In Tune with June!

In 1973 my son, Andy, who has a great ear for music, was strolling on a street in Washington, D.C., when he heard singing while passing a bar. It sounded so good to him that he went inside and joined a very small audience enjoying the on-stage band. At the break the musicians went to the bar and engaged in small talk. Four years later that very same group was on the cover of Time Magazine. Andy sure recognizes good music! Those musicians today have sold 65,000 tickets in five months to play Madison Square Garden on January 24 and 27 and on January 31 at the Prudential Center in Newark. Have you guessed the name of the group? It’s Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band’s “The River Tour.” Finally here we have a musician who uses his real name. However, nicknamed “The Boss,” he plays several instruments, he sings, he’s a songwriter and humanitarian. Andy told me that his live performances are the greatest he’s ever seen. Springsteen moves non-stop with his story-telling and playing. “Born to Run” is considered to be among the best rock-and-roll albums of all time. His lyrics frequently explore personal themes such as individual commitment, dissatisfaction, and dismay with life in a context of everyday situations. The musical icon draws on many influences from the reservoir of traditional American popular music, folk, blues, and country. If you can’t get to one of his concerts, you could have seen him as the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. And, of course, his recordings are available as well.

She’s not young (82 years old), she’s not beautiful but she’s brilliant – and she’s in great shape. She’s five feet tall, weighs 100 pounds and she works with a personal trainer. Where? You’ll never guess – in the Supreme Court’s Exercise Room! Reading “Notorious RBG – The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” one learns that the lady has a kind of plain-spoken, pithy one-liners that make the work of the Supreme Court come alive. When the law’s protection against discrimination was tossed out, she wrote, “It’s like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” She criticized the government for treating same-sex marriage as “skim-milk marriage” by denying gay couples federal tax benefits. “Notorious RBG” reads as an inspiration to become a feminist. She has not missed a day of oral arguments, not even when she was undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. The lady serves with both lightness and depth. Talented, hard-working, ambitious, she is one of the most recognizable faces on the landscape of modern government. She credits her mother with instilling a love of education. Ruth Bader Ginsburg asks questions from the bench today with a tell-it-like-it-is demeanor delivering precise legal opinions. Her husband, Marty, who died in 2010, had told a friend, “I think that the most important thing I have done is enable Ruth to do what she has done.” In 2012 the lady made headlines by saying she hoped to see an all-female Supreme Court one day. No pun intended, but, in writing about her, I’ve been trying to do her justice. Ouch!

Can you think of any female celebrities who use only one name? Cher and Madonna come to my mind but now we have another – drum roll – Adele! It seems as though Adele, the twenty-seven-year-old English singer and songwriter has graced the cover of almost every magazine since bursting back into the public eye. She has sold over 3 million copies of her world-stopping album “25” in the first week it went on sale in the United States. She enjoys numerous mentions in the Guinness Book of World Records. Her own surprise as a success makes the gal even more likable. Watching her perform in front of a huge New York audience it’s easy to understand why she is so well-loved. In the middle of that concert she stopped singing and spoke to her audience. “I love you, but you scare me!” That met with thunderous applause. Adele even had them singing with her. She has broken all records in the music industry. I suspect that Adele had a much better Christmas than any of us. Cheers!

Infrequently I stay over at the home of my kids. They supply everything for my comfort except one thing – a radio! I’m guessing that the fast-forward world has taken its place. Not only do I enjoy listening to the radio in my car but also in my bedroom, living room, and kitchen. That’s how I get breaking news, weather, traffic, political discussion, and, of course, music. I tune in to a favorite radio personality on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at noon. On WNYC 93.9 FM there’s four hours of the encyclopedic knowledge of music by radio personality Jonathan Schwartz. The man has been Frank Sinatra’s Boswell, the champion of Sinatra’s singing. He ceaselessly talks and plays Ol’ Blue Eyes on his radio show. Schwartz variously concedes Sinatra’s shortcomings but he cherishes his special gift for flawless phrasing. As we know, “The Voice” has been dead since 1998 but still very much alive to those celebrating his hundredth birthday last month. Sinatra’s power across the generations is well documented. He left a body of work that spans seven decades. His music never went away and he appeals to both men and women. The singer’s unmatched taste, interpretive ability, and sheer vocal authority still reign supreme. His influence as an entertainer left its mark on many favorites of mine including John Pizzarelli, Harry Connick, Jr., Diana Krall, Michael Bublé, and Michael Feinstein. Sinatra is the man who “doing it his way” he sang with feeling and sensitivity. He pulled off the greatest second act in show biz. His foibles, the women, the jet-setting, the Rat Pack, the outsized temper tantrums, and the Mafia connection (how deep is a matter of conjecture) are documented. But when it came to singing his perfectionism is well-known. Born into a still primitive pop music universe, his talent is based on uncommon musical and emotional intelligence and expressed through miraculously shrewd and subtle phrasing. On television you might have seen photos of a baby-faced twenty-five-year-old fronting Tommy Dorsey’s band in a bow tie too big for his stringbean frame but even then the throb in his songs was unmatched. It’s a privilege to listen to him. See if you can catch his singing in duo “The Girl From Ipanema” with Antonio Carlos Jobim. Google that and you’ll be rewarded. Along with me and Jonathan Schwartz the world still loves Ol’ Blue Eyes. He’s a musical constant. And, as an aside, the Beatles gave the decade “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Sinatra replied with “Doo-bee-doo-bee-do. If you followed television’s “Mad Men,” Don Draper’s wife, Megan, sings that when she entertained him at a surprise birthday party.

You can e-mail June Sturz at

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