The Critic and the Songwriter

Roger EbertOn this day in 1511, the Italian sculptor and architect Bartolomeo Ammannati was born. I think his sculptures are beautiful but they aren’t held in high regard because he so much copied Michelangelo. But if you are going to copy someone, copy the best. Anyway, I really like Michelangelo, so it makes sense that I would like Ammannati. It doesn’t much matter that he wasn’t innovative. He was considered a far better architect during his life.

The Baroque opera composer Antonio de Literes was born in 1673. One doesn’t much hear Baroque opera these days, but I don’t much understand it. It is wonderfully varied. The following video is a good example of his work. It is from a lyric-drama, Acis y Galatea. The song is “Confiado Jilguerillo”:

French neoclassical painter Joseph-Marie Vien was born 1716. I’m very fond of his work. Illustrator James Montgomery Flagg, famous for the Uncle Sam recruiting poster, was born in 1877. The great lyricist Sammy Cahn was born in 1913. Actor E.G. Marshall was born in 1914. And our president’s father, Barack Obama, Sr was born in 1936.

Perhaps the greatest songwriter of the 20th century, Paul McCartney is 71. I don’t much like him as a performer and I am quite tired of his work. But he is a towering figure in songwriting. I rather like John Lennon, but he wasn’t half the songwriter McCartney was. Let me just mention a couple of truly great tunes: “Yesterday” (very likely the greatest pop song ever written), “Penny Lane,” and “Lady Madonna.” But I really could go on and on and on. He also wrote by far the best John Lennon tribute song:

Two childhood crushes Carol Kane and Isabella Rossellini are both 61. And singer Misia is 57.

The day, however, belongs to movie critic Roger Ebert who was born on this day in 1942 (the same day as McCartney). As everyone knows, I am not keen on movie critics. And there is much to complain about with Ebert. But he did know film and he loved it. And when you get right down to it, the biggest problem with critics is that they don’t love the art form. In a better time, Ebert might have been really great. If he had had time to spend with the films and not do all those horrible “one off” reviews. Still, his reviews were always interesting to read. His knowledge of film history helped. But even more important: he was a really good writer. He is missed.

Happy birthday Roger Ebert!

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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.

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