2018 Was Really Something

Written by Bill Leebens

Over more decades in audio than I care to dwell upon, I’ve attended concerts and demos that assaulted not just my ears but my intellect and my emotional stability. Somehow those occasions have all-too-often involved people I like, folks I’m trying to encourage, or honest to God friends. Inevitably, the dreaded query comes:

“What did you think, Bill?”

I try to keep the friends friends, by being honest—tempered with as much gentle enthusiasm as I can muster out of my dark old soul. The other groups?

I fall back on several similar responses, which really say nothing, but allow the eager questioner to hear what they want:

The first and simplest involves nodding and looking pensive while muttering, “…interesting…interesting.” That one is the closest to being honest: I do find massive failures of artistic intent and violations of the laws of God, man, decency, and physics interesting….in the same way that I find unexpected entanglement in a massive cobweb interesting.

As long as I can breathe normally and suppress the urge to scream or panic, all is well. Easy-peasy. Next:

“Wow (shaking head)—I have never heard anything like that.”

Or its close cousin, which also involves shaking my  head—somehow that indicates sincerity. Remember Bart Simpson’s axiom, “Once you learn to fake sincerity, the rest is easy.” So:

“(Shaking head in silent reverence) now that-that was really something.”

I don’t know how it was for you—but for me, 2018 was really something. The year wasn’t as catastrophically destructive to the music world as the last few years have been, with dozens of top-tier talents dead and gone—but 2018 did take Aretha, Montserrat, and Aznavour, along with a lot of important musicians who never quite reached the one-name level of fame. Dolores O’Riordan, Roy Clark, Marty Balin, Nancy Wilson, Tony Joe White, and Hugh Masekala—all were immediately recognizable, once you’d heard them.

There are a zillion lists out there like this one from the NYT—but I’m not going to pick out notables, month by month–it’s too damned depressing. The good news is that a lot of  these folks had some serious age on them—101 for Nancy Sinatra (the wife and mom one, not her “Boots” daughter—although, HOLY CRAP, “Boots” is 78??)? 94 for Aznavour? And other than O’Riordan—God rest her troubled soul—I’m not aware of a cluster of well-known suicides, as we’ve seen in recent years. –Oh crap: Avicii. Never mind.

Outside of music, there were deaths of a number of notables who shaped the world for me and millions of others: Stan Lee. Paul Allen. Stephen Hawking. Pappy Bush. Not saying I understood, liked, or respected all of them, but they did change the world, for good or ill. And in the arts and the business world, a number of unique souls moved on.

This, combined with the chaos of the world in general (including aesthetic insults as seen in the header pic), contributed to making 2018 really something.

And yet, and yet: personally, it was a year in which I traveled once again to Munich, and to South America with my son. My daughter was married, and now, she and her husband are expecting their first child, my first grandchild. I have a loving girlfriend, work in a field with great people doing interesting and challenging things. I live in a beautiful place. And oh: I have two faithful, albeit insane, canine companions. Life is good. Really.

Maybe in 2019 I’ll have to change the name of this column. Somehow. “The Audio Softy” doesn’t have the same ring to it….

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