The challenge in assessing the life of Phil Spector lies in dodging the avalanche of other things so you can keep remembering what will endure: the music.

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Phil Spector at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, late 1980s.

Spector, who died Saturday at the age of 81 from complications of COVID-19, produced hundreds of records that matter and dozens that stand with the best rock ’n’ roll ever, from “Pretty Little Angel Eyes,” “Be My Baby,” “Walking In the Rain” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” to “Black Pearl.”

No rock ’n’ roll holiday album will likely ever match Spector’s 1963 A Christmas Gift For You.

Artists like Brian Wilson studied at Phil Spector’s figurative feet. Three of the four Beatles — Paul McCartney was the dissenter — liked his work on their Let It Be album enough to have him produce solo records like “Imagine” and “My Sweet Lord.” …


Tom Luciani was born with a great radio voice. He developed great musical taste on his own. By combining the two, he brought enjoyment to thousands of radio listeners.

Tom Luciani, who passed away on Jan. 2 after a long struggle with a heart condition, was on the radio around New York City for decades. He played splendid music that most of radio had stopped playing, which isn’t a ticket to fame or fortune, but provided a cherished oasis for those who remembered or appreciated it.

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Tom Luciani, 1968. Photo from harmonytrain.com.

He was heard for many years on Long Island stations playing Sinatra, Ella, Count Basie, jazz, big bands and popular standards. …


We love an unexpected success story, we’re riveted by a downfall-of-the-mighty story and there’s nothing as heartwarming as a good resurrection tale.

Tiger, a two-part HBO documentary on Tiger Woods that starts Sunday at 9 p.m. ET, offers all three.

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The classic Tiger Woods.

It doesn’t settle the question of whether Tiger Woods is the best golfer ever. It places him on the top level, lets a few experts weigh in and then leaves it up to the fans and viewers, which is fair.

The documentary itself, whose second part will air a week from Sunday in the same timeslot, spends more time hunting for Woods the person. The findings here are mixed, somewhat less impressive than his skills with a golf club but not entirely downbeat. …


One of Tommy Lasorda’s several stops over 14 seasons in the minor leagues was the Denver Bears, the Triple-A American Association affiliate of the New York Yankees.

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Lasorda’s optimistic 1954 baseball card.

Lasorda pitched in 22 games for the Bears at the end of the 1956 season and the beginning of the 1957 season. He won three and lost six before he was traded back to the then-Brooklyn Dodgers, with whose Triple-A Montreal farm team he spent the last three years of his playing career.

Lasorda, who died Thursday of heart problems at the age of 93, spent the rest of his life tattooing himself as a Dodger. “Bleeding Dodger Blue” was such a Lasorda tagline that no one would have blinked an eye if he requested it for his epitaph. …


Gerry and the Pacemakers may not have ascended to the toppermost of the poppermost, like their fellow British Invasion band the Beatles, but in their shared hometown of Liverpool, they’re almost as cherished.

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Anfield (when fans are allowed in).

When the Liverpool Football Club takes the pitch at Anfield Stadium, 53,384 football fans sing along with “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the recording that Gerry Marsden and the Pacemakers cut on July 2, 1963.

There’s a broad consensus that it may have become the most inspiring anthem in professional sports.

Nor do you have to be a soccer fan to enjoy the legacy of Gerry Marsden, who died Monday at the age of 78. …


Someone should thank Cyndi Lauper for giving the social media world the gift it most cherishes: a target.

For those who missed it, Lauper’s performance last Thursday on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve was one of those nights she’ll want to forget.

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She performed a short, awkward duet of “True Colors” with Billy Porter, then soloed energetically and sometimes off-key on an EDM version of “Hope.”

For most of 2020 this wouldn’t have mattered, because most artists spent 2020 singing in the shower after virtually all performance venues shut down.

Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve airs on ABC, however, a national television network, so a lot of people saw it. …


It’s funny. We were just talking about the McGuire Sisters the other day and then came the sad news that Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving sister, died Tuesday in her Las Vegas home, age 89.

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It brings the sun a little closer to setting on one of the most cherished symbols of innocence from the 1950s and the early 1960s: the sweet harmonies and chaste love songs of the “girl groups.”

“Sugartime,” the McGuires. “Mr. Sandman,” the Chordettes. “Born Too Late,” the Poni Tails. “Hearts of Stone,” the Fontane Sisters. “Maybe,” the Chantels. “Alone,” the Shepherd Sisters. “I Love How You Love Me,” the Paris Sisters. …


Perhaps even more than usual, television was comfort food in 2020. As one of the few entertainment options whose availability was unaffected by Covid-19, it was a place — unlike the movies or the ball game or a concert — that was still up and running.

Accordingly, I found myself looking at TV shows through a slightly different prism this year. To be more specific, I was valuing intense profound content and artistic excellence perhaps a bit less and sheer entertainment perhaps a bit more.

Even if a show had some problems, if it was fun, I was there. I’m sure that’s how a lot of people explain watching The Bachelorette, and while I haven’t entered that realm yet, I get the thought. …


Frankly, many fans of British period romance have been a little concerned over the fact that Bridgerton, the new Regency era drama that debuts Christmas day on Netflix, is being produced by Shonda Rhimes.

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Rege-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor.

That’s not criticism of Rhimes so much as concern that this might not be a match.

Rhimes is noted for splashy, noisy, over-the-top productions where the characters speak in double-time and each plot twist is designed to be more outlandish than the one before.

The best British period dramas, of which there have been many, tend to unspool at a more deliberate pace, taking time to savor the verdant fields and marvel at the light pouring in through the drawing-room window. The characters almost always speak in polite, measured tones, no matter how aggravated they may feel, and while storylines advance, they don’t do so with the kind of crazy leaps that became a Rhimes trademark in shows like Scandal or How To Get Away With Murder. …


One of the many minefields of age has claimed Chad Stuart, half of the 1960s British Invasion duo Chad and Jeremy, and while Chad and Jeremy won’t be carved into the Mount Rushmore of rock ’n’ roll, they were a solid stone along the trail.

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Chad Stuart in the mid-’60s, from the Chad & Jeremy website.

Stuart, who retired from performing in 2016, recently suffered a fall at his home. He turned 79 on Dec. 10 and falling, sadly, is a deadly hazard of reaching that kind of age.

He was hospitalized and developed pneumonia, which proved fatal.

It is another of the universe’s many little ironies that an artist best known for “A Summer Song” would pass away at the Winter Solstice. …

About

David Hinckley

David Hinckley wrote for the New York Daily News for 35 years. Now he drives his wife crazy by randomly quoting Bob Dylan and “Casablanca.”

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