Famous Teetotalers 08: Those who are good at what they do

March 1983, Los Angeles, California, USA --- Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman stands in front of a blackboard strewn with notation in his lab in Los Angeles, Californina. --- Image by © Kevin Fleming/CORBIS
Richard Feynman. Photo taken in 1983.

Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman (1918-1988) was the only famous scientist I could find that was teetotal by repuation. Einstein was a moderate drinker, and a heavier smoker. Feynman reportedly used to be a moderate drinker also, no reason why not, but on a trip in Brazil he felt a compulsion to drink alcohol in the middle of the afternoon where there was no social reason to drink. He thought about it, and reportedly never drank again for any reason.

Eric Clapton

If there was a Nobel Prize for music, Eric Clapton would deserve it. At age 25 he was already hailed as the world’s greatest living blues guitarist. He was inducted three times into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a member of The Yardbirds, once as a member of Cream, and once as a soloist. He had a weakness for alcohol and was a long-time alcoholic, but has been a non-drinker since at least 1988.

[Audio] The Difficult Listening Moment: Doing Dylan worse than Dylan III

This mini-series is more challenging than I thought. I have visited blogs which commented that Avril Lavigne did a blah version of Knocking on Heaven’s Door. I can’t see the problem, except that she was born decades after the whole folk subculture that caused the song to happen came and went, but that’s life, isn’t it? I was born after the Beatnik generation, so does that mean I can’t understand Allen Ginsburg or William Burroughs enough to recite them? Knocking suited Avril’s vocal style, and she seems to do a good job. Of course, you should expect a different musical interpretation from someone so young. What’s the problem? Hear for yourself. Knocking was also performed by Guns ‘n’ Roses, The Grateful Dead, Warren Zevon, Eric Clapton, U2, and countless others.

Another artist I have heard being knocked about is Madeleine Peyroux, who did a cover version of Dylan’s You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. Peyroux is a jazz singer, and it is a complement to Dylan’s writing and composing that his songs can adapt so well in any genre. Again, I don’t see a problem here. Shawn Colvin and Elvis Costello also did this song, albeit is wildly different musical stylings. It has also become something of a “Lounge Lizard” standard. Here is Peyroux doing Dylan.

But few people would say that Ministry’s version of “Lay Lady Lay” was better than the original. Here is a live recording from 1996: