I’m in shock.
So I finish writing, close the Microsoft Word window, and what pops up but Tweetdeck.
The celebs’ favorite, Kelly Oxford, is tweeting about Gandolfini and the ducks and it seems a bit out of nowhere, but that’s where most of her tweets emanate from. Then I scan up my feed and I realize.
No, it didn’t quite happen that way, it was kinda like December 8, 1980, when I was demonstrating my new car stereo to my buddy and every station was playing the Beatles. It starts to sink in. Something out of the ordinary is occurring. Maybe Gandolfini’s gotten into a car accident, but I go to Google and that’s when it’s clear…
He’s gone. At 51.
All of a sudden I’m overcome by a feelin’ of brief mortality
‘Cause I’m gettin’ on in the world
Comin’ up on forty one years
Forty one stony gray steps towards the grave
You know, the box, awaits its grisly load
Now I’m gonna be food for worms
I don’t know why I played A3’s album, known as Alabama 3 in the U.K., but anybody who did, and there weren’t many of us, was immediately struck by “Woke Up This Morning.” And when I heard it at the beginning of “The Sopranos”… It’s the one intro I never fast-forwarded through, it was a prelude to my Sunday night ritual.
I was hip to James Gandolfini previously. He was unforgettable in “True Romance” and “Get Shorty,” but at this point the only great cable television program was “Larry Sanders,” we were not prepared for “The Sopranos.”
I stumbled upon it in the middle of the night, waking up when I was sick, I was immediately hooked, I recorded it from the beginning and watched, and proceeded to tell everybody I knew about it.
Sure, there’d been reviews previously, which I’d ignored, everything spreads by trusted word of mouth these days.
And the breakthrough episode was Meadow checking out colleges, when Tony stumbles upon an old Mafioso in the witness protection program in Maine, and…kills him with his bare hands.
And then there was that episode where Meadow was punished by…having her Discover card taken away for three weeks, and she told her friend on the phone that she had her parents wrapped around her finger.
That’s why “The Sopranos” was so damn good, it was so real, the nuances of modern life.
But now he’s gone.
And people die every day. Literally. But I’ve never seen such an outpouring of sympathy and grief, it’s like when Princess Diana died, but Gandolfini was just an actor.
In the best damn television show ever made.
Ask people who their Representative is, who ran for VP and lost last fall, they’ll be flummoxed. But they all know Tony Soprano. That’s art. When done right its cultural impact is limitless. Life is drudgery, art makes living worthwhile.
Oh, David Chase deserves a ton of credit. But without Gandolfini, the show wouldn’t work.
So long, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus
So long, Duke Ellington and Lester Young
So long, Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald
So long, Jimmy Reed
So long, Muddy Waters
And so long, Howlin’ Wolf
So long, James Gandolfini!
Like the Beatles, there was never a reunion. There was the peak, six seasons, and POOF!, it was done.
But you live on, not only in our hearts and our memories, but on the screen.
That’s the power of excellence, that’s the power of performance.
My only regret is that you’re not here to experience it.
No one knows who will be remembered. You just take your chances and do the work. You can’t worry about your legacy, you can just try to get it right. And when you do, we know, because we’re watching.
And it’s so damn rare.