Life and Death of Raphael

RaphaelDudley Nichols, screenwriter of Bringing Up Baby, was born on this day back in 1895. The great saxophonist Gerry Mulligan was born in 1927. And Kinch from Hogan’s Heroes, Ivan Dixon was born in 1931.

The great geneticist James D. Watson is 85 today. Merle Haggard is 76. I like him for songs like “Mama Tried” and “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down.” But “Okie From Muskogee” is one of the most vile examples of in group/out group politics I’ve ever seen. It really tarnishes the man. Billy Dee Williams is also 76. Barry Levinson, director of Good Morning Vietnam and Bandits, is 71. Marilu Henner is 61. Documentary filmmaker Rob Epstein is 58. And Paul Rudd is 44.

Under normal circumstances, Dr. Watson would win the birthday contest. But maybe because I can more see myself discovering the structure of DNA than I can drawing anything more complicated than a stick figure, I have to give the day to the great Italian painter Raphael who was born on this day back in 1483. He is usually paired with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, but unlike them, he died very young—at 37 on his birthday. (Or not; he may have been born on 28 March.) He produced a remarkable amount of work given that da Vinci had 30 years on him and Michelangelo had almost 50.

Happy birthday young man!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Life and Death of Raphael

  1. Hey, I get to pass along something you didn’t know! In a 2001 "AV Club" interviewed Haggard:

    [url=,13705/]The Onion A.V. Club Interview: Merle Haggard[/url]

    Haggard says, vis-a-vis "Okie From Muskogee," "Oh, I must have been an idiot . . . I’ve become self-educated since I wrote that song." He also expresses outrage that Gore was cheated out of victory, and how to tell good whisky from bad (because, after all, it’s Merle Haggard.)

    So, yeah, he was a bit dumb when he was younger, but he grew out of it. A lot of the old-timey country stars ended up Democrats in the end. Those old-timers were actually "country"; they were stone-broke dirt-farming hicks, and probably not able to grasp social changes as fast as they happened. Yet they remained on the side of the poor, and after Reagan you couldn’t honestly believe Republicans were.

    Today’s country music isn’t about poor people anymore; it’s about Authentic Americans. Whose humble aspirations, faith in flag and Jesus make them Real. It’s self-love set to bland musical backing. (Daring to be Democrats doomed the Dixie Chicks, and having a Cuban vocalist doomed the Mavericks — even though that vocalist was the best country wailer since, well, Waylon.) Meanwhile, the great mature work by people like Merle, Waylon, Willie, Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson et. al won’t get touched by country radio. Steve Earle never was.

    If you’ve never heard it, check out the Lynn/Jack White collaboration number "Portland, Oregon." That’s a fun, fun song. Or, for less fun, Earle’s "Christmas In Washington," a liberal’s ode to how disappointingly conservative Clinton was. After the last election, some friends asked if there was any final thought to sum up the evening, and because I can never resist any opportunity to sing (can’t play an instrument, but I can carry a tune), I broke out Earle’s opening lines:

    "It’s Christmastime in Washington
    All the Democrats rehearsed
    Getting into gear for four more years
    Of things not getting worse.

    Republicans drank whis-kem-y
    And thanked their lucky stars
    Sayin’ he cannot serve another term
    There’ll be no more FDRs."

    Then I went home and listened to old-timey country while refreshing the SecState screen every five minutes to see if the local anti-gay and voter ID measures lost. Which they both did, at about 6 AM. A productive night, all told . . .

  2. @JMF – Thanks for the link! (I changed the formatting so it came out as a link.) I quite like what I think of as country music. And people are still doing it. But most of what is now called country is just pop with a slide guitar–much of it, as you say, with a right wing undercurrent.

    I like Jack White quite a lot. I don’t know why people have such an attitude about him. You’re right, this is good:


    I quite like the Earle song. The line about four more years of things not getting worse is great. The Democrat’s lament.


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