As Tony Fitzpatrick and Jon Langford took the stage of the Hideout Tuesday evening for the press preview of their tribute to late WXRT-FM DJ Lin Brehmer, I thought, there are two Chicago cultural icons the likes of which we won’t see again. And then, of course, I realized that there was a third such icon up there in spirit.
Tony, a noted artist, actor and writer, created a series of artworks in tribute to Brehmer under the theme Cinderella Blackbird. He wrote a long, gritty and beautiful poem to accompany the images of the artworks projected during the hour-long event. Jon, a noted musician and artist, provided the music and sang parts of the poem, while Tony recited others. They were accompanied by John Szymanski, who also created the arrangements, on electric guitar. Long-time local rock critic Greg Kot likened the happening to Ken Nordine’s Word Jazz. That is an apt description. In the moment, my mind went to Roger Waters’ The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking.
When they were not performing the poem, Tony and Jon told warm and funny anecdotes about their long-time friendship with Brehmer, including the longstanding tradition of Lin and Jon performing Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales every holiday season until they suspected their friends might be getting a wee bit sick of it. Meanwhile, Tony recounted how a different poem, Wallace Stevens’ Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, helped spark his friendship with Lin, and ultimately inspired the Cinderella Blackbird series.
May we all enjoy such a soaring sendoff when our number is called, and may we take every opportunity to enjoy the works of Tony Fitzpatrick and Jon Langford in the meantime.
Cinderella Blackbird: Poems, Stories & Songs in Memory of Lin Brehmer, Performed by Tony Fitzpatrick & Jon Langford, runs April 21-23 at the Hideout.
Photo by Frank Sennett