A number of years ago I was relating a New York City story to my mother. She said “You sound like Pete Hamill.” To which I said, “That’s about as fine a compliment as you’ve ever given me.”
When Hamill, a quintessential New Yorker, died earlier in the week I thought back to the few times I met him. I can’t say I knew him but we did chat a bit. During one of the chats I told him a family story about my grandparents’ sufferings after one of their daughters died and how these many years later I had taken steps to honor their pain. I related that I was motivated after watching Ric Burns’ documentary “New York.” Hamill, talking about the sufferings of his immigrant father said, “We must honor their pain, that’s what the children of immigrants do.”
I was holding his book, “Downtown,” and asked him to sign it. He wrote, “Charles, long life, and keep honoring the pain of those who came before us.” I remember thinking…he was really paying attention.
And damn, could he talk our language. New York Times columnist Dan Barry once wrote of Pete, “If the streets of NYC could talk they’d sound like Pete Hamill.”
What does this have to do with the musical history of New York City? I bet some of you know. Pete actually won a Grammy in 1976 for Best Album Notes for the Bob Dylan album “Blood on the Tracks.”
One of the tracks “Simple Twist of Fate” is said to be Dylan’s nostalgic look back at his early 1960’s romance with Suze Rotolo.