2006 saw the quiet passing away of two little-known figures of amazing accomplishment. In music, Bobby Doyle and in journalism, Oriana Fallaci. Doyle was a Texas-based composer, jazz pianist and one of the most versatile R & B singers who ever lived. David Letterman asked Kenny Rogers, then at the height of his fame in the late 80s, who his musical hero was and without hesitation he answered, “Bobby Doyle”. No one, not even in Letterman’s excellent band, knew who he was. However, he launched Roger’s career, then had his own brief success with a few singles and two albums in the late 60s and early 70s, that have pretty much everything you want on them, from smoking-hot raves to heartbreaking ballads. He was tagged as a “white Ray Charles”, because he was influenced by him, as well as blind. But this is inaccurate. Like Charles, Doyle had an imitable tone and style, and an unmistakable passion all his own. Texas has produced an astounding number of high quality R & B singers. I’ve never heard a good explanation, except for the one about music teachers in Texas public schools being especially great, combined with the singing involved in a church-going community, of which there are thousands in the state. But that can be said for Iowa. I wonder if it might be state pride: growing up with the need not just to excel, but to be different and distinct. Who knows? Bobby Doyle ended his days playing to crowds in music venues and nightclubs across Texas, a state that loves its musicians. He will be missed.
In 1977, the Italian journalist, Oriana Fallaci, wrote a book that changed my life, ‘Interview With History’. After reading the transcripts of her conversations with Henry Kissinger, Yasir Arafat, President Thieu and General Giap, among many others, I felt that anything was possible. I was 25 and needed such reassurance given by her example of fearlessness. She was the toughest journalist among her generation, and perhaps of all time. She made her own history when she defiantly removed her mandatory veil during her interview of Khomeini. He was truly moved, and even weakened, by the experience. (Alas, it has never been published in book form.) Fallaci put most other journalists to shame, and still does by her example, especially those we have today. Robert Kaplan is the only one who rivals her, in my opinion, and half the time he’s cribbing from Israeli military history. She died last summer, hardly noticed except in her native Italy. At the risk of sounding sexist, I recommend ‘Interview With History’ to American girls and young women. I fear they’re missing a true heroine, a writer with proven, battle-tested courage. She was a woman whose shoes they can’t fill, who makes them understand they must wear their own.