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April 26, 2015 / thackersam

April 26 – Shoot the Keys!

ChicoThere’s always someone posing a question about who was the best this or that, or who was the better of two artists on that WNEW-FM Fan Club on Facebook. Sometimes I like to see the different opinions, but rarely chime in. Except that time that an actual article was posted boasting the list of the 20 best drummers of all time, which included Prince protégé Sheila E. but not Gene Krupa. I had just watched an interview by Liberty DeVitto (Billy Joel) with Dino Danelli ((The Rascals) that morning in which Liberty tells Dino that Dino and Ringo (I don’t have to explain that one, do I?) were the most influential drummers for him, so I posted that, cause really, what constitutes “best?” The more recent query of who’s the best rock ‘n roll pianist did not motivate me to add my two cents. We all know by now that I think Billy Joel is a phenomenal piano player. I, of course, was already a fan decades ago – hometown, sort of, boy, incredibly talented and charismatic – but it was back when he was on 60 Minutes and demonstrated how he played the beginning of “Angry Young Man,” furiously chopping the keys, never missing a note, that left me awestruck. Billy Joel is by far my favorite rock ‘n roll piano man, however, as amazing as he is, my all-time favorite piano player is Chico Marx.

As someone who knows a little about the Marx Brothers, and is the proud owner of the movie photobook Why a Duck, with a very funny introduction by Groucho, I am aware that Groucho was not awfully fond of the musical numbers performed by his brothers in their movies. I could not agree and disagree more. I love the Marx Brothers, but never liked Harpo (except I’ve got to give him props for the famous mirror scene in Duck Soup). To me, his character was nothing more than an annoying pest, not to mention molester, and the harp playing was, well just plain boring. I like Zeppo more than I do Harpo, and if I had ever seen Gummo, I’d probably like him better too. I should mention here that Groucho had said that his brother Harpo was one of the sweetest guys he knew.

But Chico – Chico was funny. His scenes with Groucho are priceless, and when he played piano, he did so with such delight, his pianist fingers which seem to magically appear from a goofy persona, tripping over the keys with precision, teasing the ivories more than tickling them. And then he gives this mischievous look as he aims his trigger finger and shoots a key. Bang. He shoots the keys enjoying every moment of his time at the piano, and we, at least I know I do, share in his delight and enjoyment. Seeing Chico (which Groucho pronounced Chick-o) shoot the keys makes me happy, dammit.

Memory moment – my brother bought me the book Why a Duck as a birthday or Christmas present back in the ‘70s. We weren’t the gift for no reason type of family, a trait I did not continue, and my father wasn’t a gift without strings kind of father, so I am sure that the book was for an occasion. Regardless, my brother and I watched Marx Brothers movies together and the “Why a Duck” scene from the movie Coconuts (oh, and the intercom scene from Day at the Races) had us hysterical with laughter. And we so needed the laughs.

If you have never seen a Marx Brothers movie, I suggest you begin with Duck Soup to get your feet wet.

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