Pop Culture Gadabout
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
      ( 12/14/2005 02:30:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"JUST LET IT STAY HEAVY, IF NOT HARD!" – (Being a delayed reaction to the death of Richard Pryor): Spent the hour drive into work this a.m. listening to the first of the two-disc Richard Pryor Anthology (1968 – 1992), and, like I have every time I've listened to this collection, I found myself laughing (the Mudbone stories and "When Your Woman Leaves You" have the most staying power for me – they remain both heavy and hard), then mourning the loss of this comic whose recording career had ended years before Rhino's 2001 compilation. For many of us who admired Pryor's stand-up and didn't know him personally, I suspect his death had happened in our heads long before it officially occurred last Saturday. That doesn't make it any less of a drag, but I know it put me at a loss for words when I first read about it Monday. Unfair as it may be, I'd mentally eulogized the man a long time ago.

To rectify that, I went back to the man's recordings – and was glad I did. Aside from his concert films, the bulk of Pryor's movie performances (The Toy, anyone? - and then there's that damn Superman movie!) are unnecessarily constrained – it's as a stand-up that the man is irrefutable. In the best of his live performances, you can hear his audience react in stages: first at the profane audacity of what he's saying, then at the embarrassing human truths that he's so brazenly waggling in front of your nose. The man wasn't the first to pull this trick, but he was arguably the most consistently successful. Perhaps it helped that his life was so screwed up, but there are plenty of fuck-ups in show biz who'll never produce a routine as enduring as Pryor's dialog with his crack pipe. That's just a hard 'n' heavy fact.
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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