Thursday, October 6, 2011

This is not a Post about Steve Jobs

As we all come to terms with the tragic passing of Steve Jobs. I’m reminded of the quote by journalist Chuck Palahniuk, “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”

Very few people can leave behind a legacy as amazing as Steve Jobs. But what would you like to be remembered for? An invention like Thomas Crapper (toilet), a disease like Lou Gehrig, or an amendment like Bryan Adams? I think I’d like to be remembered for something I said, for a phenomenon. Not just any phrase – one that would be uttered, savoured and loved for generations to come. Like Alan Freed. The man who is credited for coining for the phrase. Rock ’n Roll.

Freed was a DJ back when radio DJs were the most exciting, sought after occupation a teenager could dream of. By the time Freed was 25 – he was already living the life at WXEL in Cleveland. (Now home to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame)

In the early 50’s, Freed started breaking the rules, by playing R&B music for a white teenage audience. It was unheard of. That was black “ghetto” music. To get around the prejudices Freed told his audience he was playing something new called “rock ‘n roll.” The irony here is that the term Freed was using to make rhythm and blues more acceptable to a white audience was actually slang for “sex” in the black community. You gotta love the gonads this guy had. (He came up with the phrase after hearing an R&B song “The Sixty Minute Man” by The Dominoes.)

By 1954 Freed was DJing the #1 Radio show in New York City. He staged revues at the Brooklyn Paramount and appeared in a number of rock and roll movies. Unfortunately Freed was the epitome of the term “face for radio.” He had great ideas, a fantastic voice, but, already in his mid-thirties Freed looked at least ten years older. He looked completely out of place. Sadly, his career was destroyed by the payola scandal of the early sixties.

He died when he was only 43. Is it true? Only the good die young?

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