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I am not an artist. But I play one in my mind.

You see, like many other people who love Radiohead and Michael Gondry movies, I think I’m far more artistic than I actually am. This explains why I spent so much time in jazz clubs in my high school days wondering if I should buy myself a beret. I was trying (and failing) to be artsy because I consciously wanted others to think I was. But all that produced were terrible ideas like growing mutton chops.

Which brings me to The Summer King, a new opera written by composer Daniel Sonenberg about the life and death of Josh Gibson. Yes. You read me correctly. THE Josh Gibson. The man who is regarded as the best power hitter to have never stepped foot on a Major League field (although I’m sure there are many Sadaharu Oh fans out there). Perhaps the only man who can challenge Johnny Bench’s reputation as the best catcher to have ever played the game. The man who led the Negro Leagues in homeruns in 1943 with 22, which is more than his three closest competitors in that category combined, and had a .449 batting average to boot. THAT Josh Gibson. They’ve made an opera about him. Fifty years after he died of a heart attack. They’re going to make him sing opera.

Well, actually, an actor portraying him, but that’s still pretty bad.

Now I understand that Mr. Sonenberg thinks he’s being creative by mixing baseball and opera. Just like the guy who thought that modern dance and Edward Scissorhands were a match made in heaven. But need I remind you, sir, that sports and music just do not mix? Do I need to play you the Super Bowl Shuffle? Have you heard Bronson Arroyo sing? Have you seen High School Musical (well, neither have I, but this video clip is enough)?

So in the name of all things sane, I plead with you. Do not ruin my image of Josh Gibson*.

*Which actually happens to be a man who looks eerily similar to Mykelti “Bubba Gump” Williamson.

5 Responses to “Sure. Kick a man when he’s been buried for 50 years.”

  1. Coley Ward says:

    Paul, what about Damn Yankees?

  2. Nick Kapur says:

    I actually saw that Edward Scissorhands musical, Paul. And I have to say, despite doubts similar to yours it was actually brilliant, and I’d highly recommend it.

  3. Sarah Green says:

    And I am forced to add that clearly, some folks do think that music and sports go together. Namely, athletes and the pop stars who date them!

  4. Daniel Sonenberg says:

    It’s not really that I think I’m “being creative” – more that Gibson’s story, in all its magesty and tragedy, simply seems too great a match for any genre other than opera. It’s hard to tell from your post which you underestimate more, opera or baseball, but I feel quite confident that each is worthy of the other. Sure, opera is an easy target these days (to be fair, it always has been), but I still believe its power to relate tales of deep emotional depth is simply unparalleled. Gibson was a hero, and I’m confident that he’s as near to my heart as he is to yours. And I assure I’ve chosen to write this work not because I think it’s a cheap gimmick to gain notoriety, or that it’s a way “to be creative,” but rather because it seems to be the best way to channel my complex feelings about the man and his legacy, and to put forth an artistically framed argument about same. Also, the project has the not-so-fringe benefit of sharing Josh’s story with a segment of the population (fans of opera, particularly new opera) that have virtually no familiarity with the man, let alone the Negro Leagues. If in the meantime some baseball fans expand their own narrow conceptions of what does and does not constitute legitimate artistic expression, so much the better.

  5. Sarah Green says:

    Also, the more I think about it, the more I just have to disagree with Paul when he says that sports and music don’t mix. What about the marching band at football games? What about “Eye of the Tiger”? What about Gary Glitter and Rock and Roll Part 2? What about John Fogerty’s “Centerfield”?!

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