Friday, March 01, 2019
Andre Previn has died, at 89, after a lifetime of musical fame. He was multi-talented, a composer and jazz artist. He won four Oscars for his movie scores, conducted major orchestras worldwide, and collaborated with lyricists to create Broadway musicals. Previn became as recognizable as his elder contemporary Leonard Bernstein. He was youngish, appealing, often casual-looking in a turtleneck sweater and double-breasted jacket.
I loved Bernstein’s weekly television programs designed for young people. In each, he explained how a piece of well-known classical music had been developed, illustrated its major and minor themes, and demonstrated what made its composer highlight specific instruments. Bernstein was more famous and arguably a greater talent, but like Bernstein, Previn could do “it all”.
Previn had a long musical career and from his early teens became well-known. He also married four times. He and his second wife and music collaborator, Dory, received Oscar nominations for several of their movie scores. After Previn became romantically involved with one of Dory’s friends, Mia Farrow, he in a scandalous move abandoned Dory. That sudden liasion nearly crushed Dory, a fragile person, who subsequently spent time in a mental hospital.
I first learned about Dory Previn as she was recovering and writing in a manner that expressed ongoing anger and helplessness. A magazine (perhaps “Time”) carried an article about and quoting her: “I can’t go on; I can’t go on; I mean, I can’t go on; so I guess I’ll get up and go on.”
It hit me, her sadness, despondency, and yet, resilience. Her mood reflected mine at a time when I faced unusually difficult family problems. Her words, “get up and go on” became my mantra. After her divorce and recovery, Dory made four albums of songs about duplicity in friendship and faithlessness in marriage, mixed with her own fears and stresses. Her honesty awed my voiceless self.
Years later, I worked in a major aerospace company as a pricing analyst, a terrible role for one who barely can add numbers. When I got a new boss, numbers-oriented and younger than me, I thought, “Uh oh, he’ll be the end of me.” I read it right. We didn’t communicate well, nor mesh, and couldn’t hit it off. I worried constantly that he’d find a way to fire me. After all, his department was responsible for preparing negotiating positions. We had to gather information and analyze businesses by assessing their actual costs for labor, materials, manufacturing, and overhead. I couldn’t tell an overhead from an underhead.
The endgame began when he gave me the difficult task of preparing a negotiating position with a company that was manufacturing a complex wing for our new fighter jet. I had to grasp the manufacturing process and learn how that company was pricing the wing. I knew I must succeed (“I must go on!”). I spent days at the manufacturer’s, asking thousands of questions, jotting all responses, and then, spent days trying to unravel my notes. Afterwards, my boss took me into a conference room where we spent two long weeks collaborating. He managed to make sense of the numbers while the descriptive narrative I created far exceeded his expectations. We emerged, at last friendlier.
One day as we traveled between facilities, something on the car radio reminded me of a lyric by Dory. When I mentioned this, he looked surprised, “You know Dory Previn?” He grinned, “I love her!” He asked if I’d heard thus and such by her, and I asked him about other thuses and suches. We were mutually appreciative and my job felt safer. Dory sealed it!
What keeps this alive for me is that the fellow, whom I liked less than anybody I knew, wound up becoming my friend, someone I trusted. It’s been many years since I saw or heard anything of him; but since yesterday morning and while thinking about the Previns, he’s been on my mind.
So, we keep getting up and going on.
Dear Readers, Have a great day with an open ear for cool music. Diana