I was really shocked to read about Odetta's death a few days ago. We were fortunate to see her in concert a couple of years ago. It was obvious then that she was feeling the effects of age--she wasn't able to leave the stage and come back out for an encore, so she graciously accepted our applause onstage and then launched into her encore--but her voice was strong and she was wry and witty the whole night.
Her death has got me thinking about other "living legends" of music that I've been lucky enough to see, as well as the ones I never got to see and wish I had, and the ones I would still like to see while I still have a chance. Which then got me thinking about posting about it. Which then made me say, "Oh why not?"
To make one of these lists, a performer has to have been alive and performing during my adult lifetime. No fantasies about time traveling to see Patsy Cline, Hank WIlliams or Buddy Holly. I'm limiting to my adult years to focus in on the time when I have both my own income and the ability to decide how to use it.
The "legend" part is harder to pin down. For me, I think it would include someone whose career began either before I was born (1964) or within a few years of that blessed event, whose career has continued to the present, and who is regarded as having had a significant impact on music. I think that's a workable definition for this purpose. I know it's all still relative and we could argue all day about who is or is not a "legend." But I wanted to limit the boundaries a bit so that this would not turn into laundry lists of my favorite artists.
So here we go:
ARTISTS I NEVER GOT TO SEE
Bill Monroe (who performed for free in a park down the street from our apartment a couple of years before he died. I still kick myself for not going. Keith went. I didn't. I am an idiot.)
Lily Mae Ledford
June Carter Cash
THOSE I HAVE BEEN FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO SEE
The Holmes Brothers
THOSE I WOULD STILL LIKE TO SEE WHILE I HAVE A CHANCE
Rambling Jack Elliott
Richard and Linda Thompson
Actually, I guess I've pretty lucky overall. I have gotten to see some great performers from previous generations. My regrets list is short (although missing Bill Monroe will be such a mark of shame for me). And my still to see list is manageable as long as everyone stays in good health.
The most interesting part of doing this little exercise was dealing with my arbitrary dividing line. If I had just shifted it another decade, I could have included so many influential favorites on the seen list: John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, and of course Emmylou Harris, But then my not seen list would include both Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt. And my regrets list would have to include Townes Van Zandt.