October 9

Amber pages

Five of the very greats, in my Hall of Fame anyway:

Camille Saint-Saens, French composer, born today in 1835

John Winston Lennon, Beatle, born today in 1940 - and I really ought to place him on December 8, the day he was shot down by Mark Chapman, and tell that story there, and wonder out loud if Chapman was really the attention-seeker that he claimed, or a contract killer for the authorities. But I want him on the same page as the last three here, because somehow they belong together.

Andrei Sakharov, born on May 21st 1921, but on this page and not that one because - no, not because he was the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, but in spite of that; for the work that he did as Russian's senior dissident; and for the irony that he won the Nobel "Give Peace A Chance" Prize for the latter, even while he was still working on the former "back in the USSR", today in 1975.

Jacques Brel, the greatest actor, singer, songwriter, performer of the second half of the 20th century, in any language, from any country, died of lung cancer, today in 1978, just 49 years young. I have no idea what they wrote on his gravestone, but hopefully it was either the chorus from "Le Moribond", and/or "Ne me quitte pas".

And sanguine coincidence - one bullet, but a lot of blood; he already had a wound in his calf when they shot him trying to evade capture, and the one bullet was simply the one that got him from a round of M2 carbine fire. Ernesto "Che" Guevara, murdered by US-trained Bolivian militia, today in 1967. Equally young: Che was just 39. As to what they didn't write on his gravestone, his last words: "I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead". Actually, no, with men like Che, their value as martyrs, as tragic heroes, is worth far more than their living on into inevitably failed old age. Probably true of Brel and Lennon too.

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