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December 2012 Archives


Originally published in Chicago Sun-Times Dec. 13, 2009
Merry Christmas from the bottom of this Chicago heart.

Chicago native Donny Hathaway co-wrote and recorded "This Christmas," the greatest holiday song composed by an African American. The traditional Christmas songbook is known for the likes of Irving Berlin, Gene Autry, Burl Ives and Mel Torme. Catch my snowdrift?

Released in 1970, "This Christmas" was a significant departure. The song endures through Hathaway's sweeping tempo changes, sweet vocal range ... and warm promise.

Mitty Collier portrait by Rich Hein

Former Chess singer Mitty Collier delivered the contemporary gospel anthem "The Rainbow" last Sunday morning before a modest but mighty congregation at her More Like Christ Fellowship Church on the south side of Chicago.

Popularized by Vickie Winans, "The Rainbow" is included on Collier's new "I Owe It To The World" gospel album (Dialtone Records). "I like the words because when the rainbow is in the sky it is a sign that the storm is over," Collier said. "You see the light rather than stay down in the dark. There is a sign that the storm has passed when you can look up and see the rainbow."

Sun-Times videographer Jon Sall and I also visited Collier on a recent Saturday morning when she hosted the Christmas edition of her monthly community outreach program "Feed a Neighbor" (FAN) in the parking lot across the street from her church at 82nd and Dobson. FAN began as an arm of the Bible Study Telephone Prayer Line that Collier created in 1983. When people hear about Feed a Neighbor they come from all over the south side.

There are no shenanigans; on the Dec. 8 FAN Collier shooed away anyone who even smoked a cigarette in the parking lot.

"We gave out 400 bags (of blessings)," said Collier, 71. "Fruit, nuts, candy, snacks, hats, toys, dolls, basketballs, soccer balls, watches for the teen girls, gloves, socks and toiletries. I need a rest to get ready for something else."

Here is Jon's excellent short film on Pastor Mitty Collier

The next Feed a Neighbor is Jan. 12.

Collier's church is easy to find by the rainbow in the sky.

Here is a link to my Nov. 15, 2012 story on Mitty Collier.

Lovely Amy portrait by Tom Cruze

It wasn't easy to talk to Amy Krouse Rosenthal about her "Beckoning of Lovely" movement.
People are gloomy.
I reckon they are not perky.

The acclaimed author-filmmaker gave me a "Please Beckon Lovely 12/12/12--12/21/12" post-it. It now sits on my office desk next to a photo of forlorn actor Harry Dean Stanton (plugging a gig when he sang at The Mint nightclub in Los Angeles)

It is challenging to hear about saving the world when the core of small communities are torn apart. But I latched on to a wonderful comment from Rosenthal's recent Tedx talks: "What you seek you will find, what you summon will find you."

Rosenthal has written for "O" magazine, McSweeny's, and contributes to WBEZ-FM. We had been talking baseball. I was tellling Rosenthal about Bill Veeck and his son Mike Veeck.
Mike believes "Fun is Good," and I believe fun opens a lot of doors.

"Remember as a kid you would be in the stadium and you'd say, 'I'm going to look at all the red shirts?" Rosenthal asked. "Suddenly all the red popped out. Then you'd go, 'I'm going to look at all the yellow shirts?' and the yellow popped out. That's what I'm talking about. It's your lens.
"Sure, people are blue, as we should be. It's interesting how the whole country got in synch and there's a unified sympathy and despair to a degree. And that's needed to make the change."

She told me to check out BuzzFeed's 26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity."

"My husband e-mailed it to me yesterday," she said. "We showed it to the kids last night. It's really what we need. It's the only thing that makes sense right now......" and her voice trailed off towards tomorrow.

The days soon will be getting longer.

A good, good Leroy Brown

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Leroy Brown, Deputy Mayor of Bolingbrook, Ill.

Jim Croce's signature song was "I Got a Name," the only major hit he did not write.
It was composed by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox as the theme for the 1973 movie "The Last American Hero" starring Jeff Bridges. The new memoir by Croce's late wife Ingrid and her current husband Jimmy Rock is "I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story."

But "I Got a Name" is the anthem for the characters in the biggest selling hit of Croce's career, "Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown," which celebrates its 40th aniversary next year. The song is heard everywhere.
It is the John Doe of rock n' roll........


John "Fred" Speck, Jr. was not big on social media.
If he had something to say about Merle Haggard, politics, or his beloved Chicago Cubs, he would pick up a phone and make his declarations loud and clear. He was a maverick street attorney.

Fred was big in so many ways, including a heart that gave out in late November.

Pat Embry, a college friend of Fred's who now lives in Nashville, Tenn., asked me to check on Fred Thursday night.
I drove to Fred's apartment, within walking distance of Wrigley Field. I found a couple weeks worth of unopened mail--including the Sports Illustrated that announced LeBron James as Sportsman of the Year. Fred would have something to say about that. I met Fred's neighbors and asked them to knock on his door. No answer. They heard a television set from within his apartment........

Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.


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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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