Lionel G Deutsch, MD

My father loved music, and I remember that most of it was music that I didn’t particularly like. Left to his own devices, he would be playing Opera, Classical, Fiddler on the Roof in Hebrew, tone-poems and the volume of Sound Effects that included the humming sounds of hospital instruments. I was more into the Beatles and the Top 40. (We briefly aligned in our love to hate “A Fifth of Beethoven” in 1976).  

Because someone who was not me chose Saturday AM as a divorce-visitation period (when it was clearly meant for watching cartoons), there followed a series of hours-long car dates that at best were awkward and at worst fraught with the silence and frustrated emotions. Luckily for us both, his two-toned Oldsmobile Cutlass Cierra (“hydro-matic”) had a cassette player, and I realized that being armed with a tape was a survival necessity. Independently, he must have also come to this conclusion because trips to Record World (and the Record Shops at TSS) started to be a regular feature of our time together. 

Though he continued to try to make me a fan of Chamber music, and I tried to sell him on the benefits of Kiss, we eventually settled on some music we could both live with. This week to honor him, I created a tiny playlist of five songs (below) that I wanted to write about, since they were funny songs that really captured our attention and imagination, in a way that allowed us to find some joy and togetherness in an otherwise grim aftermath of a divorce.  

If you have Apple Music, you can listen here: Apple Music Playlist if not, you can listen via YouTube links, below.

“Put Him Away” From the Broadway Soundtrack of Two by Two, starring Danny Kaye. 

After Noah tells his children that God has commanded him to build a boat for all the animals, Noah’s children have a meeting to discuss committing him. I think the idea of biblical characters having a ‘modern’ conversation about someone being crackers really tickled him.

A Very Strange Medley Barry Manilow, Live at the Uris Theatre, NY

If you were alive in the 70s and had a radio or television, this was the soundtrack. Modern listeners will know all these products, but they might only recognize the “State Farm” theme, recently revitalized by the insurance company. As a bonus, you can watch this version (different from the one on the record, above) which features 70s clothing and haircuts in all their glory.

Fish Heads Barnes & Barnes

I remember my father being absolutely arrested by this song when I played it for him. I don’t know if it’s because he liked the song, or because he needed to find those responsible and have them committed to a Psychiatric ward.  Warning: listen to it once, and you will never get it out of your head.

I Hold Your Hand in Mine Tom Lehrer

My parents’ pile of Tom Lehrer records was among my earliest memories of exposure to satire and adult comedy material. I think it’s fair to say that this song today would not just be received as creepy but perhaps even banned for its banal description of a romance by a murderous sociopath. If you can get by that, it’s really quite funny. 

Rocky Raccoon The Beatles
Not really even the funniest of the Beatles songs (“You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” wins that one) but a song special to me and my father because of its silly lyrics (“Her name was McGil, and she called herself “Lil” but everyone knew her as Nancy”) and jaunty piano breaks, wherein my five or six year old self would be made to dance a sort of puppet-on-strings dance, which always made me collapse (in a corner) with laughter.

Throughout the late 70s and 80s we continued trying to find music to listen to together, always trying to avoid a crying jag from landing on a Mawkish “Long and Winding Road” instead of a detestable “Pac-Man Fever.” He was briefly obsessed with the song “Love is Like Oxygen,” by Sweet, which was going to be the opening song to a rock musical about addiction he was going to stage, if he ever got done writing up his patient notes and reading all the new medical journals published since 1987.  

Amazingly, this morning as I was doing an errand and considering that two years have passed since his death, I heard the song he wanted as the closing song in his addiction musical, called “Hooked on a Feeling,” by BJ Thomas.  That song was a big hit, but because of my father’s love of absurdism (which I inherited), he wanted the Blue Suede version, which inexplicably placed a never-ending chant of  “Ooga-Chackas”  behind the Swedish band’s cover version. Our lifelong music exchange continued until the very end of his life, when I continued to bombard him with all the CDS I have written about here and he begged me to stop.  

As to missing him today, I guess I will quote the song he chose for today: 

“I got it bad for you girl, but I don’t need a cure

I’ll just stay addicted and hope I can endure.” 

Miss you Dad!  

On His 87th Birthday

May 12, 2022— Today I attended the funeral of my friend Jon Haber. As I was sitting in the temple waiting, I thought this would make my father happy. Not that Jon Haber was gone or that I was at a funeral, but that I was in temple. He loved spending time there and being with the good book. He always wanted me to spend more time in temple, and it goes without saying with more books of any kind. I inherited many attributes from my father, but the urge to spend more time in temple was not one of them.  Sometimes I wondered if he just hated the sun, because he always wanted to be in temple on Saturday mornings when the sun was shining. Never, in my whole life did I want more to be in the bright midday sun than when I was sitting with him in temple. Perhaps the sun was the reward for the period of mindfulness.

My father died on August 1st, 2020. He did not die of COVID-19, as many folks did that year, and somehow that made his death unusual but also somehow less urgently received by those I told. (“He didn’t die of COVID? Oh.”) COVID was in full swing though,  and certainly funerals were happening, but not in the traditional sense. Funeral homes started adding cameras and Zoom accounts to allow people who were not immediate family to take part in the ceremony.  But as the virus ramped up, even those happenings got smaller and smaller and it did not seem like for our family a funeral was high priority. As he might have done, we put it off for a future time.

The rabbi started his sermon and again I thought what a perfect thing to do on my father’s birthday.  As I listened to the rabbi speak about Jon’s life I realized how eerily similar Jon’s life was to my father. He had one sibling; two sons, a commitment to changing what’s wrong with the world and perhaps not to subscribing to the greatest and latest clothing fashions.

In August 2021 we did have a remembrance for Lionel Gilbert Deutsch, MD. It had been a very challenging week for all of us and COVID was not vanquished, so we did it through Zoom. It was a really lovely 90 minutes but it wasn’t a funeral. I suppose I was looking forward to the tradition: to seeing people in Dad’s life that I rarely see (his cousins, etc.) and eating cold tuna and drinking bad coffee while telling stores, hearing stories, and remembering my father’s life, and probably learning things about his life too.

The rabbi today said he thought many people did not know how Jon and his wife met (Spoiler: the mother, a librarian fixed it up). And then he described the painful loss for a sibling, a wife, two sons in a way that I know was supposed to give them the relief of being seen, heard and felt, but I suppose to me it just felt like being emotionally outed, which was painful to endure.

Laughing at a funeral (the food part, not necessarily the service) is certainly common at the Jewish funerals I have been to and is always a great reminder to me that joy can be found eveninside sorrow. And if that is so, then joy can be found nearly anywhere you seek it. Sometimes that is hard to remember.

As the rabbi spoke about how much richer we all were for having Jon in our lives and how much poorer we were all now that he has physically departed, I kept inserting my father’s name in my head. He concluded by saying that the departed are still with us and so our relationship with them could be discussed in the present tense.  Further, that it is now up to us to honor their mission and keep their flame alive.  With a nod to Lionel, I said “OK Pops, I guess that was a pretty good funeral.”   And I followed the pallbearers out of the temple and into the bright midday sun. I do really think that was his plan.

On Losing John Lennon, 1940-2020

One of the hardest things for me to cope with on December 8th, 1980 was that the shocking  and violent loss of John Lennon was not mine alone to deal with. That I was neither the only one that felt destroyed that day, nor the person most deeply affected by it. When I could focus on any thought other than my own sadness and confusion, it was on Paul, Yoko, George, Ringo, Sean and Julian. Having only recently come to grips with my parents’ divorce, I found I was ill-prepared to handle my emotions and, never having lost anyone to death before, almost completely incapable of even understanding what had happened. Everyone on the news was focused on the death of the man who sang “Imagine” and “All You Need is Love” but I was thinking of the man who had been my leader, my idol and for years curled up next to my record player, my constant companion. 

My Beatle fandom was no doubt started in utero and continued with my parents as fans. When my father moved out of the house, I commandeered his Beatles collection, which was slim, but did feature Yesterday and Today, Let it Be, Abbey Road, Yellow Submarine and the White Album.  Through some gifting I received the twin sets of 1962-1966 (Red Album) and 1967-1970 (The Blue Album) and proceeded to devour them. 

I knew people who talked about ‘not being able to pick their favorite Beatle,” but to me that was crap, since I believed then and now that nobody picks their favorite Beatle. Like a favorite color, you don’t pick one, you respond to one of them in a chemical, instinctive, primitive way, and it becomes yours, a part of you. For me it was always John. I did not see myself as John, (though I had several nightmares where I was a totally unprepared Ringo) but I did respond to him as alpha, leader, joker. Angry and funny, he appeared to me as someone ruled by appetites and instincts that would get him into trouble, but charming and funny enough never to get caught. I envied John since I was nearly always the one who got caught, and hoped that if I grew up to be as smart and funny I would be someone able to get out of all the things I got myself into, too. 

My satirical drawing of “Imagine John Lennon.” (~1979)

I spent hours every day listening to my ever-growing album collection and though they only had 8 years of records, I never tired of them and never seemed to run out of Beatles things to buy or read about. I felt like I could never rest—I was compelled to know everything about them, which was challenging since AOL keyword: Beatles would not be available for almost 25 years. Two books, The Beatles Forever by Nicholas Shaffner  and All Together Now by Harry Castleman and Walter Podrazik Castleman, both of which I still highly recommend, were my constant companions, and when I needed more, I was off to the library or record store, trips which I used as often as I could as ways to avoid my newly divorced household and any of my schoolwork. 

In the ascent of my fandom, I became vaguely aware of the Beatles breakup, and I have strong memories of my mother trying to explain why “Live and Let Die” was not by the Beatles even though Paul McCartney was the singer and writer and George Martin was the producer, and did sound like a Beatles record. Later in that same discussion I kept asking my mother to explain to me again WHY the Beatles broke up? Knowing now what I did not know then, which was that my parents’ marriage was coming to an end, It had to be one of those conversations where the Parent is trying hard not to convey things by tone or by tears while simultaneously trying to answer the question and get out of that room. But I was not having it. I had to know what on earth made the band break up when they were so happy together? I could not fathom breaking up something so perfect on purpose, and continued to hope like so many others that they would get back together one day.

My parents’ divorce was tragic for me, but it didn’t happen at once, instead graduating in severity over months. There were fights, and there were separations and lots of sleepovers at friend’s houses. John’s music — especially Plastic Ono Band—his ‘primal scream’ album helped me through this difficult time. John’s performances, including sung descriptions of the  loss of his Mother and Father are so brutal, intense and unrelenting that it is in fact, very cathartic to listen to. 

Unlike my parents’ split, John Lennon’s death happened instantly— we heard he had been shot and then before the 11pm news that night he was gone.

In quiet moments that December, I found it surprisingly painful to think of Julian and Paul, thousands of miles aways, each perhaps estranged from John, struck with the news and forced to consider alone what they had suddenly and irretrievably lost. Pondering the last conversation they had had with a father or a best friend. That thought was so terrible and caused such intense heartaches that I often felt punched in the stomach and had to steady myself when I allowed it to come into my mind. I know now that this was some kind of way of examining my own violently torn fabric and similar feelings about the loss of my father from my life.  

About a week earlier, some New York radio DJs had been speculating that there might be a “John Lennon tour”, and I remember thinking that THAT would be a show to go to. Following John’s death I ruefully tried to make my peace with that concert I would never attend, and that Beatles, like my family, had broken up for good. 

My daughter freaks out at being near the Fab Four. (Not pictured) I am also freaking out.

Though I was inconsolably sad for a long time, I did eventually find ways to heal through my Beatles fandom. Starting with Freshman year in college, where I met another Beatles fanatic and we went to see some kind of “Beatlemania” show.  I went to Beatle-Fests where friends, fans and collectors assembled to listen, trade, show and tell. In the year 2000, my five month old daughter was with me at The Coolidge to see Brad Delp (RIP)  lead Beatlejuice, a Beatles sound-a-like band that I convinced to play on the 20th sad anniversary of John’s death.  Lastly, a few years ago I took my youngest daughter to a Beatles show for what I think was her first concert and she was totally smitten with the people playing the Fab Four. She insisted we wait after the show and get their autographs. And even though she loved the musician playing Paul, I thought, in terms of my Beatlemania, I can probably rest now.          


Day Old Grumblings- September 2002

Day Old Grumblings Originally Published: September 5th, 2002, Editorial Humor, Volume 14, Issue #2



Freddy Krueger was scary. My friend and roommate Raymond Joseph Metz III and I used to watch all the Nightmare on Elm Street films when we wanted to be scared. Shortly after he moved to Connecticut, I bought a Freddy Krueger squirt mask for a housewarming gift. I thought that was funny.

Ray taught me most everything I know in life about being a man; he had a big hand in taking me through college and toward marriage. I knew he would think the Freddy Krueger mask was funny, too, but I kept forgetting to give it to him. When I moved in May of 2001 I still hadn’t sent the mask to Ray. I put it in my basement.

In Boston, September 11th was going to be a big day at my office. Four of my co-workers were going to see, and hopefully sign, a very big client. They were headed to New York from Boston, so when we found out that the plane that hit the first tower was a New York-bound plane from Boston, we freaked out. By the time the plane ignited the first tower, they had already landed and were in a rent-a-car on their way to New Jersey.

Ray worked in the second tower.

Around 12:30pm we all went home to be with our families; nobody was able to focus. After about six hours, when it became apparent that the world had changed forever, I tried to call my friend Ray at his home. I had reason to be somewhat optimistic.

Ray was in the second tower when it was bombed in 1993, and he had made it out. In fact, he had survived quite a number of scrapes and close calls in his life, and by all estimates was quite lucky to have lived through any of them. I got the answering machine at Ray’s home and left a message.

I wasn’t satisfied, so I tried to call his parents. No one home. I left another message. Finally, I tried to call his sister, who lives just a few towns from me. No one home. I left a message. I was still feeling cautiously upbeat. Ray was a champion track and field guy in great shape with an immense amount of street smarts.

By September 12th I still hadn’t heard anything about Ray. I was sure that if anyone could’ve beaten the odds it was him. But I was also certain that if he were alive he would have called me. With Internet service back to somewhat normal, I began scouring all the sites to see if Ray had showed up on any of them. He didn’t, but when Sammy Hagar did I knew to stop looking there for accurate information. If he was hit on the head he might be in a hospital somewhere, unable to call. But the hospitals were not reporting any flood of injured. In fact, many were sending their volunteer doctors and nurses home.

That Sunday, newspapers started printing charts about who was most likely to survive and who wasn’t. Ray worked on the 84th floor of Tower Two. By the time he called his wife to say something bad was happening and he was coming home, he had a decent chance to be on his way by the time the second plane hit the 90th floor of Tower Two.

Days went by with no news. In fact, there was never any news. Ray’s picture went up with all the others. His description was given. His toothbrush was brought in. His company, EuroBrokers, met with the families, and some survivors were able to describe where they had seen coworkers that day, and most importantly, when. It was determined that surviving the terror attack boiled down to a simple decision: Which stairwell did you take? Apparently, my friend Ray had taken the wrong one.

In order to resolve it in some non-grisly way for his two young daughters, a funeral was arranged and held. That was it. I never got to tell him how grateful I was for his friendship and guidance. Like thousands of other role models, big brothers, confidantes, fathers, mothers and children on that day, Ray was gone.

In the post September 11th world, nothing seemed funny anymore and certainly everything seemed scary. In October, preparing for the scariest Halloween ever, I was cleaning up some things and I found the Freddy Krueger squirt mask. It was scary all over again, for all the wrong reasons, and not funny at all.

Robert E. Deutsch