And I Quote: On Tributes & Loss

Among my collection of quotes are a few that pay tribute to some of the people who have had special meaning for me. People who have touched my life–and, perhaps, yours, as well–and who have contributed significantly through their art and passion.

We embraced them, we were inspired by them. Their lights flickered on this earth for a brief moment in time, giving us strength, joy and love, through their music, their writings, their creativity and their vibrant spirits. These are people I admire, who enriched our lives, and who are now no longer with us.

Nobody could do scat like Ella, the "First Lady of Song."

Each persevered through life, sometimes at great odds, sometimes facing challenges and incomprehensible tragedy on the world stage. We witnessed one, as a little boy, salute his father for the last time; another lose her life in a fiery crash. One had a voice like melted honey, and made a new form of jazz all her own, though no matter how great her gift, she still had to enter through the backdoor to some of the clubs where she would perform. Two couldn’t cope with their incredible talent for writing poetry and prose, and the state of their mental health made it impossible for them to go on. And, one will always remind me of my parents, and how they’d play his records on the Hi-Fi, over and over.

And, though they’re all gone, they always will be here, in our hearts and minds, still bringing us joy, every time we pick up a book, play one of their songs, and remember their inner grace and beauty. These quotes are eloquent, expressive remembrances, and worthy of the subject being revered:

On Frank Sinatra:

“But it was the deep blueness of Frank’s voice that affected me the most, and while his music became synonymous with black tie, good life, the best booze, women sophistication, his blues voice was always the sound of hard luck and men late at night with the last $10 in their pockets trying to figure a way out. On behalf of all New Jersey, Frank, I want to say, ‘Hail brother, you sang out our soul.’”  – Bruce Springsteen

 

On Ella Fitzgerald:

Where (Billie) Holiday and Frank Sinatra lived out the dramas they sang about, Miss Fitzgerald, viewing them from afar, seemed to understand and forgive all. Her apparent equanimity and her clear pronunciation, which transcended race, ethnicity, class and age, made her a voice of profound reassurance and hope. – Stephen Holden, New York Times 1996

On Sylvia Plath:

“You were transfigured

So slender and new and naked

A nodding spray of wet lilac

You shook, you sobbed with joy, you were ocean depth

Brimming with God.”

–      Ted Hughes’ poem to Sylvia Plath (to whom he was married), from Birthday Letters

Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Anne Sexton.

On Anne Sexton:

“Suddenly my childhood nightmare had a name and a date. It was reality—not just some wolf under the bed…

“…I looked for a plain box but there was none. This room was full of Cadillac’s, each model padded like a baby’s bassinet, swathed in silks and satins, each displayed on its own pedestal and with its own price tag discreetly tucked under the bedding. Astonishingly beautiful with their wood of burnished mahogany, the caskets aroused in me the first sadness to rise above the shock of disbelief: my mother’s body would lie, cold and final, here.”

– Both quotes are from Linda Gray Sexton, on learning of her mother’s death, in her heartfelt, beautifully-written memoir, Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton

On John F. Kennedy, Jr.:

“His moral compass directed him to an honorable, charitable life. He kept his bearings despite the tragedies he experienced. It is profoundly sad that he is gone. His heart was as big as his mind, and with the deaths of John, Carolyn and Lauren Bessette, our optimism died a little, too. God bless you in heaven. – Glamour magazine, October 1999

On Diana, the People’s Princess: (Check out my post comparing myself to her: The Princess and the Gal from Queens)

“I stand before you today the representative of a family in grief, in a country in mourning, before a world in shock. We are all united not only in our desire to pay our respects to Diana but in our need to do so.” – From eulogy delivered by Earl Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother September 1997

And one more–

On Charles Dickens: (For those of you who missed my interview, 200-Year-Old Man Gives Dickens of an Interview)

“His death, in many ways, also marked the end of the Victorian age, although Queen Victoria would rule for many years to come. For when readers look back on that era today, it is not England’s queen that they recall. It is Pip, encountering a mysterious convict in the marshes of East Anglia. It is David Copperfield fleeing his evil stepfather, and Nicholas Nickleby discovering the horrors of a Yorkshire boarding school. It is Nell dying, and Nancy being murdered, and Miss Havisham endlessly living on, perpetually dressed for her wedding day. And it is Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim, the Aged Parent and the Infant Phenomenon, the Artful Dodger, the dipsomaniacal Sairey Gamp, the obsessive Bradley Headstone, the hapless Miss Flite, and all of the other more than 2,000 men, women, and children that Charles Dickens created to touch our hearts and to ‘brighten, brighten, brighten’ our days.” – Biography Magazine, March 2000

So, tell me, who has made a difference in your life, through their art or other contribution? And, would you pick any of these?