For Keith and Rudy, Whenever I May Find Them

It’s 23 August, so it’s time for my obligatory yearly tribute to Keith Moon and Rudy Valentino. Moonie was born on this date in 1946, and Rudy was taken from this life on this date in 1926.

There was a reason Keith almost never sang lead, but when he did, he just put his whole heart into it and did the best he could with the vocal chords he was given. It’s the same way with how Ringo isn’t the world’s best singer either, but just has such a great personality that you don’t really care. The voice just matches the personality. “We Close Tonight,” in which Keith trades vocals with John, is probably the most on-key he ever sounded!

Each bandmember has his own theme on the masterpiece Quadrophenia, and “Bell Boy” is Keith’s. It’s such a natural fit for his voice and personality. Going on 13 years after I finally first heard it, it’s still my favouritest album ever, of all time. There are so many wonderful moments all throughout, but I think my favouritest moment remains that point in “The Rock” where the four themes appear separately, slowly first, then faster and faster, until finally they merge into one. Jimmy’s no longer at war with himself. He’s finally at peace, just in time for the breathtaking conclusion of “Love, Reign O’er Me.”

So sad how Rudy didn’t live long enough to make even one talking picture. These songs are the only known surviving recordings of his voice, though he frequently did radio broadcasts. It would be awesome if there were recordings around somewhere of all those old radio shows! The voice recording technology he used in 1923 wasn’t really accurate or representative of one’s true voice. Had he stepped back into the studio to try again in 1925 or ’26, we’d have a more realistic idea of what he sounded like.

I’ll never forget how my heart literally skipped a beat the first time I saw Rudy in motion, 17 November 2004. I’ll admit he sometimes looks a little weird or stilted in still pictures, like Theda Bara. He’s one of those moviestars who has to be seen in motion to really be appreciated and understood. Rudy is the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen, and he was beautiful on the inside too. I’m told the great-grandma who died two months before I was born (and who’d really been looking forward to meeting me) loved him too, looked forward to going to Pittsburgh on weekends to see his movies.

I’m now older (though not by much!) than either Rudy or Moonie ever got to be. It’s a kind of sobering reminder of one’s own mortality, and kind of embarrassing when I think of how much they’d already accomplished at such young ages. But I’ve been kept alive for a reason. I really think I’ll end up a dark horse winner like George Harrison, one of my fellow Quiet Ones.

My Cinnimin, one of my quintessential characters, ended up with a 23 August birthday. I assigned her that birthdate quite a few years before I ever became a serious Who freak or Valentino fan! It were like I knew, even before I knew. I later gave all 10 of her kids that birthdate as well, along with quite a few other people in town. It’s now become a bit of a running joke and great continuity at how a good percentage of the neighbourhood shares that birthday!

Cinni was born on Rudy’s fourth Jahrzeit (death anniversary), and I later wrote it in that her young aunt Lucinda got to pick her middle name. It would’ve been Rudolph had she been a boy, but Lucinda was such a fan, even four years on, that she found a way to honour Rudy in a roundabout way. Cinni’s middle name, Rebecca, also has seven letters and starts with the letter R. Hey, that’s the rationale I’ve heard a good many Ashkenazim give when claiming a child is named after a relative with a much different name. Some people only use the first letter or a similar sound. I personally think it’s a bit of a stretch, but whatever.

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