Don't look to the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame for a sophomore slump. The organization has a second-year roster of inductees that have, among other things, inspired Oscar-winning Hollywood biopics (George M. Cohan), shared stages with Louis Armstrong (Bobby Hackett), sang in Paris and St. Petersburg (Sissie-retta Jones), and appeared on TV shows ranging from The Ed Sullivan Show (the Cowsills) to Family Guy (Steve Smith & the Nakeds). Together, they present a glorious symphony of rockabilly, blues, R&B, opera, show tunes, "sunshine pop," and jazz. And let's not forget the hall's first non-musician inductee: Phoenix/NewPaper alum, MTV executive, and man of (musical) letters, Bill Flanagan.
You can welcome the Class of 2013 on Sunday, April 28 during a two-part induction extravaganza at the hall's home in Pawtucket's Hope Artist Village. There will be an afternoon ceremony at the Met from 2 to 4 pm, and a second ceremony and concert — emceed by the Phoenix's own Rudy Cheeks (Jorge of Phillipe and Jorge) — at 7 pm. (Tickets for the afternoon event are $10; the evening festivities are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.) You may want to study up before then, though, lest you confuse Eddie Zack with Bobby Hackett or Jimmie Crane with Bill Cowsill. Here's your cheat sheet.
GEORGE M. COHAN
HOMETOWN | Providence
BIO | "I'm just a song and dance man," Cohan (played by James Cagney) says near the end of the 1942 biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy. "A man may give his life to his country in many different ways, Mr. Cohan," President Franklin D. Roosevelt says as he hands Cohan a Congressional Medal of Honor. "Your songs were a symbol of the American spirit." Whether those words were actually uttered by the real FDR or not, they're tough to argue with. Cohan was a man of prodigious work ethic, penning more than 50 plays and hundreds of songs. He — or one of his advisors — was also a savvy marketer; though he was born on July 3, Cohan was forever touted as "born on the 4th of July." And, damn, the guy knew how to write a hook. Over a century later, "You're a Grand Old Flag" is still stuck in our heads.
HIT PARADE | "Give My Regards To Broadway," "Over There," "The Yankee Doodle Boy" (aka "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy")
FUN FACT | Wickenden Street regulars will recognize the Cohan statue at the top of the hill in the song-and-dance man's native Fox Point. They may be less familiar, though, with a second statue that stands at the center of New York's Times Square bearing the inscription "George M. Cohan. 1878–1942. Give My Regards To Broadway."