Friday, August 7, 2009

One of a Kind: RIP Willy DeVille 1953-2009

Cool is cool, and it can't be defined, refined, faked, imitated, put on, made up, manufactured, passed on, passed out, taught, illustrated, or theorized. Willy DeVille was cool, epitomized cool, the coolest of cats, a high priest of cool, a doctor of cool, a professor of cool, Mr. Cool, Master Cool Daddy, and he could dance a little too. Angelic and tough, dapper and disdainful, feminine and manly, soul boy and rocking man, he carved out a niche that was totally his own in the infamous hazy daze of CBGB's burgeoning and all-over-the-map prehensile punk scene with his exquisitely monikered band, Mink DeVille. Willy (born William Boray), skinnier than a menthol cigarette, resplendent in luxuriant pastels, skyscraper hair, mondo boots pumping time, suitjacket slung over the shoulder in pure Sinatra style, a suave bantam weight with pure New York vibes emanating out of every pore, lithe and leonine, he trotted out his very own personal version of the blended up blues-vocal group-r&B-4/4 rock and roll with only an attitude that might be classified as punk. DeVille commanded the stage as he switched up from guitar-slinger to harp-blower to rock brayer to spotlight crooner, a performer drenched in cool, vibrating cool, hand-delivering cool.(One look at William turned Willy and you just knew he was an all-time slow dancer, as long as his partner didn't mind the switchblade in his pocket pressing against her.) Quick think yer very own checklist of rock and roll cool (electric Dylan, purple Prince, exiled Keith Richards, junked-up Johnny Thunders, twenty flight Eddie Cochran) and know (especially those smart, lucky, or privileged to have caught the man live), that Willy Boy was on the top of that chart, a significant factor in the overall annals of rock and roll. Willy may be heading where angels fear to tread, strutting the Cadillac walk or doing up the Spanish stroll, eternally hunting for his Venus of Avenue D, but no doubt about it, he's bringing The Cool.

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