So in my youth, which I of course didn't realize was my youth, I had the joy of musicalizing my D.C. days while I was spying on the Republicans, which I was doing for my next novel, and what I hoped would be my growing connection with my American roots and sensibilities. I had a great friendship, in between political adventures, with Bill and Taffy Danoff, a gifted duo, then married, in whose home I had the joy of singing with and listening to Harry Nillson, Tommy Smothers, and Bill and Taffy themselves, not yet accessorized by John and Margo, who, together with them would become The Starland Vocal Band. They were gifted and darling and unfortunately managed by the most over-rated and self-involved entrepreneur in the business, who quickly sold them down the river and then abandoned them, after their huge success with AFTERNOON DELIGHT, a hit so big it branded them a one-hit-wonder, though the quality of their other songs was often greater. I was in the audience when they were celebrated at the Grammys, and was so excited I left my headlights on in the parking lot, and had to be towed.
It never occurred to me that that kind of career had limitations. Talent was talent. They were lovely human beings besides their gifts, their home a sanctuary for me. So as their fame began to slip away, and Country Roads, which Billy had really written-- I think John Denver's contribution had been "Almost Heaven, West Virginia"-- or maybe that was Taffy's-- became their most noted song even though it was usually attributed to John. Then John's plane fell in the ocean and mostly it became a remembrance, and a more-or-less annual tribute on the part of hardcore(as if there could have been a hardcore to Denver)fans, as their popularity and marriage slipped away. I took it very personally, as I had a tendency to take everything, because I regarded them as My Music Group, and knew not only how gifted, but how bright and funny they were. Billy had actually been a student of Chinese, the language, so that should give you some idea of the eclectic nature of his intelligence.
As the years went by, I loved them no less just because the world did. Even as their marriage ended, and Bill and Taffy split and Bill married Joanie and they had Owen, I regarded them as my personal gifted musicians from D.C. So it is with the greatest of pleasure that I report the emergence of Bill and Joanie's son Owen Danoff, who made his NY nightclub, it sort of was, debut at a place on Bleecker Street Monday night. He's good, extremely musical, and touching.
I am always surprised and a little saddened when people stop doing something at which they were gifted. Gifts, I believe, are really that, something that the fairies or the gods drop on us for reasons we will probably never know and may actually be none of our business. But we have a duty to them, to fulfill them and exercise them as long as we are able, or often past that time. It is the effort that becomes our obligation. So even if we fail, we are admirable because we have kept trying.
I saw Tommy Smothers on an off-the-beaten-track station the other night, and was saddened by how out-of-synch he seemed, a very young man in an old man's body. Still Tommy Smothers, though. I hope he is having a good time, considering what a good time he gave to so many of us, though not always in the circumstances we might have wished. But that is another story. A pretty funny one.