Saturday 22 June 2024

A Different Donald

Celebrating Donald Sutherland, 17th July 1935 to 20th June 2024.

A brilliant actor, Martin over at New Amusements nailed it with a succinct and spot-on summation of his star turn in the 1978 remake of Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers, also a personal favourite. 

Donald brought an intensity to every role that he played, sometimes seemingly effortlessly, always enhanced by those piercing blue eyes. In ...Bodysnatchers, you could absolutely believe that Donald's character had gone for days without sleep and was running on empty...and that final scene. Stayed with me for a long time!

It was also a joy to see Donald appear in the video for Cloudbusting along with Kate Bush. Frankly, whatever he was in was better for his presence. Much is made of Will Smith's against-type role in 1993's Six Degrees Of Separation, but it stands or falls on the dynamic with the couple that his character encounters. It works because Donald and Stockard Channing were cast in the roles. Worth watching if you can track it down.
Which clumsily dovetails into the theme of today's selection. Unlike son Kiefer, Donald didn't release any albums or play gigs at the Cheese & Grain in Frome, However, he has appeared in many, many films, and there are plenty of songs in my collection that share titles. I've got form with this, having created previous selections based on the work of Faye Dunaway, Elizabeth Taylor and Juliette Binoche (possibly others, but I forget).

Unfortunately, no songs titled Six Degrees Of Separation (I do have a 12" by a band of that name, which I'll spare you) but I did run a few posts last year based on the fun variation Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon
So, an obvious starter for today's selection were The Comsat Angels, whose members include (the other) Kevin Bacon. Conveniently, they also recorded a song for 1982 album Fiction with the same name as one of Donald's most famous films. Don't Look Now, but I think I've got away with that tenuous connection!

It's an eclectic sequence of songs and artists, taking in Roxy Music, The Kingfishers, Black Uhuru, late period Ultravox and Scanner aka Robin Rimbaud collaborating with Anni Hogan and Thomas Lang. I've taken some liberties with spelling and the inclusion or omission of the definite article here and there. I've also crowbarred in a reference to Donald's starring role in 1971 film Klute, where the titular drum & bass artist appears in the song name. It also allows me to sneak Mogwai in through the back door. Just imagine if Donald had accepted a role in Gremlins, it would have been even better...!

I felt compelled to include Cloudbusting but at the eleventh hour swapped Kate Bush for a cover version that Neil Halstead (Slowdive, Mojave 3) recorded for a US compilation in 2010. I like it.

It seemed appropriate somehow to pick a fellow Canadian to close the selection, and Neil Young happily stepped up to the mark. Ordinary People was Robert Redford's directorial debut in 1980 and Donald is astonishing as you might expect. Timothy Hutton won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Donald was never nominated for an Academy Award, though he received an honorary Oscar in 2017.  

Not one to do things by halves, Neil Young's take on Ordinary People is an 18-minute chug-a-thon epic, with all the bells and whistles that you may expect, but doesn't feel a second too long. I don't know what Donald thought of Neil's music but I've just discovered that they did meet at least once, when they were both inducted into Canada's Walk Of Fame in 2000, along with Joni Mitchell, Michael J. Fox, Martin Short and William Shatner. Now, that must have been some dinner table conversation...!

Ninety minutes of music then that I hope will also get you looking up some more of Donald's films - Kelly's Heroes! - and rediscovering what singular, otherworldly talent Donald Sutherland is.

And the post title? Well, another take is that when I read the sad news, I wished that the Grim Reaper had come calling for a different Donald instead...

Rest easy, Mr. Sutherland, you did good.

1) Don't Look Now: The Comsat Angels (1982)
2) Casanova: Roxy Music (1974)
3) Instinct: Iggy Pop (1988)
4) Setting Sun (Edit): The Aliens (2007)
5) The Eye Of The Needle: The Kingfishers (2023)
6) Alone: Scanner & Anni Hogan ft. Thomas Lang (2016)
7) Fools Gold (7" Version By John Leckie): The Stone Roses (1989)
8) Heaven Help Us (Try) (Manyanamegamix): Zeke Manyika ft. Sylvia & The Sapphires (1984)
9) Ask The Dust: The Porch Song Anthology (2006)
10) Kelly's Heroes (Album Version): Black Grape (1995)
11) The Great Train Robbery (Dance Mix By Arthur Baker): Black Uhuru (1986) 
12) Cloudbusting (Cover of Kate Bush): Neil Halstead (2010)
13) Thee Eagle Has Landed: Genesis P-Orridge & Psychic TV (1994)
14) Summer (Klute's Weird Winter Remix By Tom Withers): Mogwai (1998)
15) Time To Kill (Album Version): Ultravox (1986)
16) Ordinary People: Neil Young (2007)

1974: Country Life: 2
1982: Fiction: 1
1984: Heaven Help Us (Try) EP: 8 
1986: The Great Train Robbery EP: 11
1986: U-Vox: 15
1988: Instinct: 3
1989: Fools Gold EP: 7 
1994: Ultradrug: 13
1995: It's Great When You're Straight...Yeah: 10 
1998: Kicking A Dead Pig: Mogwai Songs Remixed: 14
2006: Spell Of The Trembling Earth: 9
2007: Chrome Dreams II: 16
2007: Setting Sun EP: 4
2010: Sing Me To Sleep, Indie Lullabies: 12
2016: Scanni: 6
2023: Reflections In A Silver Sound: 5

A Different Donald (1:30:03) (KF) (Mega)