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Rocking the Hats

Ever Since the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the 2011 inductees, people have been asking me: Vardibidian, they ask, What about their hats?

It’s a reasonable question. Let’s look at them together, shall we?

Start at the bottom, with the executives Art Rupe and Jac Holzman. Mr. Holzman is not a hat wearer, and deserves no more than our pity. Mr. Rupe may no longer wear hats with any frequency (is he still alive?), but is fortunate enough to have come to prominence in an era where a hat was part of the outfit; in the commonly used still, Mr. Rupe is youthful and wearing a well-used fedora. This is, in point of fact, Your Humble Blogger’s favorite style for daily use. Welcome to Cleveland, Mr. Rupe.

The sideman, Leon Russell, has gone from a battered top hat to a classic Oklahoma Cowboy Hat. This is inspirational stuff, deeply connected to our country, its history and its music.

The performers are a varied lot. Darlene Love seems to have actively avoided hat-wearing through many changes of fashion, although I did find a snap of her wearing an attractive knitted head-warmer of a cap. Alice Cooper wears his hair down, and despite the occasional posing with a shiny stovepipe has not really turned his powerful imagination to the use of hats, alas. And Neil Diamond, despite flirtation with a flat-crowned Stetson and an acting appearance in ritual splendor, is far too enamored of his hair to let anything get in between it and its audience on a regular basis.

But now we come to Tom Waits and Dr. John, both of whom are hat-wearers extraordinaire. Now, the obvious winner is Malcolm Rebennack, the Night Tripper, whose top has been adorned with everything from feathered headdresses to fedoras, soft berets to superadorned silk toppers, turbans and caps of fantastic proportions, and creations that have never had a name and never will. If you were to tell me, Gentle Reader, that Dr. John was your favorite hat-wearer of all time, beyond category, I would not say you nay.

But here’s the thing: Tom Waits, once he got past the flat cap phase, utterly and profoundly rocks the hat. I mean, rocks that mother. It’s not always the same hat, mind you. I think of him in a trilby (which isn’t always the same trilby, but is a battered black narrow-brimmed fedora with an asymmetrical pinched crown, with the brim up in the back and down in the front), but he rocks the bowler as well (as an actor, of course, but also in concert) and wears a wide-brim pretty well, too. He goes bareheaded, now and then, mind you, but I think that’s a mistake.

But where Dr. John wears such a plethora of hats that it’s impossible for me to imagine him in just one hat that is Dr. John, Mr. Waits has made that battered black trilby such a part of his image that I think it puts him over the top. Dr. John exhibits his headgear; Mr. Waits inhabits his.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


I believe the name for Dr. John's indescribable hat is telpek.


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