Barbara Gordon: A Life Lived in Song

This is a memorial essay for Barbara Gordon, written by my friend Yvonne Raley, formerly Associate Professor of Philosophy at Felician University.

The sound of your voice will always be with me, Barbara, my beloved and loyal friend, my teacher of song. I am so grateful to have been graced with your presence for 27 years of my life, and so torn apart by your untimely death.

I knew you as delicate and fragile in many ways, and yet you were mighty, a true force that would fill people’s hearts with music and joy. I will never forget how you grilled me before taking me on as your student, to make sure I had enough dedication, because you would accept nothing less. I finally won you over with our shared love for Debussy and my ability to speak French, and so in 1994 I became your tutee Friday mornings at NYU, and a couple of years later at your home where I became part of your extended family: I stood next to the piano and practiced as Josh graduated high school and Ellie graduated college, got married and had kids of her own. I met Josh’s cat Milo who loved your yard, and I shared a memorable Seder with you. Not only did you introduce me to Satie and Ravel, but also to your Chiropractor and to Whole Foods!

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Barbara Gordon (1947-2021), RIP

I just got news today, a week after the fact, of the untimely passing of my friend and colleague Barbara Gordon, Associate Professor of Music and Instructor in French at Felician University. Hired about a year before I was (2007), Barbara essentially built the university’s music department and program (including its choir) from the ground up, and was responsible for just about every major musical event–religious, classical, jazz–that took place on campus. She organized the Christmas concert as well as the musical parts of the convocation and commencement ceremonies, and virtually every concert and recital in between. Where there was high musical culture to be had at Felician–be it Adele, Bach, or Coltrane–Barbara was likely behind it.  

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Goodbye, Neil Peart

[A guest post by my younger brother, Suleman Khawaja.]

I can still remember being six years old, sitting on the asphalt basketball court behind St. Joseph’s church, tagging along with my older brother and the other neighborhood 12-year olds, trying hard not to be so conspicuously small. A hushed anticipation fell over the churchyard. I can still hear the ephemeral bumps and clicks as the tape unspooled in the little boom box, the sonic artifacts of fingers pressing Record and Play on someone’s Dad’s hi-fi, the click of the needle touching down on vinyl. “This is it, man!” The LP-to-cassette knock-off of Moving Pictures cued to launch the opening burst of “Tom Sawyer” into the air of North Jersey suburbia.

1981. West Orange, New Jersey. That’s the first time I heard Rush. The first time I ever heard of Neil Peart. One story among so many others. But mine.

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“Bohemian Rhapsody”: A Rhapsody

The year is 1977–maybe late October or November. I’m eight years old, having dinner in a pizzeria with my immigrant family in Blairstown, New Jersey–Dominick’s, I think it was. Suddenly, the stereo system at Dominick’s pipes out the unforgettable bass-snare drum beat of the latest hit on the radio:

BOOM BOOM Clap

BOOM BOOM Clap

BOOM BOOM Clap

BOOM BOOM Clap

Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise
Playin’ in the street gonna be a big man some day
You got
Mud on yo’ face
Big disgrace
Kickin’ your can all over the place

Everyone in Dominick’s but us–maybe two dozen Warren County rednecks–starts stomping their feet and clapping their hands in time to the music. Somebody yells out, “Fuckin Yankees!” (The Yankees had won the World Series that year.) And then, two dozen voices in unison, between bites of Jersey Neapolitan pizza, sing in commemoration of the Yankees’ victory over the Dodgers, and anything else that comes to mind:

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Malcolm Young (1953-2017), RIP

“A real entertainer, a mischief maker, lover of no fixed abode…”

I never thought, at the age of twelve (when I first discovered AC/DC), that I’d be reading Malcolm Young’s obituaries in the mainstream press. And yet, here they are: Rolling Stone, NPR, The Los Angeles TimesCBS News, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Guitar World. Angus Young, on behalf of the band.

Never has one man done so much, so many times, with so few chords.  Continue reading