of the early 1990s about as well as could be expected. All of which made our recreational television viewing all the more enjoyable when Audrey and I eventually became a couple. 

As such, when the news of Perry's passing arrived this morning, the inevitable sadness and magnitude of the loss were exacerbated exponentially by the circumstances in which he met his untimely end. 

In recent years, there have been considerable efforts on the part of many to combat some of the most prominent diseases currently plaguing our society. Diligent research (coupled with no small amount of prayer) has resulted in breakthrough on a number of fronts.

However, the disconcerting truth is that in terms of a stroke or brain aneurysm, even the best of preventive medicine is no guarantee. As noted, there was little in Perry's circumstances even days ago to suggest that a catastrophic illness was imminent. Likewise, Audrey in her final years was a role model for healthy living, augmenting her unwavering Christ-centered life with a low sodium and low sugar diet, regular exercise and a personality that reflected the love model of I Corinthians 13 better than almost anyone who had ever walked the face of planet Earth. 

Sadly, Audrey also had role models in the world of music who met an untimely end under similarly tragic circumstances. One was the beloved bandleader, vocalist and Woodland, California native Edward Evan Duncan "Eddy" Howard. In his long and prolific association with the Majestic and Mercury labels, Howard and his genial and engaging tenor and sublime so-called "sweet band" produced a most impressive string of enduring classics, including To Each His Own, You've Got Me Crying Again, My Adobe Hacienda, Careless (covered by Bobby Vinton for Epic in 1965), Ragtime Cowboy Joe (reinterpreted by David Seville and the Chipmunks for Liberty) and the utterly stupendous 1947 ballad, I Wonder, I Wonder, I Wonder.

On the twenty-third of May 1963, Howard announced to his wife that he and his orchestra were about to begin a much welcomed six week engagement in the area, after a protracted layoff. By all accounts, Howard was ecstatic about the prospect of returning to work as he retired for the evening. Sadly, that triumph was never realized, as Howard succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage in his sleep that night. 

Leesburg, Georgia native Roy Hamilton concurrently established himself as one of the absolute masters of both the power ballad and rock and roll in short order, via a series of landmark recordings for Epic, MGM, RCA Victor and Capitol, including Don't Let Go, You Can Have Her and The Panic Is On. His considerable momentum continued in the early months of 1969, via a summit meeting with Elvis Presley at the latter's sessions for his From Elvis In Memphis album. A proposed studio collaboration between the two giants never came to pass, as Hamilton likewise fell to a stroke on 20 July 1969 in New Rochelle, New York.

Some years later, the charismatic vocalist, composer and Brewster, New York native Laura Ann Branigan rose to prominence as part of the vaunted Atlantic Records roster. During her tenure with the label, Branigan recorded a number of first rate singles, including Solitaire, Gloria, Self Control and the somewhat ironic and unnerving How Am I Supposed To Live Without You.

Branigan took a sabbatical from the music industry in the 1990s to serve as caregiver for her husband, Larry Ross Kruteck, who succumbed to colon cancer in 1996. And while she finally resumed her own career in earnest in the early twenty-first century, that success proved to be short lived. For on the evening of 26 August 2004, Branigan likewise fell victim to a sudden ventricular brain aneurysm at her East Quogue, New York home. Her only warning signs were occasional headaches in the days immediately prior to her passing.

At 83, Jerry Lee Lewis is the oldest of the various stroke victims depicted here. Blessed with an extraordinary iron constitution and a strong faith in Jesus Christ, hopefully the so-called Killer will indeed rock on for another season.

Sadly, those who did not make it did not enjoy Lewis' longevity. The oldest of them, Audrey's father Alfred was 61 at the time of his passing in 1991. Luke Perry was 52, as was Laura Branigan. Eddy Howard was 48 when he passed on in his Palm Desert, California home on that Spring day in 1963, while most tragically, Roy Hamilton was only 40. And my beloved Princess Audrey was only 54 on that fateful day in October 2014.

Day after day, social media is filled with posts reflecting praise reports from those who have beaten serious illnesses and have gone on to enjoy a complete recovery. In turn, the mainstream media reports on almost a daily basis various breakthroughs in the medical industry (often originating in either Israel or the UK) which give hope where hope was previously either remote or nonexistent. 

While of course I rejoice with those who are blessed as such, I cannot help but grieve with those who are mourning the loss of Luke Perry under such horrific and unexpected circumstances. If nothing else, Perry's death is a poignant reminder on this end of what I learned the hard way nearly four and a half years ago. 

And that is to cherish every moment that you have with your loved ones. Spend as much time together as possible. Pray with them and for them. And do your best to set a God-centered example for them, while being as diligent as possible in matters of health and fitness. You won't regret it.

And if you feel so led, please do what you can to assist in and/or contribute to research that would effectively combat the onset of strokes, brain aneurysms and hemorrhages in our society. While I don't doubt that you would have had the unwavering gratitude of Luke Perry, Eddy Howard, Roy Hamilton, Laura Branigan, Audrey and her father Alfred for doing so, rest assured that you will definitely also have mine.