By Tom Blake
South Orange County seniors often ask for suggestions on how to add variety to their social routines. I can now recommend a visit to the magnificent, senior-friendly, Chapman University MUSCO Center for the Arts in Orange.
My partner, Greta, and I had a date night there Feb. 2. It was to see an old friend, Rosanne Cash, in concert.
When I first met Rosanne, the oldest daughter of Johnny Cash, in 1976, she was 21. I was the director of marketing for Victoria Station, a restaurant chain that specialized in prime rib; most of the chain’s restaurants were constructed in boxcars and cabooses.
Victoria Station had hired Johnny to sing train-themed radio commercials, and it was my job to work with him to ensure the company’s association with him went well.
I’ve watched in admiration as Rosanne has matured into an incredible, prolific composer and musician. I’ve observed her emerge from under her famous father’s coattails and become established on her own merit.
Her music isn’t solely country; it’s called “Americana,” which includes pop, rock, blues and folk. Rosanne’s career took off with a 1981 title track song and album called Seven Year Ache. She has released 15 albums.
In 2015, she won three Grammy Awards for best Americana album, The River & the Thread.
Rosanne has had 11 songs that reached No. 1 on the country music charts. She has published four books, her most noteworthy a 2010 memoir titled Composed.
At the Feb. 2 concert, Rosanne and her husband, John Leventhal, performed as a duet. During the show, she commented that the MUSCO Center has the finest acoustics of any venue in which she’s performed in California.
A guy in the audience yelled out, “That’s what Vince Gill said.” She smiled and commented, tongue-in-cheek, “Vince is always copying me.” That brought a big laugh from the audience, which was pretty much in our age range.
Rosanne sang a breathtaking version of the 1967 Bobbie Gentry song, “Ode to Billie Joe, from The River & the Thread as well as a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “The Long Black Veil,” from The List album, which was based on a hand-written list of 100 of the greatest American songs her dad gave her when she was 18. She mentioned she still has that list.
She featured songs from her newly released album, She Remembers Everything, saying with emotion in her voice, “This is a deeply personal collection of songs for me.”
At the end of the two-hour concert, after playing “Seven Year Ache,” Cash and Leventhal received a two-minute standing ovation.
After the second encore, Greta and I were able to spend a few minutes talking with her backstage.
When she first noticed us, I held up a copy of my 2006 memoir, Boxcars and Prime Rib. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station? and said, “Remember this?”
“How could I forget?” Rosanne said, “That’s you and dad on the cover. Didn’t I endorse the back cover?” I showed her the back cover with her quote.
In a bit of an unusual request, I asked if she’d sign the inside front cover of my book, which she did, writing, “To Tom and Greta, with love, Rosanne Cash.”
I said, “Yup. When you click on the link, after about five seconds, you hear Johnny singing our commercials. He sounds as good as ever.”
I told Rosanne how proud I am of her and how amazingly talented she’s become. She seemed to appreciate those words, from a friend of her dad’s whom she’s known for 43 years.
It was a special “date-night-out” evening for Greta and me. Add the MUSCO Center for the Arts to your list of places to go in Orange County. Parking structures are nearby, well-lighted, secure; parking is included in the price of the ticket.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites findingloveafter50.com; vicsta.com and travelafter55.com. To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at findingloveafter50.com. Email: email@example.com.