74. Edward Irving “Ed” Koch, 88, December 12, 1924 – February 1, 2013:
Politician; American attorney, U.S. Representative, mayor of New York City; congestive heart failure
Love him or hate him, no one was more representative of New York City (both the good and the bad) than Ed Koch. There was definitely an Upstate-Downstate dynamic to Ed Koch. While Downstaters may have loved him, we Upstaters more often saw him as the putz with the chutzpah; a man who exuded Downstate arrogance but who nonetheless had the brass to actually pull it off.
We loved him: he dug down deep and remade New York City after the disastrous term of the prior mayor, Abe Beame, who brought the city to the brink of bankruptcy.
We hated him: he allegedly balked at running for governor in part because he felt that there were simply no decent Chinese restaurants in the wilds of the Greater Capital Region. I’m sure this was merely attributed to Koch, since even Koch wouldn’t have been so unbelievably tone-deaf, being the superb politician that he was. Still, it hit a raw nerve amongst us Upstaters.
Later in life, he seemed to have lost his mind, especially in his bizarre support of George Bush’s second election.
75. Reginald “Reg” Maurice Ball Presley, 71, June 21, 1941 – February 4, 2013:
Musician; English singer and songwriter; lung cancer
Two words: “Wild Thing”. Presley sang lead vocals on this song, a Number One hit single back in 1966, for The Troggs. Sure, he wrote songs as well, some of which turned out to be hits, but none of them ever came close to the popularity of “Wild Thing”. Both the song and the band would go on to become major influences on later garage rock and punk rock artists.
76. Rick Huxley, 72, August 5, 1940 – February 11, 2013:
Musician; English bassist; emphysema
Huxley joined the Dave Clark Five in 1958, a few years before the British Invasion swept the band to the top of the charts with such early hits as “Do You Love Me”, “Glad All Over”, “Bits And Pieces”, “Can’t You See That She’s Mine”, and “Anyway You Want It”. The group disbanded in 1970 and Huxley went on to pursue interests in real estate and the music business.
77. Ronald Dworkin, 81, December 11, 1931 – February 14, 2013:
Philosopher; American philosopher & scholar; leukemia
If you want to know where the embodiment of the interpretation of modern American law comes from, it is this man. He is most famous for his theories that all law, for it to be considered to be legitimate, must have moral underpinnings in justice, equality, fairness, and compassion, consistent with and reflective of the moral and communal principles of a modern ethical society. His approach to American jurisprudence is such that in order for the Constitution to be properly understood, it needs to be interpreted primarily as a moral document.
The one aspect of his philosophy which I never agreed with was his “right answer” thesis, which evolved from his “law as integrity” thesis. He posited that the law is a seamless web (no way in hell) and that in an ideal set of circumstances, the “right answer” would always avail itself to a legal question. This is pretty much where I parted company with Dworkin as being far too removed from the workaday world of the practice of law.
When you got right down to it, I was more a disciple of Rawls (and his masterwork, “A Theory Of Justice”) than of Dworkin.
78. Anthony Esmond Sheridan McGinty, “Tony Sheridan“, 72, May 21, 1940 – February 16, 2013:
Musician; English rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist; complications from heart surgery
I heard the news today, oh boy. And I was blown away by how poorly-covered his obituary was in the mainstream media. Why? Because this guy was a Big Deal. How big a deal? So big that, had he never lived, the world would very likely never have heard of this crazy British rock group called, let me see … THE BEATLES!!!!!
Yeah, THAT big. Where do I even begin with this guy? Let’s start where fate intervened: Hamburg, (West) Germany, 1960. His reputation in a downward spiral, not being able to find any decent-paying gigs in his native England, he jumped the channel to perform with his small band at Bruno Koschmider’s Kaiserkeller. In time, his band disbanded and left for England, with Sheridan remaining behind. Sheridan, now seemingly at the end of his rope, bumped into a raucous group of Liverpudlians who had been booked at Koschmider’s other club, the Indra, and the rest is history.
The Beatles (Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Best) had left England to find steady work abroad and to fine-tune their emerging “sound”. Tony Sheridan would ultimately become the battle-hardened tutor to the young lads from Liverpool, as they honed their craft, playing in these seedy clubs. Out of this relationship would come the beginnings of that unmistakable sound in songs like “My Bonnie”, “Ain’t She Sweet”, and “Cry For A Shadow”, from their one and only album, “Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers”.
To make things even weirder, Ringo Starr, before he was a Beatle, actually played in Sheridan’s backing band for a short period during this time, until Ringo had a falling out with Sheridan.
The sad thing, for Sheridan, was that his short-lived relationship with the Beatles, however essential it was to the Beatles themselves, was the only real bright spot in his otherwise lackluster career. He never really had a second act.
79. Kevin Ayers, 68, August 16, 1944 – February 18, 2013:
Musician; English singer & songwriter; natural causes
Jesus, it’s like they’re dropping like flies. I remember Ayers mostly for fronting Soft Machine. He was an early member of the extraordinarily creative and influential Canterbury scene, from which evolved the primary band, Wilde Flowers, and the secondary bands, Camel, Caravan, Egg, Gong, Hatfield and the North, Matching Mole, and Soft Machine. This was right around the time, in the mid-1960s, when progressive rock really started to take off. Soft Machine often played with Pink Floyd and they opened for Hendrix on one of his American tours.
After Soft Machine, Ayers had a sporadic solo career, which I didn’t follow.
80. Dan Toler, 64, September 23, 1946 – February 25, 2013:
Musician; American southern rock guitarist; Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)
Best known for his membership in various southern rock bands such as Dickey Betts and Great Southern, the Allman Brothers Band, the Gregg Allman Band, the Townsend Toler Band, and the Renegades of Southern Rock. He’s probably best known as the second guitarist (in the shadow of Dickey Betts) in the reformed Allman Brothers Band, having played on their trio of albums, “Enlightened Rogues” (1979), “Reach For The Sky” (1980), and “Brothers Of The Road” (1981).
81. Charles Everett Koop, 96, October 14, 1916 – February 25, 2013:
Public health administrator; American pediatric surgeon and Surgeon General of the United States; kidney failure
This was a man who was at once iconic in his patented slicked back silver hair, tufted beard, bow tie, and his simple, monosyllabic name: Koop!
For me, and probably for many others, he made the office of Surgeon General relevant to the general public. I knew he had a sterling reputation as a fierce pediatric surgeon, known to take the toughest – if not the seemingly impossible – of cases. His specialty was separating conjoined twins and his surgical techniques were so cutting edge that, today, they are still utilized in most surgical hospitals. To give you some idea of the man’s surgical experience, he is alleged to have conducted over seventeen thousand inguinal hernia repairs. Damn.
Still, I remember him most for his principled opposition to conservatives over abortion, despite his own strong moral and religious belief that abortion was wrong. He pointedly resisted pressure from the Reagan administration in its attempt to substantiate clinical evidence showing that abortion was actually harmful to women’s health. He made very clear that there was no such clinical evidence and he refused to impose his personal beliefs on others by fudging the medical evidence. On this basis alone, this man should be remembered. Frankly, my own views on abortion evolved from Koop’s moral position against it and his professional opinion that it nevertheless did not impair a woman’s health in any way.
I also loved the man for his decision to gun for the tobacco industry by proclaiming tobacco to be at least as addictive as heroin and cocaine. That made everyone wake up and take notice and, I believe, it helped to pave the way for much more stringent smoking laws in the decades that followed. He took a great deal of heat for this principled position as well. Furthermore, his views on AIDS and HIV were refreshingly contemporary and he spoke his mind quite bluntly on the topics, angering both the left and the right.
He was an iconoclastic icon and I greatly appreciated the irony of the man.