Fred Astaire was a Smooth Criminal

Michael Jackson was the Fred Astaire of his time. After Michael first performed the Moonwalk on a televised Motown anniversary special before a nationwide audience, this happened:

The day after the show aired, on May 16, 1983, Michael Jackson received a call from Fred Astaire. (“Oh, come on,” was Michael’s first reaction.) Astaire was eighty-four. He had filmed his final movie, Ghost Story, two years earlier. “You’re a hell of a mover. Man, you really put them on their asses last night,” Fred Astaire told Michael Jackson. “You’re an angry dancer. I’m the same way. I used to do the same thing with my cane.” It remains a mystery exactly where the anger appears in Astaire’s elegant ballroom dancing — his persona in movies is bemused and easygoing — but “Billie Jean” was, in fact, an angry song, reflecting Michael’s feelings of fear and distrust for those around him. Michael was also angry at his father, who was still tomcatting around on Katherine and milking the family for cash.

“It was the greatest compliment I had ever received in my life,” Jackson would say of Astaire’s call, “and the only one I had ever wanted to believe.”



Tom Petty, that music dude up in Gainesville, dies at 66

I moved to Central Florida in 1976, and this guy up in Gainesville, about 45 minutes north, just released a record that the local DJs were playing constantly, and I thought, “Maybe I should drive up there and see him perform.”

But I didn’t.

Over the years, he kept releasing hit records that continually played on the radio and that I bought. I’d move around the country, and he’d tour the cities I was living in, and I thought, “Maybe I should go there and see him perform.”

But I didn’t.

He announced last year that he was doing a final tour. It was going to come through the city I live in, and I thought, “Maybe I should go and see him perform.”

But I didn’t.

This is the song I heard in 1976:

And this is the guy (From Rolling Stone):

Tom Petty, the dynamic and iconoclastic frontman who led the band the Heartbreakers, died Monday. He was 66. Petty’s death was confirmed by Tony Dimitriades, longtime manager of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, on behalf of the family.

“On behalf of the Tom Petty family, we are devastated to announce the untimely death of of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty. He suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu in the early hours of this morning and was taken to UCLA Medical Center but could not be revived. He died peacefully at 8:40 p.m. PT surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends,” Dimitriades wrote.

On Sunday, Petty was found unconscious, not breathing and in full cardiac arrest at his Malibu home, according to TMZ, where he was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support. EMTs were able to find a pulse when they found him, but TMZ reported that the hospital found no brain activity when he arrived. A decision was made to pull life support.

“It’s shocking, crushing news,” Petty’s friend and Traveling Wilburys bandmate Bob Dylan tells Rolling Stone in a statement. “I thought the world of Tom. He was a great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”

If there’s a performer you want to see, do it now.