Sunday, March 28, 2004

SURFOBIT: Jan Berry, the 'jan' in Jan and Dean, has died in LA at the age of 62. Still suffering brain damage after the 1966 car crash which effectively ended his career, Berry's wife reports that on Friday he had a seizure and stopped breathing.

Originally, the duo had been Jan and Arnie, with Berry paired up with Arnie Ginsburg. Soon enough, Dean Torrence returned from active duty and joined his old friend. In the early 1960s Jan and Dean had defined the surf sound with hits including Deadmans Curve and The Little Old Lady From Pasadena, the pair working extensively with the Beach Boys until their respective record labels stepped in to stop such hi-jinks.

Although - perhaps aptly - riding high on a crest at the time of the car crash, it's likely the Jan and Dean story hadn't had much left to run anyway. Berry had received the details of his draft to go and fight in Vietnam on the morning of his crash; ironically, he'd also been forced to issue his first solo single on the subject of America's war in Asia when Dean had refused to be credited on the 'Universal Coward' track Jan had created. A shocking piece of gung-ho attacks on conscientious objectors, The Universal Coward would probably find a lot of heads nodding in agreement in the modern White House, with its lyric suggesting that the USA has to be the policeman of the world. Besides being politically suspect, the lyrics were poorly written, suggesting that the coward would "run from an elf" purely so that there was a rhyme for the pay off that "most of all he's just running from himself."


2 comments:

UniBaron said...

I realize that this reply is a little late but I wanted to set the record straight about Jan's eligibility for the draft, and his single "Universal Coward" - as I attended Uni High in the late 50's and knew Jan and his family fairly well.
"Universal Coward" was Jan's response to a song called "Universal Soldier" - a song which laid the blame for all of history's warfare not on the Hitlers or Ghengis Khans of the world, but on young men who answer their countries call of duty for military service. Considering the number of families who were grieving for loved ones killed in Vietnam at the time, "Universal Soldier" was an incredibly hateful, callous, despicable song. As most of us had friends fighting in Nam at time, Jan was enraged by the lyrics of this song. In response he hastily wrote and produced "Universal Coward", which I'll grant you is not the best piece of music he ever did. But - I give him credit for standing up for what he believed in even though it was not "cool" at the time and probably hurt his popularity as well s cost him money.
As for Jan being drafted, he was a 3rd yead medical student at CCM at the time. This certainly qualified him for a deferment. Jan was eager to serve his country - but with a 2 year deferment he could have completed Med School as well as 1 year of residnency which would have allowed him to enter the service as a Physician. He was INCORRECTLY told at his draft board meeting that he would likely be drafted. We believe he almost certainly knew that his draft board was giving wrong info and he would get a deferment - and I don't believe that Jan actaully "stormed out in a rage and went speeding off" as legend now seems to have it. The Jan I know would have smirked, perhaps been incredulous, perhaps made snide comment and strolled back to his Vett. I DO believe he DID go speeding off because that's the way he normally drove whether he was pissed off or not.
This is just my POV, but I wanted the counter the opinions of others (various articles I've read) who suggested that Jan may have been a bit of a hypocrite, or a "chicken hawk" - because that is certainly not my impression of him.

Finn said...

Well... if he was going to ride a deferment to avoid service, he *STILL* comes off as a 'chicken hawk'-- if he really was going to serve as a physician after completing medical school, I suppose he wasn't a 'chicken hawk'.

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