Chances to remember
If you are a person of a certain age, there was a lot of bad news during the past couple of weeks, especially when we learned of the deaths of several people who played big roles in the world around us.
These things are always difficult to quantify because we all look at life from a different angle and have been built through our own set of experiences and likes and dislikes. That means everybody can agree or disagree with just about any list anyone produces, and that’s OK — that can lead to hours of discussion among friends and family.
Depending on how you see it, then, we’ve lost two all-time legends from the world of sports and a couple of the top singers of our time. Each has left a lasting impression.
And, Australia is a thread that runs among them.
That includes Vin Scully and Bill Russell. Scullly, who died Aug. 2 at the age of 94, was the voice of Dodger baseball — Brooklyn and Los Angeles — for 67 years. That’s longer than any person has been able to do that with a single team in the history of professional sports.
His style — whether he was calling a baseball game, a National Football League game or an event on the PGA Tour — was simple: He let the action speak for itself. His voice rose and fell based on the moment, which made radio broadcasts special.
He always remembered when on the television side that fans could see what was happening while they heard the excitement of the crowd. Scully was like us, people who were taking in a moment — he knew the game was what was important.
While Russell also dominated the world of sports — arguably among the greatest players in the history of the National Basketball Association, he also was a leader in the fight for equality and justice. As a member of the Boston Celtics, Russell, who died July 31 at the age of 88, was a five-time most valuable player, 12-time all-star and was involved in 11 championships in 13 years. That includes two after becoming Boston’s player-coach — a move that made him the first Black coach in a major sport in the United States.
Maybe even more important, was that Russell marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and was not afraid to take a stand against the war in Vietnam. He was among the staunchest backers of Muhammad Ali when the boxer refused to be drafted into the military based on his religious beliefs.
Olivia Newton-John, meanwhile, who died Monday at the age of 73, was one of those rare entertainers who was able to perform across and be successful in many genres, from country to pop, adult contemporary to soft ballads, from soft vocals to dance songs. Her work remained solid and led to sales of more than 100 million records, and has become a part of the soundtrack of the 1970s through today.
Newton-John was not from Australia (she was born in Great Britain) but she did spend a lot of time there. Judith Durham, who died Aug. 5 at the age of 79, was born there and provided vocals for one of the top folk bands not just of the mid-1960s but of any era, the Seekers. There was nothing fancy, just two guitar players (Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley), a bass player (Athol Guy) and Durham, making great music that allowed them to become the first Australian band to top the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Thanks to the Internet, the work of each of these four can still be seen and enjoyed today and for generations to come, while offering some of us a chance to remember.
That includes a classic television commercial Russell did in 1973 for AT&T direct-dial long-distance. While viewers were able to figure out they couldn’t miss when they used the service, they were reminded that direct-dial rates didn’t apply to calls made to or from Alaska.
Oh … that Australian thread: Durham and Newton-John are easy to figure out, but it includes Russell, who was a member of the 1956 U.S. Olympic basketball team that won the gold medal in Melbourne, and Scully, who was on site to broadcast the opening series of the 2014 season between the Dodgers and Arizona that was played at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and the Weirton Daily Times.)