The Tree of Life

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Today’s photo almost doesn’t look like a photo. It seems to me to be more like a drawing or painting. But it’s not.

I took this photo last week at Animal Kingdom in Orlando, FL. in the center of the park (it’s arranged something like a pinwheel with different “areas” around a center spot), is the Tree of Life. It’s not really a living tree. I’m sure it’s made out of cement or some other substance, but it is in the center of the pinwheel and have all sorts of animals formed into the “bark”. This was an image of one side of the tree.

In the book of Genesis and in Revelation, the Bible mentions the tree of life as something with the power to give those who eat of its fruit with eternal life. In Africa, the moringa tree is called “the tree of life” because eating the leaves of the tree are so good for you and it has phenomenal health benefits.

I’m sure that this tree in Orlando can’t do either of those two things, but it does remind us of the diversity of animal life in this world. And I LOVE animals!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: sitting atop the Billboard charts in the first week of January, 1964, Bobby Vinton—”the Polish Prince”—was enjoying the ninth top-40 hit of his young career with “There! I’ve Said Again.” Not only was this the third #1 single for Vinton in a span of just 18 months, but it was the second (after “Blue Velvet”) with a song that was older than many of his fans. Almost 10 years into what we now call “the rock and roll era,” Bobby Vinton was making records that owed far more to Perry Como than they did to Elvis Presley, and he was absolutely thriving commercially. He had little reason to suspect that a revolution was in the offing.

From the perspective of pop stars like Bobby Vinton, the song that knocked “There! I’ve Said Again” out of the #1 spot initiated something closer to a mass extinction than a mere revolution. That song was “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and it heralded not only the rise of the Beatles, but also the near-total demise of the species that had dominated the American pop scene since the end of the Big Band era: the white, male vocalist who did not play an instrument or write his own material.

Steve Lawrence, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon: these are the kind of names one could find at or near the top of the pop charts throughout the early 1960s. Yet none of these singers would ever approach their pre-Beatles level of success in the post-Beatles world—not outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City, anyway. Interestingly, Bobby Vinton was a rare exception in this regard. Before settling into a long and extremely lucrative career as a nightclub singer in Vegas and Branson, Vinton placed another 21 records in the top 40, including a final #1 hit with “Mr. Lonely” in December 1964 and a near-#1 with “My Melody of Love” in October 1974. And to whatever extent the Beatles did damage Vinton at the peak of his career, there is one way in which he can be said to have returned the favor. It was Bobby Vinton who handed the Beatles (via the Stones) their infamous business manager Allen Klein, whom many place alongside Yoko Ono in the lineup of those who hastened the Fab Four’s eventual breakup.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: no one is quite sure where the name “Beatles” originated, though the most likely story is that John Lennon liked the name The Crickets after Buddy Holly’s band. Early band member Stuart Sutcliff suggested “Beetles,” and they were for some time known as The Silver Beetles or, occasionally, Long John and the Silver Beatles before becoming the Beatles. The Beetles were also a rival gang in Marlon Brando’s movie The Wild One, which may have also been an influence. John Lennon is usually credited with changing the spelling to “Beatles” to reflect Beat music and the Beat generation.

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