Sunday, February 09, 2014


Just last month, I paid tribute to Richard Hayman. When my piece appeared on this blog, he was already in a hospice in New York. And if you know anything about a hospice, or New York, it's where you go when the odds of living are against you.

About the only thing that you can do for a guy who is 93 and dying, is make things as pleasant as possible. The right hospice can do it with attentive nurses and some mild "activities" for the ambulatory or reasonably awake (TV set in the room, a wheelchair ride into a recreation area for bingo games or volunteer entertainers to stage shows). Perhaps somebody put on a Richard Hayman album for everyone, and then pointed to the guy for one last round of applause. Mr. Hayman passed away a few days ago, February 5. Thus ended his marriage of 53 years…and he left behind two daughters and four grandchildren.

Perhaps Hayman's most enduring performance was back in 1978 at Madison Square Garden with the American Symphony Orchestra. William Shatner joined him for "Starship Encounters," an evening of pops music that included Stravinsky's "Firebird" (with laser lights), theme songs from classic movies (including "Star Wars") and Captain Kirk reading from Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End."

Your download is a triple-play of tunes well titled for this sad occasion: "Never Again," "The Perfect Song" and "A Night of Stars." Though we won't see him again, and "The Perfect Song" is hardly even memorable much less perfect, how sentimental it would be to walk out into a "Night of Stars" and imagine Mr. Hayman's spirit spiraling to some distant heaven. What you'll hear is indeed "heavenly" music from another era…a time when life's stresses and pains could quaintly be soothed simply by "beautiful…easy listening" melodies, and…a drink. Let me quote from the liner notes to "Let's Get Together," the album from which these come, and from which last month I lifted the much more precocious and atypical track, "Turkey Mambo."

"Like the selection of drinks on the menu of a swank cocktail lounge, this selection of music for after 5pm relaxation runs the gamut of pleasure….Melody for every taste and temperament designed to wear off the day's tensions, is Hayman's "Mission Accomplished." Richard Hayman's harmonica is interwoven into many of the melodies like the tinkling, cooling ice chips that put that extra sparkle into an evening's drink." Now you know why one of my ambitions was to write album notes! Alas, by the time I got hired to do some, the CD age had forced me down to less than 500 words, and the mp3 age meant…none at all. Am I bitter? How can I be, when I can listen to fucking "easy listening" music from Richard Hayman? "I'd like to order my drink, bartender. And turn down that Jay-Z junk you've been playing…I can hardly hear my iPod and 'The Perfect Song.'"

Richard Hayman Three tracks from "Let's Get Together," featuring "The Perfect Song."

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