Del ShannonThe calendar is relentless, spinning its fixed cycle of days and dates without prejudice or foresight as the numbers whirl by on their annual trek to yet another new year, and each of those numbers, each of those dates, has its own set of events and associations that travel with them, accumulating like stars in the heavens or grains of sand on the grand beach of time. Today is February 8, a day deep enough—if you happen to live in the Midwest—into the heartless grip of winter as to be just another drab, meaningless day to slush through without freezing or ramming your car into a tree on the drive home. This year February 8 falls on a Friday, which makes it a little better (Mondays being the worst), but it pales beside the twin poles of Super Bowl Sunday (February 3 this year, meaning Groundhog Day, February 2, and a Saturday, was clearly overshadowed) and the love-it-or-hate-it faux holiday of Valentine’s Day (February 14 rolls up on a Thursday in 2008, a red-letter day for doghouse roses), but it is hardly a day of particular distinction. But oh, it is, for like every other day and date on the great spinning wheel, things happened (and continue to happen) on February 8 that give it its own special history.

Here are two of those things, both sad, as it turns out: Charles Westover, known to the pop world as Del Shannon and the author and performer of timeless hits like “Runaway” and “Little Town Flirt,” died on this date in 1990 in Santa Clarita, CA, and Jimmy Smith, the man who for all practical purposes invented soul jazz and completely remade the Hammond B3 organ over in his own image, died on this date in Scottsdale, AZ in 2002. That’s a lot of great music right there, and while February 8 rose out of the roulette wheel to claim these two musicians for its own, stilling both forever, their legacy and work are still with us. Life happens, and life happens on specific dates, then moves ahead one click, and life ends on specific dates, too, and then moves on another click. Here’s a suggestion for today, a day that seems at first glance to be a lackluster placeholder between football and broken hearts: Take a moment to think about Del Shannon and Jimmy Smith, and maybe even add a track or two from each to your iPod. February 8, like every other day of the year, really has no sentiment or mercy, but these two musicians, who share a death date, had plenty of both. Here’s a tip of the hat to Del Shannon and Jimmy Smith.

Del Shannon - Runaway
Del Shannon - Drop Down and Get Me

Jimmy Smith - Prayer Meeting
Jimmy Smith - The Sermon