Top five “RockTrax” NewsNotes of 2010

(Much of the following is cross-posted from’s InterNotes. Just about everyone else is releasing year-end lists. So, why not the broadcast del grande? These are the top five stories involving classic rock artists of 2010.)

5. Rush enters Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame

A lot of great acts have come from north of the border. The Guess Who, Neil Young, Aldo Nova, just to name a few. If I had to pick one favorite rock act from Canada, it would have to be Rush.

From Geddy Lee’s stirring vocals to Alex Lifeson’s work on guitar, songs such as “Subdivisions”, “Freewill”, and “Tom Sawyer” are among rock’s richest treasures. But it’s the work of Neil Peart, the primary lyricist, that got the band in the hall.

They’ve certainly come a long way from the neighborhoods of Toronto. And they show no signs of slowing down. They’re planning to tour Europe in 2011.

Entry into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame is a well-earned honor for a well-respected band. To Rush, all I can say is – rock on!

4. Ronnie James Dio dies; cautionary tale goes with developments

It’s always unfortunate when we lose someone. But, as we’re reminded in The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” – as well as the Book of Ecclesiastes, from which the lyrics are based – to everything, there is a season.

Dio – a member of Black Sabbath, Rainbow and his own band, Dio – died on May 16th after months of battling cancer. Unfortunately, how news of his death was handled is what made it in to our top five.

I woke up at 7:00 on the morning of the 16th and one of my internet friends e-mailed me to ask if I’d heard about Dio’s passing. I know he had been ill – but could find nothing to confirm his death. I’d later find a lot of erroneous reports were filed overnight before the official word came.

As a widower of nearly four years and as someone who’s worked in local news media far longer, I can tell you news of someone’s death – whether it’s a rock star, a politician or John Q. Public – must be handled with great care. Sometimes, it’s best to be last on the story and report everything correctly than to be first on the story and run the risk of disseminating a lot of misinformation – probably to the point of retracting the story.

As for Dio, he’s no longer with us. But his contributions to the heavy metal scene will live on.

3. Florida posthumously pardons Jim Morrison

The pardon may not necessarily end one of rock’s greatest debates. But it brought some closure for fans of The Doors.

At issue: Did Jim Morrison really expose himself during a landmark concert in Miami in 1969? A jury of his peers said yes a year later. To say the least, visual evidence (just photos; no videotape and certainly no Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.) could not say yes. Bandmates said no. The case was being appealed and Morrison died in 1971.

Outgoing Florida Governor Charlie Crist was quoted as saying, “We really don’t know if the alleged act occurred.” Crist starting looking into the matter in 2007 and began the process of a posthumous pardon for the late singer. The finality came several days ago. Florida’s state board of clemency unanimously voted to pardon Morrison.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, I think it’s safe to say James Douglas Morrison, one of rock’s greatest stars who we lost much too soon, can finally rest in peace. If anything, the whole story got us talking about Morrison, who was also a great poet. May we all be left with pleasant memories of Morrison.

2. Jimmy Buffett performs free concert in coastal Alabama

OK, you’re probably surprised to see this ranked second. The overall tragedy – from the April 20th explosion of the Deep Horizon rig that killed eleven people to the oil spill that followed and the recent lawsuit filed by the U.S. government – should rank number one in general lists of the top stories of 2010. “Gulf oil spill” was the most popular search term on Yahoo! this year – beating out searches for a number of female celebrities of the here and now.

But this ranked a close second — and here’s why. To start bringing relief from the spill, Jimmy Buffett joined friends for a free concert in Gulf Shores, Alabama. More than 30,000 free tickets were distributed in an effort to boost tourism to neighborhoods that normally had beautiful beaches.

During the concert, Buffett performed some of his best known songs including “Fins”, “A Pirate Looks At Forty” and, of course, “Margaritaville”. Given the circumstances, Buffett revised a line of “Margaritaville” by singing “now I know, it’s all BP’s fault.”

Considering Buffett is a Southern Miss graduate as well as the neighborhoods we service from the Rock 104 studios and the day-to-day developments of the oil spill, you’re still probably wondering why this story didn’t rank higher. It’s because of a certain hire.

1. Donald Trump names Bret Michaels 2010’s “Celebrity Apprentice”

The number one RockTrax NewsNote of the year is a tale of overcoming obstacles and proving something to naysayers. A lot of people, including Donald Trump, didn’t think the lead singer of Poison stood a chance. Health scares had many people thinking about alternate plans.

As is the case with many televised competitions (game shows and poker tournaments as well as reality shows; this, of course, excludes organized sports such as NFL football, MLB, etc.), recordings of same take place well in advance. So, this story really had its beginning in the fall of 2009, when the most recent Celebrity Apprentice shows started taping. We, literally, wouldn’t see the products of the celebrities’ labors until 2010.

As we did, we all learned Bret Michaels suffered not one but two setbacks. We’d learn he suffered a brain hemorrhage and later a warning stroke. As he recovered, we were watching Michaels and other stars completing tasks set forth by “the Donald” in the hope of winning $250,000 for a designated charity.

Based on the recordings of the final quarter of 2009, would Michaels reach the final two? And if so, would he be well enough to return to the live finale set to air May 23rd (a full week after we lost the aforementioned Ronnie James Dio)?

We got our answers – and the answer to both questions was a resounding yes. Michaels and the other finalist – actress Holly Robinson Peete, now co-host of a daytime talk show – were tasked to sell their own brands of Snapple for the bonus of $250,000 and the title of the celebrity apprentice.

In “the Donald’s” final analysis, the legendary businessman told Michaels, “You’ve done an amazing job in every single way.” He commended him for his bravery throughout the tapings and even just getting to the live finale given the recent health setbacks.

At the end, Michaels raked in more than $600,000 – including the quarter million bonus – for the American Diabetes Foundation. In conceding defeat, Peete told the Associated Press, “The right thing happened.”

Michaels wasn’t done. He served as a co-host of the 2010 Miss Universe pageant, which is owned by “the Donald”. Outside of Trump’s world, Michaels performed the national anthem at the final race of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season in Homestead, Florida, where he also served as grand marshal.

In the finale of his own reality show, Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It, Michaels popped the question to Kristi Gibson, his girlfriend and mother of his two daughters. Gibson said yes.

2010 – what a year for Bret Michaels. Which leads me to a personal request.

Long before Michaels competed for the celebrity apprenticeship, our Stephen St. James got to see him in concert in Nashville. As you probably know, Stephen hasn’t been with us in recent weeks as he fights a brave battle with cancer.

As we near Christmas and New Year’s, if you’re looking for someone to pray for, please send one up for our dear Stephen. He’s one of our original rock jocks. Plus, he and I worked at another station in town – where he really taught me the nuts and bolts of radio.

We at Rock 104 pray and hope Stephen will defeat cancer and rejoin us soon after the victory. We hope you’ll join us in the hope and prayer.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and make it a great holiday season with the loved ones you treasure.

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