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Memories and Thoughts about Shows in New York City

Apr 28, 2008
Eiji Yoshikawa

I’d like to share some memories and thoughts about the shows that I went to in 1983 and 1984 in New York.

Ray Charles

Seeing Ray Charles on stage was very special to me. I first heard his music in the 1966 film, “In the Heat of the Night”. The song was written by Quincy Jones, and Ray Charles sang the song with the full taste of the south. I was never down in the south or even in the US before, but this music gave me the feeling of being there. The film made a powerful impression on me when I first saw it, when I was just nine or ten years old. At the end of the movie, Rod Steiger, the small town police chief, gave a very sincere smile to the New York detective played by Sidney Poitier, as he was leaving the small southern town by train. The racist policeman could finally see other people as human beings. I can say that that smile taught me everything I needed to know, no matter how old I get.

Later in July of 2002, in a Greek amphitheater by the very blue Mediterranean Sea in Sicily, where Maestro Ennio Morricone conducted a 200 plus person orchestra, they announced to the audience the death of Rod Steiger. Steiger had starred in “A Fistful of Dynamite”, for which Ennio wrote the music. Sitting on the two thousand year-old stone-made seat in the Sicilian summer night, as a sea breeze crossed the theater, I recalled Rod Steiger’s smile.

Bog Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

Bog Seger and the Silver Bullet Band had a show in the spring at the Nassau Coliseum in New York. To get to the Coliseum, I took the Long Island train for the first time, to a town called Hempstead. I got off the train and asked in the train station where the Coliseum was. I took the bus, feeling that I had come very far away from the city. I asked the African-American lady on the bus to let me know when the stop for the Coliseum came around. She said yes right away and then pointed out the Coliseum to me.

As I walked closer, there was a strange feeling around the area, since there weren’t many people around. There were just a few older persons standing with their arms crossed. It turned out that the band couldn’t make it to the show for some reason, so they postponed the show for a few weeks. Well, because of the cancellation, I could at least enjoy being out in the country where there’s more green than in the city with all the skyscrapers.

A few weeks later, the show was a true rock’n roll event with firecrackers here and there. “Against the wind. I’m older now, but I’m still running against the wind.” The simple lyrics caught me right away. I was twenty-two years old then, but somehow I could foresee that that’s what I would also be like when I was forty or fifty years old.

Southside Johnny and Asbury Jukes

Southside Johnny and Asbury Jukes on the Pier in New York was a good show too, with the open sky. I don’t remember which pier it was. It was somewhere around Pier 40 or 52. I was near the front and the young guys in front were talking to the singer loudly, requesting songs. Each time the guy in the front row said, “Johnny”, the singer said, “What?” and they exchanged a few words quickly. It was quite an interactive concert.

Gary US Bonds

Gary US Bonds was making a “revival” appearance since Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt wrote some songs for him. I think that the Boss funded him a lot too. The new songs, and especially the US Bonds’ style ones written by Bruce, like “This Little Girl” and “Jole Blon”, were a lot of fun. These musicians help each other because they respect each other.

Roberto Duran KO’s Davey Moore to Grab His 3rd World Title in Madison Square Garden

Davey Moore, a young contender, came to Japan in February of 1982, and beat the Japanese champion Mihara, to become the new super welterweight champion. Roberto Duran was an ageing boxer, especially after the infamous “No Mas” fight in November of 1980 against Sugar Ray Leonard. However, the experienced “Fist of Stone” Duran stopped the young champion in the 8th round to celebrate his 32nd birthday.

My walk back home that midnight from Madison Square Garden to the West Side YMCA on Broadway was such a happy one. So much so that I was almost dancing in the street. I recall a story about Duran’s childhood in Panama. He had to swim across the river between the market and his home, carrying a heavy bunch of bananas to support his poor family. Duran was absolutely a “pound for pound”, and was a hero to many boxers in Japan also.

Davey Moore died five years later in a car accident. This Davey Moore was not the one that Bob Dylan sang about in his famous song, “Who Killed Davey Moore”. Polly Meininger, one of my English teachers at the American Language Program at Columbia University, once brought a cassette tape of this song to class and everyone studied the lyrics. After checking all the words, Polly asked me, “Eiji, you are a fighter. Who do you think might have killed Davey Moore? Who is responsible?”

I answered, “All boxers that walk up the stairs into the ring know that they may get killed. We are willing to win, and at the same time, we are prepared for anything that could happen in the ring. Boxers are responsible for their own death or survival in the ring.”

To be continued in my next column… 

Eiji Yoshikawa is a retired Pro Boxer who majored inFrench literature and did his thesis on Jean Cocteau and Cinematography. He founded the "Peacemakers", Japan's first neighborhood watch, and spends much of his time visiting schools and communities teaching children about non-violence. In 2004, Japan Inc. Magazine called him the "Compassionate Pugilist". We are proud to offer "Letters from the Compassionate Pugilist" as our first guestcolumnist. Contact Eiji at www.eiji.tv or via email.

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