This photo of B.B. King and Clarence Gatemouth Brown was taken at the 2005 New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival. It's from "Last Days of Fame," a powerful piece of photojournalism by Jennifer Zdon.
Gatemouth and I shared a birthday, though we were separated by half a century. I first met him at WWOZ in New Orleans. He sat in our tiny on-air studio, his head buried beneath a black Stetson, his hands wrapped around a small pipe. The occasional waft of an illicit substance. This must explain the fact that, as Michael Bourne once discovered, Gatemouth Brown loves to eat grape jelly on everything...including steak. Strange things happen.
In 1999, I attended the Public Radio Program Directors conference in Memphis, Tennessee. The Peabody Hotel, as I recall, where mallard ducks marched through the hotel hallway (led by a man in a tuxedo, suggesting penguin not duck) and climbed a flight of custom-made steps into the lobby fountain. This was part of the hotel's daily schedule. Strange things happen.
I went to BB King's Blues Club on Beale street one night. Gatemouth Brown was performing live. WBGO and JazzSet were broadcasting the show. NPR's Bettina Owens threw a huge party to celebrate the fact that this concert was NPR's first live webstream! I had no relationship whatsoever with any of this, other than kid spectator. One year later, however, I was working on an NPR show. And the next year, I started working at WBGO. Strange things happen.
Today marks 40 years since one of the greatest civil rights leaders and humanitarians was gunned down and taken away from us.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a march of sanitation workers protesting against low wages and poor working conditions.
I wasn't even born when Dr. King was assassinated, but I can only imagine the heartbreak that people felt upon first getting that worst piece of news.
It breaks my heart to think about it as I write this post. Time flies, and many people I talk to can hardly believe its been 40 years.
For me, it's important to really think about and help others to realize that King was not a man who was a dreamer as the media loves to portray. Yes, he was a man of unparalleled vision, and hope. But he was also a leader through action, and the hardest of hard workers. I would ask that on this day, you would read or listen to Dr. King speak about opposition to war, or why it is important to vote, for example. Not only was he ahead of his time but he is timeless. Take the time to really dig into King - the man, not just the dream.