Now you might get a hint of why the life of a professor of media studies can be so downright joyous.
A sociologist of media and culture is like a free-range chicken. We are dead serious about the impact of media and culture on society, but we are relatively free to find that impact in all sorts of nooks and crannies, past and present.
Which leads me to the great Ronnie Dyson.
This morning I accidentally popped the original Broadway soundtrack of “Hair” into my computer. I saw the show performed by the original company, and I have always loved the music, despite the saccharine covers of the songs that have been recorded over the years. It does, though, leave me with complicated, mixed feelings. So much of the enthusiasm and lunacy I felt when I saw the original cast in 1969 seems so distant.
And all those dreams. Some lead to dead ends. Others became life-long journeys. So much seemed possible.
And then I thought of Ronnie Dyson. Joyous, hilarious, gifted Ronnie Dyson. You might remember this song:
Ronnie Dyson was an ebullient, infectiously enthusiastic performer who brought the original cast of Hair to life. He had a sweet and powerful tenor voice and a wicked sense of humor. He was mischievous. If Hair was a celebration of life, Ronnie was the fuel, the raw material. He seemed to live more fully than everyone else.
Except that he didn’t. This morning I woke up, vowing to send him an email and tell him of the impression he made, only to learn that — after making several memorable recordings — he died in 1990 of heart failure. He was 40 years old.
Thank you. Ronnie Dyson. Bringer of joy. Thank you.