Jean Shepard

| December 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

Jean Sheperd

David Fagen is a co-founders of one of my favorite rock bands, Steely Dan.  His music is unique, honest and intelligent and has borne the test of time.  I never get bored when I’m listening to Steely Dan and continue to discover new things in the music.

Fagen brings that honesty and intelligence to a remembrance of Jean Shepard in Slate Magazine, of the man who create A Christmas Story, a relatively recent entrant into the genre of classic Christmas movies.  Fagen essentially reviews Shepard’s entire career, most of which was spent on late night radio where he simply told stories.  He also had a short run on PBS narrating off beat documentaries.

Like Fagen, as a child, I loved listening to Shepard in a darkened bedroom, with the sound on the radio turned low.  If you’ve seen the movie, you know the voice, since he is the narrator.  He had a magnificent voice, soothing and a bit subversive.  Fagen describes it as “cozy, yet abounding with jest.”

Reading the piece, I learned a lot I didn’t know about Shepard.  But I do remember losing interest in him later in his career, and life.  Now, I guess I know why and here’s where Fagen’s honesty comes in.  Though a deep admirer of Shepard, Fagen is brutally honest about Shepard’s decline.

Like a lot of fine-tuned performing artists, Shepherd increasingly exhibited the whole range of symptoms common to the aging diva. He became paranoid and resentful of imagined rivals, whether they were old ones like Mort Sahl or upstarts like Garrison Keillor. At the same time, he disavowed all his radio work, claiming that it was just a temporary gig on his way to some fanciful glory on the stage and screen. He even seemed to want to kill off his childhood, insisting that all those stories and characters were pulled clean out of his imagination. Old fans, for whom he had been almost like a surrogate father or big brother, were often met with derision when they approached him.

So, the piece is ultimately a bit sad.   But it’s still a fascinating read and maybe a bit of an object lesson.  I prefer to remember Shepard in his prime and will continue to do so.  So, I appreciate Fagen’s warm, yet realistic, portrayal.

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Category: Movies

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