David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 2 — Language, Media

Language

• Actor Will Smith started out as a well-respected Philadelphia rapper. He wrote his own lyrics, and sometimes he used profanity in those lyrics. However, one day his grandmother read a page of lyrics he had written, and across the top of the page she wrote, “Dear Willard, intelligent people do not use these words to express themselves.” After that experience, he wrote lyrics without profanity.

• Choreographer George Balanchine’s English was not perfect. He once played a game of Charades in which he gave the clues for “composer” and “three syllables.” The contestants guessed Beethoven, Bellini, Hindemith, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, and Vivaldi. Unfortunately, none of these was the correct answer, which Mr. Balanchine said was “Mo-tz-art.”

• Daniel Purcell — the brother of the composer Henry Purcell — was known for his puns. One day, he was challenged to make a pun. He asked, “On what subject?” The reply came back, “The King.” Mr. Purcell responded, “The King is not a subject.”

Media

• Punk rocker Patti Smith occasionally acted badly. Her second album, Radio Ethiopia, received mainly mediocre and bad reviews, and that put her on the defensive. At a press conference in London, a music reporter asked her why tickets for her tour weren’t selling. She screamed, “F**k you! You’re a rag! Get out of here!” She also took food from a plate and threw it. Next she was asked, “Which Beatle newsreel are you acting now?” She responded by climbing on a table and kicking away any objects that were on it. She then told everyone, “I’m the field marshal of rock ’n’ roll! I’m f**king declaring war! My guitar is my machine gun!” One of the journalists present was Julie Burchill, a young fan of Ms. Smith’s. She was horrified and in tears because of Ms. Smith’s actions. Later, Ms. Burchill wrote, “For a two-year-old it would have been a very impressive performance; from the Queen of Rock and Roll it was like watching God j*rk off.”

• In 1991, Tim Perlich wanted to interview Canadian jazz musician Oscar Peterson for a cover story in Now Magazine; however, Mr. Peterson checked him out first, telephoning him to ask, “What’s your interest in talking to me?” Mr. Perlich replied that he was impressed that Mr. Peterson had kept on playing and recording with the piano although many other jazz artists had long ago switched to electronic keyboards. This was good enough for Mr. Perlich to be invited to Mr. Peterson’s home for an interview, which was held in the basement den. Mr. Perlich expected to see many awards there and he was shocked to see many synthesizers instead. Mr. Peterson told him, “Shhhhhh! A man needs his toys.”

• Not every reporter knows much about music, even when assigned to write an article about musicians. When the Beatles first came to the United States, an American reporter asked what they most wanted to see. The Beatles replied, “Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley.” Surprised by the answer, the reporter asked, “Where’s that?”

• Sometimes a singer-songwriter will have a long wait between albums. When a reporter for MTV asked Tom Waits why six years had passed before he recorded a new album, he replied, “I was stuck in traffic.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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