As one who spends a considerable amount of time behind the wheel, I have developeed close relationships with a few radio stations. One of them died last week.
Over the last several years, I've grown fond of the programming on a Chicago FM station, WNUA (95.5), which specialized in "smooth jazz," although some might say they broadened the definition. No matter. Over time, I got introduced--in some cases reintroduced--to such names as Etta James and Norah Jones, Luther Vandross and Kenny G, Paul Hardcastle and Dave Koz and Gladys Knight.
I particularly enjoyed the station's morning drive-time program, anchored by the great jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, who has been a major factor in the jazz world for nearly a half century. Many will remember the PBS network "Legends of Jazz" series he hosted a few years ago.
I learned of WNUA's demise on its very last morning. A Chicago Tribune columnist wrote that the ownership was changing the station to Spanish-language format at 10 a.m., right after the ending of the program anchored by Lewis and co-host Karen Williams. I quickly switched on the radio and listened as the two played old favorites and gently reminisced--no rancor or bitterness here--about their years on the air.
One might well say to me, "What's the big deal? You can hear any kind of music any time in the car by popping in a CD, right?" Right, and I probably will. But that doesn't mean I won't miss WNUA, and particularly Ramsey Lewis, who ended that final show with these words:
"I'm just so glad I got the opportunity in my own home town to have a career making music---Sweet Home Chicago. I love this city. Thank you so much."
Pure class, as one would expect of Ramsey Lewis.
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