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Russell Means at peace

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Russell Means, 1997 Sun-Times photo by Jon Sall.

The American Indian sat at a long table in a North Side spiritual bookstore. His arms were crossed. He was not smiling.
The lines on his face ran as deep as the Missouri River, which roared through his native South Dakota when he was young.
His angry eyes were stoked by the embers of lost generations.
I will never forgot those eyes.

Russell Means died early Monday at his ranch in Porcupine, S.D. He was 72. He was finally free.....

Chicago Sun-Times photos

Gregory Warmack died May 30 of an infection in an Atlanta, Ga. hospital.
He was 64 on the outside and 24 on the inside.

We could all use a little more of his childlike views.
My friend and artist Tony Fitzpatrick recalls Warmack as one of the kindest people he has ever met.

"Greg was an absolute shaman when it came to marrying materials, taking things that normal people throw out and making it reborn," Fitzpatrick said on Thursday. "His work echoed his experience in Chicago, his life, a descendant from Africa. Those idioms became clear. It was magical and humane. I learned from Greg. When I started using matchbooks, scraps and wrappers, I owe the idea of seeing possibility in those objects to Gregory......

"......His endless quest to give a second definition to common objects."

A beautiful metaphor for life.

Here are two Sun-Times dispatches from hanging with Gregory in the summer of 1996.
Warmack moved to Bethlehem, Pa. in 2002. He lost most of his artwork and his dog Pharaoh in a 2008 house fire and settled in Atlanta in 2009.

July 14, 1996--

The eyes have it.

That is clearly the conclusion after a visit to the cluttered North Side apartment/studio of folk artist Gregory Warmack. Known to friends as "Mr. Imagination," nothing escapes the childlike eyes of Warmack, a 48-year-old Maywood native..........

Etta James was Blessed

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One of the most overlooked albums of 2011--at least by year end reviews--was Lucinda Williams' "Blessed."
A road trip through the soul, "Blessed" features the evocative ballad "Kiss Like Your Kiss" which I hear in blues-jazz singer Etta James who died early Friday Jan. 20. (My full appreciation appears in the Chicago Sun-Times).
The snow is flying in Chicago today. They are cold tears.

And Williams sings:
There'll never be a winter quite so true
When the sky was painted with gifts
There'll never be a moon so full & blue
There'll never be a kiss like your kiss.

There's a lotta Etta in Lucinda, especially in the ballad as true as James' "At Last.".....


The last time I talked to singer-songwriter Bill Morrissey was in the spring of 1994.
Chicago skies were full of temporary promise.

Morrissey was coming to the Old Town School of Folk Music to support his album "Night Train" and to conduct a two-hour songwriting workshop. I ranked Morrissey with John Prine, Tom Waits and Bob Dylan as America's best contemporary male singer-songwriters. Studs Terkel said of Morrissey, "his songs haunt me."

But Morrissey was under the radar.

He was so under the radar his sudden death on July 23, 2011 did not make national news. "The worst thing Bill did in his life was die on the same day Amy Winehouse died," his friend and former Chicago singer-songwriter Fred Koller quipped earlier this week. "It blew him off the charts.".............

Blue Pinetop

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ptsteveazzato.jpg Portrait by Chicago's Steve Azzato.

Joseph Bob "Pinetop" Perkins was America's longest living bluesman.
Mr. Perkins died of cardiac arrest Monday at his home in Austin, Tx. He was 97 years old.
Mr. Perkins replaced Otis Spann in Muddy Waters band--when he was 56 years old. Mr. Perkins also played guitar on Sonny Boy Williamson's mystical King Biscuit Flour Hour radio program on KFFA in Helena, Ark. He played background music to cockfights and recorded with Chris and Mick Jagger. He won his second Grammy this year for Best Traditional Blues Album for "Joined at the Hip," which he recorded with former Waters drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith.
Mr. Perkins became the oldest person to win a Grammy award. (Edging out George Burns).

"He was happy about the Grammy but he was happiest on playing on somebody's bandstand," Smith said Monday from his Chicago home. "The Grammy was icing on the cake........

Marie Wuczynski, one in a million (Sun-Times photo)

Marie Wuczynski had a favorite number on the jukebox of the venerable Marie's Rip Tide, 1745 W. Armitage.
She inherited the song when she bought the Bucktown bar in 1961. Mrs. Wuczynski died Monday of congestive heart failure in her home above the bar. She was 88.

Mrs. Wuczynski would often go to sleep after listening to number 120 on the juke. That song was "Melody of Love," with 1940s era WGN all-night radio personality Franklyn MacCormack reading a poem with the Wayne King Orchestra playing a waltz. In his profound baritone MacCormack said:

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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