Isaac Hayes and Mahmoud Darwish

It’s a cruel year when we have to mourn Bo Diddley, Isaac Hayes and Mahmoud Darwish, three personages that are so big it is hard for me to think of them as dead. All these guys were revolutionaries in their own ways.

Isaac Hayes passed on Sunday, and I will not repeat the incredible details of his life here, since you can read them yourself in this very good Washington Post obit.

Hayes’ 1974 song “Hung Up On My Baby” has probably my favorite guitar lick of all time (OK, with the possible exception of some Ali Farka Toure stuff, but I consider any comparisons with him unfair). It’s the one sampled in the Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks On Me,” and it’s completely haunting and unforgettable.

The song also has the second best guitar lick ever, which 2nd II None sampled in their early 90s hit, “If You Want It,” which was one of my favorite songs when I was about 12. Little did I know how much better the original was.

Mahmoud Darwish was, of course, a Palestinian poet — the Palestinian poet, really. His death on Saturday is a big loss not just because of his artistic genius but also because he was a voice of compassion, reason and nuance in a conflict and region rife with extremes. I feel lucky I got to see him read in person in Damascus in 2005. Here’s a decent LA Times obit (read it now because the link will probably only work for a while).

I’ll fill for them the parting glass, and I hope you’ll do the same.

"And Life Goes On"

Every time I hear of a tragic, premature and unjust death, the Tupac Shakur song “Life Goes On” begins playing in my head. It’s what I listened to when Columbine happened, and when the war in Iraq started.

It’s what I’ll be listening to tonight thinking about the death of the ten-year-old Palestinian boy pictured above, who was shot in the head and killed by Israeli forces on Tuesday in the village of Ni’lin.

Lots of innocents die everyday in the Middle East and around the world, but this death holds special significance for me because the child was known to my friend and colleague Willow Heske (she posted this picture on her blog), who is working in Palestine for the summer. It also resonates because this child was shot during demonstrations against the “security wall” (more appropriately called the “apartheid wall”) being built through his village. The wall is a violation of human rights and international law, an attempt to ghettoize a people based on ethnicity and a harbinger of bad times. We should all be concerned about it, especially we Americans, because our tax dollars are indirectly financing it.

I don’t like hyperbole for these kind of matters — the tragedy speaks for itself. I just want to bring attention to this boy’s unnecessary death.