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THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE

0517soundsofsilencemosaic

THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE - WHEN DEATH CAST A LONG SHADOW OVER THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

By Howard T. Brody

For many, February 3, 1959, was the day the music died. It was on that fateful day that Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson (aka “The Big Bopper”) and Ritchie Valens died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. Its impact was so deep that 12 years later singer/songwriter Don McLean immortalized the event in the song “American Pie.”

But for a whole different generation, it seems 2016 was the year the music died as so many notable artists from the music industry were lost. 

Sadly, we wish we could isolate 2016 as an anomaly. But the fact is that during a three-year period from January 2014 to April 2017, there have been nearly 500 music industry people who have passed away: 483 to be exact. Let that number sink in for a moment: 483. 

Of course, we are talking about singers, songwriters, musicians, and producers. Some of these people were famous, some infamous, some obscure and unknown— from the biggest stars to the one-hit wonders, from studio musicians to touring band members. While some of these people changed the music industry, some had major influences on pop culture and society as a whole. Some had an impact on people of all walks of life.

While listing all those who have passed away during the past three years would be nearly impossible, we have painstakingly narrowed down the list below to those who we believe have been the most influential of the group based on various criteria.

Chuck Berry (October 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017): Often regarded as the Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Berry’s songs “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “Johnny B. Goode,” transformed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll unique. By writing lyrics that focused on teen life, he developed a music style that incorporated guitar solos and showmanship that had was a major influence on the rock music that came after him.

John Berry (May 31, 1963 – May 19, 2016): An original member of hip-hop group the Beastie Boys along with Mike Diamond, Adam Yauch, and Kate Schellenbach, Berry is credited with coming up with the name when the group formed in July 1981. When the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, Berry was recognized as a formative member of the band’s early years.

David Bowie (January 8, 1947 – January 10, 2016): Passing away two days after his 69th birthday and a quiet, 18-month battle with cancer, Bowie broke a lot of rules as a performer and became famous, if not infamous, for both his talent and gender-bending creativity. The iconic “Fame,” “Space Oddity” and “Ziggy Stardust” singer was a master of music as well as makeovers, as he often challenged stereotypes and labels while producing hits in a variety of genres including glam rock, funk and hip-hop. His final album, Blackstar, was released just a few days before his death. 

Bob Burns (November 24, 1950 – April 3, 2015): In 1964 Burns helped to form Lynyrd Skynyrd with Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins and Larry Junstrom. He remained with the band as its drummer until 1974 when life on the road became overwhelming. In 1996, he participated in a performance to promote Freebird: The Movie. On March 13, 2006, he rejoined Lynyrd Skynyrd for one performance as he played alongside Rossington, Billy Powell, Ed King, Artimus Pyle and the Honkettes at Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Burns died shortly after leaving his home in Cartersville, Georgia from an automobile accident when he hit a mailbox and tree on a sharp curve.

Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 10, 2016): Identified as a Canadian crooner, Cohen’s songwriting and poetry influenced countless musicians with its dark emotional response and satirical humor. During his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2008 it was said, “For six decades, Leonard Cohen revealed his soul to the world through poetry and song—his deep and timeless humanity touching our very core. Simply brilliant. His music and words will resonate forever.” His song “Hallelujah” is considered by many to be his finest work. Just before he died, he released the album, You Want It Darker, which explored big questions about mortality and the almighty.

Natalie Cole (February 6, 1950 – December 31, 2015): The daughter of Nat King Cole, Natalie ascended to musical stardom in the mid-1970s as a Rhythm and Blues singer with “This Will Be,” “Inseparable” and “Our Love.” After a cooling off period because of falling record sales and failed performances due to severe drug addiction, Cole bounced back strong on the pop music scene with her 1987 cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac.” By the 1990s, she was recording standards originally performed by her father which resulted in her biggest success. Unforgettable... with Love, which sold more than 7 million copies, and produced a haunting duet with her late father (and sold more than 30 million records worldwide), won Natalie seven Grammy Awards. Cole died due to congestive heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Keith Emerson (November 2, 1944 – March 11, 2016) and Greg Lake (November 10, 1947 – December 7, 2016): Together with Carl Palmer, who is the only surviving member of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Keith Emerson, and Greg Lake co-founded ELP in 1970. Billboard called Emerson, Lake & Palmer progressive rock’s first supergroup as the three Brits often delighted audiences with elaborate instrumentation and sophisticated stage shows, including pyrotechnics. Emerson died in Santa Monica, California, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while Lake passed away after a battle with cancer.

Phil Everly (January 19, 1939 – January 3, 2014): Along with his brother Don, the Everly Brothers were country-influenced rock and roll singers, known for steel-string guitar and close harmony singing. In the late ‘50s, the Everly Brothers were the rock and roll youth movement’s addition to close harmony vocal groups, which were mostly family bands. They influenced a whole generation of rockers of the ‘60s including The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Simon & Garfunkel, all of whom developed their early styles by performing Everly Brother songs. The Bee Gees, The Hollies, and other rock groups that featured harmony singing were also influenced. Some of their hits included “Bye Bye Love,” “Cathy’s Clown,” “Wake Up Little Susie” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” Phil died of lung disease at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, 16 days before his 75th birthday. 

Glenn Frey (November 6, 1948 – January 18, 2016): A founding member of the Eagles known for his laid-back persona and country-tinged California sound, Frey was the group’s lead singer and front man which he shared with fellow member Don Henley. Together the two wrote most of the band’s iconic hits like “Best of My Love,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “One of These Nights” and “Hotel California.” Frey played guitar and piano and sang lead vocals on such songs as “Take It Easy,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Already Gone,” “New Kid in Town” and “Heartache Tonight.” During a successful solo career in the ‘80s, Frey recorded such Top 40 hits as “The One You Love,” “The Heat Is On” and “You Belong to the City” among others.  The Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. Frey died at the Columbia University Medical Center from complications of rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia while recovering from gastrointestinal tract surgery.

Lesley Gore (May 2, 1946 – February 16, 2015):  In 1963 at the age of 16 she recorded the pop hit “It’s My Party” and followed it up with other hits including “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” “She’s a Fool,” “You Don’t Own Me,” “Maybe I Know” and “California Nights.” Gore worked as an actress and along with her brother Michael Gore, composed songs for the 1980 film Fame, for which they received an Academy Award nomination for “Out Here on My Own.” In the 2000s Gore hosted an LGBT-oriented show on PBS titled In the Life. She had been working on her memoir and a Broadway show based on her life when she died of lung cancer at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. At the time of her death, Gore and her partner Lois Sasson had been together for 33 years.

Merle Haggard (April 6, 1937 – April 6, 2016): A singer, songwriter, guitarist and fiddler, Haggard was a grizzled country music legend who became a voice for the working man with classics like “Okie from Muskogee” and “Fightin’ Side of Me.” Along with the legendary Buck Owens, Haggard and his band, the Strangers, helped create what was called the Bakersfield sound, which is characterized by the twang of Fender Telecaster and the unique mix with a traditional country steel guitar sound and new vocal harmony styles in which the words are minimal, and a rough edge that is not heard on the more polished Nashville sound recordings of the era. He received many honors and awards for his music, including a Kennedy Center Honor, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a BMI Icon Award and induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame and Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. He died at his ranch in Northern California of complications from double pneumonia.

Al Jarreau (March 12, 1940 – February 12, 2017): Jarreau, who made his music mark in jazz, received a total of seven Grammy Awards during his career and was nominated for more than a dozen more. Jarreau is perhaps best known for his 1981 crossover album Breakin’ Away, which includes the hit song “We’re in This Love Together,” that scored him a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. He is also noted for singing the theme song for the late-‘80s TV series Moonlighting and was among the many performers on the 1985 charity song “We Are the World.” He died of respiratory failure in Los Angeles just two days after announcing his retirement. 

Sharon Jones (May 4, 1956 – November 18, 2016): As a soul and funk singer, Jones spent decades in obscurity before she was discovered by audiences in the mid-2000s. With her backing band, the Dap-Kings, she became legendary for her fiery live performances, earning comparisons to her idol James Brown. Before she passed away, she rebelliously told Rolling Stone magazine, “I have cancer; cancer don’t have me.”

Paul Kanter (March 17, 1941 -- January 28, 2016): Kantner is best known for being the co-founder, rhythm guitarist and occasional vocalist of Jefferson Airplane, one of the leading psychedelic rock bands of the 1960s counterculture movement.  He continued in these roles as a member of Jefferson Starship, the band that succeeded Jefferson Airplane after it broke up in 1972. Kanter was considered by many to be the architect of what was to become known as the San Francisco sound, epitomized by such songs as Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”

Casey Kasem (April 27, 1932 – June 15, 2014): Although he was not a musician himself, in many ways his voice shaped generations of radio listeners over a nearly 40 year span as host of Casey’s Top 40, Casey’s Top 20 and Casey’s Countdown. Aside from influencing a generation of music listeners, Kasem is forever ingrained in pop culture. In 1969, he started one of his most famous roles, the voice of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! He was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame radio division in 1985 and the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1992. In 1997 he received the Radio Hall of Fame’s first Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2003 was given the Radio Icon award at the Radio Music Awards. Kasem died at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Gig Harbor, Washington. The immediate cause of death was reported as sepsis caused by an ulcerated bedsore.

B.B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015): A revered blues singer, electric guitarist, songwriter, and music producer, King introduced the masses to a sophisticated style of soloing that was based on flowing string bending and shimmering vibrato; a style that would influence many electric blues guitarists. Considered one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, earning him the nickname “The King of the Blues,” he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. King was known for performing tirelessly – in 1956 he supposedly appeared at 342 shows— and well into his 70s he averaged more than 200 concerts a year. King died in Las Vegas from congestive heart failure and diabetic complications. 

Ben E. King (September 28, 1938 – April 30, 2015): a rhythm and blues singer and record producer, King is perhaps best known for singing and co-composing “Stand by Me,” in 1961 and again in 1986 when the song was used as the theme for the Rob Reiner film of the same name. In the ‘50s, King was one of the principal lead singers of the group the Drifters and was lead vocals on “There Goes My Baby,” “This Magic Moment” and perhaps their biggest hit, “Save the Last Dance for Me.” In 1988 King was inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame as a member of the Drifters. He died of coronary problems at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.

Lemmy (December 24, 1945 – December 28, 2015) and Phil Taylor (September 21, 1954 – November 11, 2015): Lemmy Kilmister and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor were two of the most notable members of the British heavy metal band Motörhead. Lemmy was the singer and songwriter who founded and fronted the band as his music was one of the foundations of the heavy metal genre. Taylor replaced Lucas Fox six months after the band was formed and while several drummers have played in Motörhead, most of their best-selling albums and singles feature Taylor on drums. Lemmy was known for his appearance (think mutton chops), his distinctive gravelly voice and unique bass playing style. Motörhead released 23 studio albums, 10 live recordings, 12 compilation albums and five EPs over a 40-year period. Lemmy died four days after his 70th birthday in his Los Angeles apartment from prostate cancer, congestive heart failure, and cardiac arrhythmia. Taylor died of liver failure.

Sir George Martin (January 3, 1926 – March 8, 2016): Musician, arranger, composer, conductor and audio engineer were line items on his resume, but perhaps his greatest skill was that of record producer. Often referred to as the “Fifth Beatle” – including Paul McCartney himself who recognized Martin’s extensive involvement on each of the Beatles’ original albums – Martin produced 23 #1 hit singles in the U.S. and 30 #1 hits in the U.K. Aside from his work with the Beatles, Martin’s career spanned more than six decades with work in music, film, television and live performances. He started out producing comedy and novelty records in the early ‘50s, working with the likes of Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan and over the years held a number of senior executive roles at media companies.  In 1996 he was made a Knight Bachelor in recognition of his services to the music industry. Martin died in his sleep at his home in Wiltshire, England.

George Michael (June 25, 1953 – December 25, 2016): A singer, songwriter, record producer and philanthropist, Michael burst onto the scene and rose to fame as a member of the ‘80s pop duo Wham! He was best known for such hit singles such as “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas” and albums like Faith and Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. As a charismatic and often controversial artist, Michael blended danceable pop with progressive social observations that engrained him forever in pop culture. Before his death, he had sold more than 115 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling musical artists of all time. In 1998 Michael came out as gay and remained active as an LGBT rights advocate, raising funds and awareness to combat HIV/AIDS. Found dead in bed at his Oxfordshire, England home, a coroner’s report attributed his death to natural causes.

Tommy Ramone (January 29, 1949 – July 11, 2014): Credited with writing “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” and “Blitzkrieg Bop” for the influential punk rock band the Ramones with bassist Dee Dee Ramone (Doug Colvin), guitarist Tommy Erdelyi was supposed to be the band’s manager, but when drummer Joey Ramone (Jeff Hyman) couldn’t keep up with their increasingly fast tempos, Joey became the lead singer and as they say, the rest is history. While guitarist Johnny Ramone (John Cummings) rounded out the group, Tommy remained as the band’s drummer for four years, playing on and co-producing their first three albums, Ramones, Leave Home and Rocket to Russia, as well as the live album, It’s Alive. It was said of the Ramones during their 2002 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “the Ramones revitalized rock and roll at one of its lowest ebbs, infusing it with punk energy, brash attitude, and a loud, fast new sound.” Before his death, Tommy was the last surviving original member. He died at his home in Ridgewood, Queens, New York following unsuccessful treatment for bile duct cancer.

Gary Richrath (October 18, 1949 – September 13, 2015): As the lead guitarist and songwriter for the band R.E.O. Speedwagon from 1970 to 1989, Richrath is best known for writing, performing and singing on some of the band’s early hits, including “Golden Country,” “(Only A) Summer Love,” “Only the Strong Survive” and “Take It On the Run” among others. In 1977, he and the other band members took over their production, which resulted in the band’s first platinum album.

Leon Russell (April 2, 1942 – November 13, 2016): As an acclaimed session pianist before finding fame in the ‘70s, Russell was involved with a myriad of best-selling pop music artists spanning his 60-year career. His distinctive look and stage presence earned him the nickname, “The Master of Time and Space.” He wrote in various genres included pop, rock, blues, country, bluegrass, standards, gospel and surf. He was awarded six gold records. His collaborations are considered some of the most successful in music history, and as a touring musician, he has performed with hundreds of notable acts. Russell recorded 33 albums and more than 400 songs. He wrote “Delta Lady” for Joe Cocker, and in 1970 he organized and performed on Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. Russell’s most famous, if not prolific song might be “A Song for You,” as it has been recorded by more than 200 artists. His song “This Masquerade” has been recorded by more than 75 artists. Russell produced and played in recording sessions for Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Ike & Tina Turner and many others. He wrote and recorded the hits “Tight Rope” and “Lady Blue” and he performed at the Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden in 1971 along with Dylan and Eric Clapton. In 2011, Russell was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He died in his sleep at his Mt. Juliet, Tennessee home four months after suffering a heart attack.

Pete Seeger (May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014): A folk singer and social activist, Seeger was a national fixture on nationwide radio in the ‘40s. In the early ‘50s, he had a run of hit records as a member of the Weavers including their recording of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” which stood at #1 for 13 weeks in 1950. When members of the Weavers were blacklisted during the McCarthy era Red Scare, Seeger fell into obscurity but re-emerged on the public scene in the ‘60s as a prominent protester in support of international disarmament, civil rights, counterculture and environmental causes. A prolific songwriter, some of his best-known songs include: “If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)” with Lee Hays of the Weavers, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” with Joe Hickerson and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” with lyrics adapted from Ecclesiastes, which have been recorded by many artists, most notably the Byrds. Seeger was one of the folk singers responsible for popularizing the spiritual “We Shall Overcome” that became the recognized anthem of the ‘60s Civil Rights Movement. In 1972 Seeger was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 1996 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.  

Percy Sledge (November 25, 1940 – April 14, 2015): A rhythm and blues, soul and gospel singer, Sledge is perhaps best known for the iconic song “When a Man Loves a Woman” from 1966. It was awarded a million-selling, Gold-certified disc from the Recording Industry Association of America. Sledge achieved his greatest success in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s with a string of emotional soul songs. In his later years, Sledge received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Career Achievement Award. In 2005 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sledge died of liver cancer at his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Robert Stigwood (April 16, 1934 – January 4, 2016): One of the entertainment industry’s most powerful tycoons, Stigwood was an Australian-born British-resident who became a fruitful music entrepreneur, film producer, and impresario. He was best known for managing the band Cream (Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and Eric Clapton) and turning the Bee Gees into international stars. During his career, Stigwood backed theatrical productions like Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita and film productions including the adaptation of the Who’s Tommy and the tremendously successful film version of Grease as well as Saturday Night Fever

Prince (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016): Although he once changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, Prince Rogers Nelson’s music rose above genres and transcended generations as a dazzling mix of pop, rock and downright funk. In addition to writing and performing songs for himself such as “When Doves Cry,” “Purple Rain,” “Kiss,” “Raspberry Beret” and many others, he wrote songs for such performers as: The Bangles (“Manic Monday”), Sheena Easton (“Sugar Walls”), Sinead O’Connor (“Nothing Compares 2 U”), Alicia Keys (“How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore”) and Cyndi Lauper’s cover of (“When You Were Mine”) to name a few. Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. His shocking death last year drew an international outpouring of grief and admiration from around the world, showing just how influential he was to the masses as well as the reach and impact he had on pop culture in general. In a strange twist of fate, Prince’s protégé, Vanity, also passed away in 2016, just two months before her mentor.

Scott Weiland (October 27, 1967 – December 3, 2015): During a career that spanned three decades, Weiland was best known as the lead singer for Stone Temple Pilots from 1989 to 2002 and again from 2008 to 2013. He was also a member of the supergroup Velvet Revolver from 2003 to 2008 and recorded one album with Art of Anarchy. His onstage presence was considered both chaotic and flamboyant as he was not only known for frequently changing his appearance but his vocal style (he sometimes used a megaphone during concerts for vocal effects). While touring in Minnesota for his album Blaster, Weiland died of a drug overdose on his tour bus. Upon his death, The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan called Weiland one of three “voices of the generation” along with Layne Staley and Kurt Cobain.

Cory Wells (February 5, 1941 – October 20, 2015): In 1968 Wells and Danny Hutton – a former songwriter and performer for Hanna-Barbera Productions – formed the band Three Dog Night. They added a third lead singer, Chuck Negron, whom Hutton had met at a Hollywood party. Wells sang the lead vocal on the band’s #1 hit “Mama Told Me (Not to Come).” He once said that Randy Newman, who wrote the song, called him on the phone to thank him for “putting my kids through college.” Wells died suddenly in his sleep in Dunkirk, New York from an infection related to multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.

Maurice White (December 19, 1941 – February 4, 2016): A singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, arranger and bandleader, White was the founder and leader of the band Earth, Wind & Fire. Leaving behind a legacy of funky, spiritually uplifting songs that were loved by audiences of all colors and creeds, White was nominated for 20 Grammy Awards and won 7. Some of his hits were “Shining Star,” “Sing a Song” and “September.” He worked with several famous recording artists, including Deniece Williams, the Emotions, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond. White was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the late ‘80s, which led him to stop touring with the band in 1994. He retained executive control of Earth, Wind & Fire and remained active in the music business. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as a member of Earth, Wind & Fire. White died in his sleep from the effects of Parkinson’s disease at his home in Los Angeles.

John Geils (February 20, 1946 – April 11, 2017): Between 1970 and 1985, The J. Geils Band release 11 albums. For their first few years, the group was mostly influenced by rhythm and blues and soul music before moving toward rock and pop. In 1980 Geils and his band breakthrough with the album and title track “Love Stinks” which they followed up with 1982’s Freeze Frame which produced the song of the same name and the hit “Centerfold,” which sat at #1 for six weeks. When the band broke up in 1985, Geils put down the guitar and began concentrating on auto racing. In 1992 he got back into music producing an album for Danny Klein and formed the band Bluestime with Magic Dick. He also played in the New Guitar Summit and the acoustic trio Kings of Strings. In 2005, he released his first solo jazz album. In 2009 the town of Groton, Massachusetts proclaimed December 1st as “J. Geils Day” and in 2015 Geils was named to the Wall of Honor at his high school alma mater in Bernardsville, New Jersey. He passed of natural causes at his home in Groton.

Header photo by Lenscap Photography

 

PLAY BALL - A LOOK AT THE 2017 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL SEASON

0417sportsmosaic

PLAY BALL - A LOOK AT THE 2017 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL SEASON

By Howard T. Brody

For the first time in 108 years, the Chicago Cubs will open a Major League Baseball season as the defending world champions breaking the longest drought in professional sports history when they defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games to win the 2016 World Series.

 

 

The question now is can they do it again?

While Las Vegas sports books have made the Cubs the early odds-on favorite to repeat as Major League Baseball world champions, that might be easier said than done.  Only two National League teams have been able to win back-to-back world championships since the Cubs last did it in 1907 and 1908 – the New York Giants in 1921 and 1922 (defeating the New York Yankees), and the Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and 1976 (beating the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees).  

While the Cubs finally beat the odds last year, is there enough momentum for them to win two in a row? Or will this be the year that the Cleveland Indians finally break their dry spell and win the World Series for the first time since 1948?  Perhaps we will see a team that has never won a World Series, like the Houston Astros, experience the thrill of victory.  Or maybe the time has come for the Seattle Mariners or the Washington Nationals, the only two franchises who have never appeared in a World Series, to make their Fall Classic debut.  

While other publications and websites are making their predictions, STRIPLV is doing the same and here’s how we see the 2017 Major League Baseball season unfolding.

National League Projected Finish

Eastern Division

Washington Nationals

New York Mets*

Miami Marlins 

Philadelphia Phillies 

Atlanta Braves

Central Division

Chicago Cubs

St. Louis Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates

Milwaukee Brewers

Cincinnati Reds

Western Division

San Francisco Giants

Los Angeles Dodgers*

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

San Diego Padres

American League Projected Finish

Eastern Division

Boston Red Sox

Baltimore Orioles*

New York Yankees

Toronto Blue Jays

Tampa Bay Rays

entral Division

Cleveland Indians

Kansas City Royals

Detroit Tigers

Chicago White Sox

Minnesota Twins

Western Division

Houston Astros

Texas Rangers*

Los Angeles Angels

Seattle Mariners

Oakland Athletics

NL EAST

With the Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies all coming off of disappointing seasons (all three finished below the .500 mark), the rebuilding process continues in those cities.  Despite some roster moves here and there, none of the three pose a threat to capture the division crown, but they can play spoiler. 

The biggest setback for the Marlins has to be the loss of pitcher José Fernández, who was killed in a boating accident last September.  In an era when quality pitchers are a commodity, Fernández will be hard to replace as he was 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA.  While catcher J.T. Realmuto and outfielder Christian Yelich are ready to become breakout stars, it just won’t be enough for the Marlins to climb higher than third place. 

This leaves the New York Mets and Washington Nationals to battle it out for the top spot in the division.  The great Mets teams of the past have always had great pitching, and heading into spring training the Mets have three solid starters in Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, and Matt Harvey.  But will that be enough to unseat the Nationals who remain virtually unchanged since last year, and who had the second-best record in the NL after the Cubs?  Perhaps if Zack Wheeler can finally return after two years on the shelf following Tommy John’s surgery the Mets would be the favorite, but that might be wishful thinking.

Bryce Harper, the potential comeback player of the year, could help the Nationals once again win the NL East—this time in the final week of the season, just squeaking by the Mets.   But, even though the Mets won’t win the division, they will earn one of the two NL Wild Card spots.

NL CENTRAL

The defending world champion Chicago Cubs, who won 103 games last season, are poised for another 100-win season.  With the exception of outfielder Dexter Fowler, the team returns for the most part intact. If outfielder Kyle Schwarber stays healthy all season and performs even close to what he did in last year’s Fall Classic, that can be the stuff MVP seasons are made of.

Unless the Cubbies completely fall apart this season, the only team that has the potential to give them a run for the division crown is the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that signed Fowler, but the division crown will be based solely on their pitching.  Top prospect Alex Reyes’ future looks bright, and Carlos Martinez is pretty solid as the ace of the staff.  If Adam Wainwright can return to form like he was in 2013 and 2014 where his ERA was under 3 (last year it was 4.62), and he won 19 and 20 games respectively, and if Lance Lynn, who missed all of last year, can return with even a decent showing, then the Cardinals could make a run for the playoffs in a Wild Card spot.

Like the Braves, Marlins, and Phillies, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds all finished under .500 last year, and despite making some roster moves, none of these three (except perhaps the Pirates) are expected to reach the .500 mark this year.

With all things considered, look for the Cubs to be the only Central Division team heading to the playoffs.

NL WEST

Last year the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants were the only two teams in the Western Division to finish above .500.  At the end of the season, only four games separated the two teams, with the Giants ending up taking a Wild Card spot.

The San Diego Padres finished 23 games off the pace last year in the cellar of the NL West.  With Andrew Cashner, Matt Kemp, James Shields, and Melvin Upton Jr. all gone, young players like Luis Perdomo and Hunter Renfroe will lead the charge, but it just won’t be enough.  The Padres are rebuilding, and for 2017 the best role they can play is spoilers.

While the Arizona Diamondbacks have the nucleus of a solid team behind starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, while their young, everyday players are overall getting better.  However, they are still a year or two away from gelling as a serious playoff threat.

The Colorado Rockies, led by third baseman Nolan Arenado who tied for the league lead in home runs in 2015 and 2016, have all the makings of a potential Cinderella team.  With outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon returning after career making years and shortstop Trevor Story getting in a full season after his 2016 NL “Rookie of the Year” bid was cut short due to injury, their batting lineup 

Right-hander Jon Gray, righties Tyler Chatwood and Chad Bettis and left-hander Tyler Anderson, and you have four twenty-something starters who are coming into their own.  However, like Arizona, their roster is a year or two away, so unless they mature faster as expected, expect the Diamondbacks to finish third.

That brings us back to the Dodgers and Giants. Reminiscent of the battles these two franchises had throughout the 1950s when they both played on the East Coast in the shadow of the Yankees, look for the Dodgers and Giants to once again slug it out for first place in the NL West. However, this year should be a reversal of fortune as the Giants will take the division title while the Dodgers get a Wild Card spot. 

AL EAST

While the Tampa Bay Rays finished their 2016 campaign strong, they still finished 25 games out, and they’re going to need more than a good defense led by shortstop Matt Duffy and a decent but questionable pitching staff that includes Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, and Blake Snell.  They’re going to need some oomph in their lineup.  Unfortunately, perennial All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria and the ever-improving outfielder Kevin Kiermaier just aren’t enough. 

For the first time in several seasons, youth will be the name of the game in the Bronx as catcher Gary Sanchez, and outfielder Aaron Judge are two of the question marks for the New York Yankees.  Starlin Castro at second base and Didi Gregorius at shortstop give the Yanks a solid tandem up the middle, but pitching remains the biggest question mark for the Yankees, and if they are going to have any chance at all of making the playoff, they need more than Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Chad Green. Much more.

While some are picking the Toronto Blue Jays to return to championship form, they will be hard pressed to do so.  Heading into spring training it was thought Joe Biagini could be a strong starter for the Jays to go along with their projected rotation of Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and Marco Estrada, but a strong spring by Mat Latos could change that.  With Edwin Encarnación going to the Cleveland Indians and Michael Saunders going to the Philadelphia Phillies via free agency, the Blue Jays lose a lot of run production, although they still have former AL MVP Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista.

If third baseman Manny Machado, first baseman Chris Davis, and designated hitter Mark Trumbo provide as much power this year as they did in 2016 – they all hit over 30 homers – the Baltimore Orioles will once again make a run for the AL East title.  However, their big question mark is pitching.  While they may have Zach Britton as their closer, their starting pitching is nothing to write home about as Kevin Gausman is their only potential starter who had an ERA last year under 4.  Baseball being the game it is, 2017 could easily see the O’s go from a potential Wild Card spot to the AL East cellar.

Expect the Boston Red Sox to repeat as AL East champs.  In addition to a pitching staff that includes starters David Price, Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and closer Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox return with a balanced offense that includes outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, designated hitter Hanley Ramirez, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

AL CENTRAL

Last year the Minnesota Twins had the worst record in the Major Leagues.  With a team whose 40-man roster with just one pitcher who had an ERA under 3 (Buddy Boshers 2.65 in just 34 innings) and not one hitter with a batting average over .300 last year, despite some potential home run power behind second baseman Brian Dozier and third baseman Miguel Sano Twins fans can expect to see more of the same in 2017. 

For the most part, the Chicago White Sox played a lot better last year than their stats would lead you to believe.  And while they seemed to have made some improvements over 2016, they only have one bona fide winning starter on their pitching staff with Jose Quintana, a decent closer in David Robertson, and two above average bats in the lineup with first baseman Jose Abreu and third baseman Todd Frazier.  Perhaps if outfielder Melky Cabrera has a stellar year, the best the South Siders can hope for is a third place finish in the AL Central.

Like most teams in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers don’t seem to have the pitching to make a playoff run.  Justin Verlander was the only starter with a winning record (13-9) on the team, and while closer Francisco Rodriguez may have had 33 saves in 2016, his ERA was 3.76.  Only Detroit setup reliever Justin Wilson had an ERA under 3 (2.95).  So as much as Tigers fans are hoping for a playoff spot in 2017, you simply can’t win a championship by giving up nearly four runs a game.

That leaves the 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals and the defending American League Champion Cleveland Indians to fight for the AL Central title.

The Royals went from winning back-to-back league championships in 2014 and 2015 to playing .500 ball last year.  The Indians were just the opposite.  They went from playing one game over .500 in 2015 to winning the Central Division by eight games over the Tigers in 2016. 

While there’s no reason to believe the Indians will falter— because if anything their team has gotten stronger with the addition of Edwin Encarnacion to their lineup— many Vegas odds makers have picked Cleveland to win the AL crown.  We believe the Royals will bounce back to give the Indians a run for their money.  Although the team looks nothing like it did in 2015, the Royals have consistently put a competitive team on the field the last four seasons.  However, if their pitching, which is questionable, does not get the job done, they can easily return to the form we saw them a few years ago when they would finish 20 or more games out.  At the end of the day look for the Indians to repeat their division title while the Royals just miss a Wild Card spot.

AL WEST

While the Seattle Mariners finished nine games out last year behind the Texas Rangers, unfortunately they will not have enough steam to battle for first in the AL West.  This is despite a batting lineup that includes designated hitter Nelson Cruz, second baseman Robinson Cano, and third baseman Kyle Seager, as well as a  pitching staff led by starter James Paxton and closer Edwin Diaz. Relievers Steve Cishek and Tony Zych are coming off injuries, and they put two big question marks in the Mariners’ roster. 

Both the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are in the rebuilding process and and are probably a year or two from making a serious run at the playoffs.  Of the two, the A’s have no chance whatsoever.  Aside from outfielder Khris David, who slugged 39 home runs last year, the team lacks players who hit for average or who have decent on-base percentages.  Their pitching is abysmal.  On the other hand, if the Angels can find some pitching, their bats could carry them toward a Wild Card spot.  Any lineup that has outfielder Mike Trout and designated hitter Albert Pujols (even if he is in the latter part of his career) is a dangerous one, and they would certainly need to get another bat aside from third baseman Yunel Escobar to hit over .300. 

Instead expect the Houston Astros to step up and challenge their cross-state rivals, the Texas Rangers.  The Rangers will be tough to beat behind starters Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, setup men Matt Bush and Jeremy Jeffress, closer Sam Dyson and a starting lineup that includes first baseman Mike Napoli, second baseman Rougned Odor, third baseman Adrian Beltre and outfielder Norman Mazara.  Starting pitcher, Tyson Ross is expected back from rib surgery sometime before the All-Star Game, and shortstop Elvis Andrus might or might not be ready for the start of the season.

However, the Astros are poised to take down the Rangers.  The Astros pitching staff is solid with starters Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, and Dallas Keuchel, reliever David Paulino, setup men Luke Gregerson and Will Harris, and closer Ken Giles.  There is also a lot of talk about pitching prospect Brady Rodgers cracking into the starting rotation, but pitching isn’t their only strength.  The Astros have a great balanced offense led by shortstop Carlos Correa, outfielders George Springer and Josh Reddick, catcher Brian McCann, second baseman Jose Altuve and designated hitters Evan Gattis and Carlos Beltran, who split the 2016 season between the Yankees and Rangers and last played for the Astros in 2004.

Not only will the Astros challenge the Rangers, but they will take the AL West title, while the team from Arlington takes the Wild Card spot.

THE PLAYOFFS

In the National League, the Mets will travel to Los Angeles for the Wild Card game only to have the Dodgers beat them.

The Division Series will see the Cubs top the Giants while the Nationals beat the Dodgers.

And in the League Championship, playing in their 13th season in Washington since the franchise moved from Montreal following the 2004 campaign, the Nationals will upset the Chicago Cubs and go to the World Series for the first time in their team’s history.

In the American League, the Texas Rangers will continue to slide as the Baltimore Orioles will upset them in the Wild Card game.

The Division Series will witness the Cleveland Indians beating the Boston Red Sox, while the Houston Astros will top the Orioles.

And in the League Championship, the Indians will be denied a return to the Fall Classic in their bid for their first World Championship since 1948 as the Astros will become the first team ever to make the World Series having represented both the National and American League. 

THE WORLD SERIES

In 2005 the Astros, representing the National League, were swept in four games by the Chicago White Sox.  Their appearance in this year’s Fall Classic would no doubt be historic simply for the fact that no team has ever even won the championship from one league and then won the championship from the other league.  The only other team in baseball that could do that aside from the Astros would be the Milwaukee Brewers who represented the American League in 1982, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games and now play in the National League Central Division.

But the past is the past, and the present is the present.

And so at the end of the season, it will be the Houston Astros that will forever seal their place in history as an American League team by defeating the Washington Nationals in a World Series that will go six games, making them the 2017 Major League Baseball World Champions.

 

TIE ME UP (BUT DON'T STEP ON MY FACE)

0417sexmosaic

TIE ME UP (BUT DON'T STEP ON MY FACE)

By Lainie Speiser

I’m a boss on the streets and a servant in the sheets, in other words— the typical sexual submissive.

I’m one of those people that likes to be in charge.  I take on more responsibility than is necessary, I’ve got a lot of opinions, and I’m not afraid to express them.  Some people have had the nerve to call me pushy and aggressive, but what kind of publicist would I be if I were shy, passive, and unassuming?  A homeless one, that’s what.  I love what I do, but admittedly it can get a little stressful.  There’s pressure.  There’s worry, I don’t feel like I can let my guard down, so when I have a hard day all I can do to relax is get on my knees and deliver the best blow job in the world.  Or be thrown over a manly, hairy lap and get spanked hard.  Or get tied up with my tights taken from the hamper and fucked hard from behind.  This is how I unwind. 

I was always like this, but I didn’t put a label on it because labels are limiting and that’s not the way I like to live.  But there’s always been this willingness when it comes to sex, and this desire to please my partner in every way I can and this joy in being servile.  A lot of strong-willed people are like this; you’d be surprised how powerful men really want to get to get into some strap-on sex action.  Not because they are gay, but because it’s the ultimate act of giving up total control.  I know these men exist because I’ve been the open-minded woman who’s said, “Sure that sounds like fun.”  But it wasn’t fun because it takes a lot of stamina to fuck a person, I discovered, and ever since have respected all of the work that men do to make us ladies happy. Also, once you open that door with a man— once he gets a taste for anal play— nothing else will do, and as I’ve said, I don’t enjoy labels.

Before you stop reading this because I’ve disgusted and offended your male sensibilities, this column isn’t about strap-on in the butt sex; it’s about me being a submissive and the good and the bad types of dominant men I’ve sampled before I decided all I wanted was a Daddy aka my husband.

It was a typical Saturday early afternoon, and my husband and I love brunch at the bar, but as we got closer to the only two empty seats left, I saw one of my former Domme lovers whom I call, “The Face Stepper” sitting there with his arm around his date with a firm fistful of her straight, brown hair.  “I don’t want to sit here. Let’s go get a table,” I said to David, grabbing his hand and leading him to the hostess station. “There’s a guy I used to know there, and he’s a total creep.” David, like most men who are in love with the wife, didn’t want to know anymore and we were lead to a table where he could still watch the hockey game.

When you’re a single submissive woman who loves sex, knows what she likes and isn’t afraid to get it, you sometimes meet some interesting people.  The Face Stepper was one of these, and I call him The Face Stepper because the last time we were 

together he came on my face, then stood over me on the bed, lifted his size 12

bare foot, and rubbed his spunk into my face with it. I’m not that kind of submissive.  I know some women and men like it when they get their face stepped on, but not me.  I don’t take things that literally. 

You see the one annoyance with dealing with men who enjoy dominating is some of them do not know when to stop.  Every time me and The Face Stepper went out for a drink or to grab a bite to eat, he couldn’t leave what we did two hours ago, on my living room floor behind.  I’m an old-fashioned lady.  What happens behind closed doors stays there for me— it’s not my entire way of life.  Just because I enjoy getting fish-hooked (this means having your mouth roughly held open my two fingers in the corner of your mouth) when getting fucked it doesn’t mean you should pull my hands behind my back while we are at a party.  It’s common sense, to me, but I guess some people need to be told what is inappropriate behavior outside of sex sessions.  I remember once someone at a restaurant, a bartender, complimenting my long hair.  The Face Stepper responded with, “Yes all of this hair makes for great handles,” he said taking a fistful on each side.  It was awkward for everyone around us but him. 

Prior to the face-stepping, this guy— an attractive, older, gentlemen who does good deeds as a public defender— was enjoying dominating me.  He enjoyed pontificating while tying me up. “You’re going to learn so much about yourself,” he said.  “You’re going to learn a lot about yourself because of me.”  I’ve never taken well to this kind of pretentious talk; it’s not sexy to me because it sounds like a lecture.  I’d rather be told I’m going to be fucked so hard your cum is going to pour out of my ears.  “Oh yeah?” I said and started laughing.  “Because I just thought you need to learn a lot more about yourself from ME!”  The laughing made him angry; I wasn’t playing along with this fantasy of the wise man breaking down the wise ass publicist.  He roughly got off me and stood in front of the bed.  “LISTEN! THIS ISN’T A JOKE! IF YOU CAN’T SHUT THE FUCK UP THEN LEAVE!”  Which made me want to laugh even harder because it’s hard to keep a serious face when you’re tied up and being yelled at by a man over 50 wearing purple bikini underpants.  “I’M SERIOUS! I’M BEING SERIOUS!  THIS IS SERIOUS TO ME!”  So, I gave him my safe word, “peanut butter” and he untied me, and I left, following orders like a good submissive should. 

Later at home, I thought maybe he wasn’t being serious.  What if this was part of the whole scene?  Yelling at me like a schoolmaster at a pupil who was passing notes and not paying attention.  As annoying as he could be, it’s also not the easiest thing, to find a man who is comfortable dominating a woman, especially in this politicall correct world we live in.  Then on second thought, it is easy to find a man who enjoys being dominant but what’s not easy is to find a man who does it right.  The men who do it best are the men who are completely secure in their masculinity and sexuality and enjoy giving and pushing their partner’s limits.  Being dominant isn’t about being angry at all: it’s about being nurturing, even paternal.  That’s why I call my husband my Daddy.  That, and his name is David and I’ve dated about five men before him named David, and I’d rather not recall any of them that often, especially The Face Stepper.

 

SHE AND ME AND THE LANGUAGE BARRIER MAKE THREE

0417manwomanmosaic

She and Me and the Language Barrier Make Three

This is a guide to the sometimes subtle (and not so subtle)differences of interpretation to sex and relationships in men and women.  At times, it is a wonder that men and women can communicate at all.  I mean, we see things differently for one, and that’s a proven fact, but we also are coming from an entirely different set of vocabulary definitions and rules.  It would appear that the only way we are ever going to completely understand each other is to create a gender translation dictionary.  Let the love and understanding begin.

“SEX”

Men:  An intense sexual craving that generally begins at the onset of adolescence.

Women:  A moderate to intense craving for sexual intimacy, which begins during the exchange of wedding vows and ends by the conclusion of the reception.

“HUSBAND”

Men:  The boss of the house.

Women:  Provides a house for the boss.

“WIFE”

Men:  How come life rhymes with wife when death seems to be the only escape?

Women:  She who stands by her husband through all the trials and tribulations he must face.

 

“FIVE MINUTES”

Men:  Two and a half hours, depending on whether there is overtime or not.

Women:  Another hour and a half.

“TWO MINUTES”

Men:  That ought to be enough foreplay.

Women:   Wham Bam he just gets it in.  The next thing I hear is  “Damn!”

“BLOW JOB”

Men:  Morning, noon, and night.

Women:  Birthday and anniversary.

CHEATER”

Men:  If a man screws a woman in the middle of a forest with nobody else around to see other than a camcorder, three friends, and a chipmunk;  did it still happen?  Most men seriously question the validity of such a possibility.

Women:  Man screws strange woman, therefore he is a cheater! 

 

“WEDDING RING”

Men:  The world’s smallest and most expensive handcuff;  usually followed by a ball, a chain, and an Elvis preacher to weld it all together.

Women:  A certified diamond of exceptional color, clarity, karat, and bragging rights.

 

“WE NEED TO TALK”

Men:  “You”  need to talk.

Women:  Silly man, shut up and listen.  It’s time for your pussy whipping.

“MOTHER-IN-LAW”

Men:  The enemy who destroys his piece of mind by giving him a piece of her own.

Women:  The person I must try to impress, befriend, and respect.

.

“WEDDING JITTERS”

Men:  Thought-provoked stricken fear of the most grimace proportions!

Women:  Excitement which denotes decades of advanced thought for this one pivotal moment that will set forth the motions of the rest of her life.

“SHOTGUN WEDDING”

Men:  A  “wife or death”  situation where the man must choose between an instantaneous death by the father inlaw or slow painful one by the daughter.

Women:  A life form on the way, which unfortunately does not give enough time to properly plan the big day.

“CAN WE TIE THE KNOT?”

Men:  Can I secure you to the bedpost without the usual loose bowtie?

Women:  Get married!

“LIE”

Men:  A truth that can only become a lie if it is proved beyond a shadow of a doubt not to be true, at which point it shall then become no longer remembered.

Women:  A complete and utter untruth that shall never be forgiven for as long as the guilty offender continues to fog a mirror.

“THREESOME”

Men:  Me and you and a blonde named Fondue.

Women:  You and me and a baby make three.

“COMPROMISE”

Men:  An amiable agreement whereby both parties unanimously decide just to 

let the woman have her way.  If mama’s not happy…

Women:  A beautifully negotiated discussion of dreams, needs, and passions that is followed by an equally prosperous agreement between both parties.

“I’M SORRY”

Men:  Okay, enough is enough;  let’s get on with some make-up sex!

Women:  But you’re about to be sorrier.

 

“WEDDING VOWS”

Men:  Repeat everything the guy in the funny hat just said.

Women:  Thirty seconds of the most intense vocalization of life and love 

between two lovers, matched by only that of the poetic conversations 

between Romeo and Juliet.

“DOES THIS MAKE MY ASS LOOK BIG?”

Men:  Ugly day?  Honey, if you hear these words out of me, I must be as gay as Lance Bass and a green tutu on Saint Patty’s Day!

Women:  Please shower me with compliments;  I’m having an ugly day.

“SIX INCHES”

Men:  Nine inches of fury.

Women:  Three inches—over in a hurry.

“YES”

Men:  I have no idea what you just said, and I actually don’t care all that much.

Women:  Yes.

Looking over these differences at a glance, I have to wonder to myself if perhaps we are not that different after all—then I removed my rose-colored glasses and put on my prescriptions.  Men can easily evade much of these difficulties by nodding and saying,  “Yes,”  for most of their responses.  This will inevitably lead to a stand-down every so often when the woman realizes that you were not listening, but this can also be easily negotiated with another properly timed,  “Yes,”  and a well-placed nod—And so the world turns;  one misunderstood statement and calculated cover-up at a time!  

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