Category: Music

The Secret Life of Dan Wilson

Closing time. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

These are the closing lyrics to one of the biggest hits of the 90s. It still gets plenty of play at the end of the night in bars and in high school dances (I’m assuming. High school was a while ago, but things couldn’t have changed that much, right?) or at the end of the day at the office. It’s overplayed, it’s cliche, but it’s familiar, and that’s why it continued to get played. That song came out in 1998. I was born in 1990. With each passing day, it becomes harder and harder to remember a world before “Closing Time.” Semisonic, the Minneapolis based alternative rock band that recorded “Closing Time” is apparently still together, despite not releasing a studio album since 2001, but has faded into obscurity as they could never replicate the success of that one hit. Semisonic’s front man, however, is a different story.

The other day, I happened to hear on the radio that Dan Wilson, Semisonic’s lead singer, lead guitarist, and songwriter, is one of the most successful songwriters and producers in the business. For all I know, this might already be common knowledge. I don’t follow music as much as I would like to. It’s not as easy as it was when I was in high school. In Massachusetts, we used to have WBCN and WFNX on the FM dial. They were two great rock stations that were often the first stations in the country playing new artists that would eventually make it big. With the Internet, we have access to pretty much any and every song that has ever been recorded, but with that much out there, it becomes overwhelming and I usually end up listening to the same stuff I listened to in high school and the new material those artists have released since then. Now, the pop and country stations have taken over, and WBCN’s old studio is occupied by 98.5 The Sports Hub, a sports talk station with the feel of a rock station. It was on The Sports Hub where Toucher and Rich, two holdovers from the WBCN Era, mentioned in passing that “the guy who sings ‘Closing Time'” is really successful as a behind-the-scenes guy these days. Naturally, I felt the need to check Wikipedia, and discovered they were right.

Dan Wilson produced Adele’s album 21, and co-wrote and played piano for the song “Someone Like You.” That song was #1 for five weeks, and has replaced Celine Dion’s “All By Myself” as the song people blast at full volume when they’re sad. He has also collaborated with Taylor Swift, Ben Folds, Rivers Cuomo (front man for Weezer), Carole King, Dixie Chicks, Jason Mraz, LeAnn Rimes, Keith Urban, and KT Tunstall, among many others. Who knew?

Dan Wilson’s music career reminds me of Trent Dilfer’s football career, if Dilfer wasn’t on ESPN all the time. Dilfer was a solid game managing quarterback, but by no means a superstar. He was the starter for the defensively loaded Baltimore Ravens team that won Super Bowl XXXV (the same year as the most recent Semisonic studio album), but never repeated that level of success. He spent the rest of his playing career as a “mentor backup” helping out promising young QBs who were the future of their team. When he’s not on TV, he’s still a quarterback guru who works with some of the best young players in the country. Dan Wilson may not have been able to sustain success as the headlining act, but he’s made a lot of money helping others get there.

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A Week of Milestones

A lot of significant milestones were met this week in sports, in pop culture, and in society as a whole. I could have done shorter, specific posts about each, but I felt it was better to just combine it since it’s amazing that it all happened this week.

The Gettysburg Address turns 150. Seven score and ten years ago, the most important speech in American history was given on a cold Pennsylvania field near the end of a long ceremony. President Lincoln only spoke for two minutes, but said more than anyone else could in that moment. Tribute has been paid to this milestone with everything from a Ken burns mashup featuring every living president, a 2013 World Series champion, a software pioneer, and several TV personalities, to a hilarious appearance on SNL‘s Weekend Update from a 19th Century speech critic who wrote a negative review of the Address. 150 years later, these words are still important in remembering what makes America great.

John F. Kennedy was assassinated 50 years ago. The same week people were (I’m assuming) commemorating the Gettysburg Address’ centennial, came another event that changed America forever. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the young charismatic president who weathered the Cuban Missile Crisis was gunned down in Dallas this week in 1963. JFK was the first president America got to know through television, a medium that forever changed the way we perceive the highest office in the land. He was the the youngest elected president and first president assassinated since William McKinley in 1901. Fortunately, he is also the last assassinated president to date. 50 years later, conspiracy theories still run rampant about Kennedy’s killer, Lee Harvey Oswald. We will likely never know for sure if he acted alone or in a league with other parties.

Doctor Who debuted in Britain on the same day as the JFK’s assassination. It’s hard to believe a children’s show from England about a time traveling alien whose original leading actor left the show in 1966 could be celebrating a 50th Anniversary with a new episode this weekend, but Doctor Who is nothing if not versatile. The earliest episodes were in black and white and make Star Trek: The Original Series look like a James Cameron movie, but there’s something intriguing about it. The title character evolved and changed with the times, looking younger while growing wiser with age. The Doctor’s regeneration was only built into the show because it was a hit and William Hartnell had to retire due to illness. The original run of Doctor Who was cancelled in 1989, but was rebooted in 2005 and now has a larger worldwide audience than ever before thanks to the Internet. With Matt Smith leaving the show in December, the Doctor will change his face yet again. This is a show that could go on pretty much forever as it continues to reach new audiences.

The White Album turns 45. Maybe the best album The Beatles ever released, their self titled album with a blank white cover was released this week in 1968. It was a double album loaded with great songs including “Back in the U.S.S.R.” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” “Helter Skelter” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” Since it’s in the discussion for best Beatles album, it’s also in the discussion for best rock album ever recorded.

Patrice Bergeron plays in his 600th NHL game. In 2003, an 18 year old kid from Quebec arrived in Boston after the Bruins selected him in the 2nd round of the NHL Draft. Since then, he has grown into one of the hardest working players in the NHL and is currently the longest tenured Boston Bruin. He missed almost an entire season to a sever concussion in 2007-08, but his desire to play hockey at a high level despite is a true inspiration. Bergy had the game winning goal in Game 7 against the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 (and I have a theory that’s why Robin hates her coworker Patrice on How I Met Your Mother), and led the charge when the Bruins surged past the Toronto Maple Leafs last spring. Dave Goucher’s call of “BERGERON!!! BERGERON!!!” in reaction to his OT game winner against the Leafs ranks up there with the great radio calls in the history of Boston sports. 600 games in the NHL is a big deal. I hope there are many more, Bergy.

Martin St. Louis plays in his 1000th NHL game. He was the teammate and roommate of Tim Thomas at the University of Vermont. He went undrafted. Like Thomas, Marty kept trying. He never gave up. He’s turned an unlikely career into a star career with a combination of skill, intelligence, and grit to make up for his lack of size. It’s like seeing Dustin Pedroia or Wes Welker on skates. Marty is now the face of the Tampa Bay Lightning and notched the 1000 game mark this week. He’s a great competitor and a joy to watch.

Jaromir Jagr scores his 690th NHL goal. The Jagr has tied his mentor. After playing for years in the shadow of his teammate Mario Lemieux, he now has just as many career goals as Super Mario. Goal 690 also tied him with the great Gordie Howe for 1st in game winning goals with his 121st.  Those goals were scored for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, and most recently, the New Jersey Devils. Jagr will probably play for the other half of the league before he finally hangs up his skates. Jags has had a great career and has firmly cemented himself in the discussion for best European born forward (I’d put him ahead of Teemu Selanne and Jari Kurri, personally) and best European born player (I’d put him ahead of fellow Czech Dominik Hasek but I’m not ready to say that he’s better than Swedish defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom). The most amazing thing about his goal total is that he’s done that in a career interrupted by three lockouts (including the entire 2004-05 season being cancelled) and playing in Europe for three season before returning to the NHL in 2011. Jags is The Simpsons of the NHL. He’s old, and he’s not as good as he used to be, but he’s still better than 90% of what’s on TV and I’ll be sad when it ends if that day ever comes.