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Dick Cavett Remembers Rock

25 May, 2005 By: Brendan Howard


David Bowie (L) and Dick Cavett


Ninety minutes a day. Five days a week. 1969 to 1975. Dick Cavett today can be forgiven for forgetting some of the guests he had on his talk show, but no one will forget again when Shout Factory Aug. 2 (prebook July 1) releases The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons (three-DVD set $39.98). The set will include performances and interviews with David Bowie, David Crosby, George Harrison, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Ravi Shankar, Sly & the Family Stone, Steven Stills, Stevie Wonder and Gary Wright.

Forgetting such luminaries immediately after a show, however, is what Cavett discovered he'd done one night after being on with another legendary talk-show host, Johnny Carson.

“I was in the guest chair [on ‘The Tonight Show'], and Johnny said to me, ‘Richard, do you ever forget who you had on?' I told him, ‘Oh God, yes, there's so many of them.' ‘No,' he said, ‘that night,’ Cavett said. “He was a little worried, he was not at a happy time in his life. I began to feel a little sympathetic.

“It was lucky, I said, ‘I know that, I came home from a show a few weeks ago, and the doorman asked, ‘Who was on?' ‘Umm, omigod … they sat right there.' It might have been a good 20 minutes of pacing the floor and wondering what was wrong with me.”

Cavett finally decided it was normal.

“There's a degree to which you are not the same person who taped the show,” he said. “You leave that there. That's your show. It's not faking it or insincere, it's the other you. Some protective mechanism lets it stay there, so you can get back into something resembling reality.”

It would be natural for someone to be a bit starstruck when big stars made appearances.

Still, forgetfulness aside, it was exhilarating.

“Something in me liked the fact that I was allowed to buddy up to the legendary musicians,” Cavett said. “And they were surprised [and said,] ‘Gee, you really got me talking. I never believed I could do that.’

Sharing an onstage moment with Ray Charles, who appeared on the show several times, is a fond memory for Cavett, who recently rewatched Charles' appearances.

“I joined him on a piano bench and did a number I'd done for a few moments on an earlier show, ‘Am I Blue?,’ Cavett said. “I had played and played and played that tape of Ray singing that song, and I knew how he went on it.”

It was “pandemonium” in a good way in the audience during his singing, and viewers will get a chance to see that and more when The Dick Cavett Show: Ray Charles streets in September. The Dick Cavett Show: John & Yoko will come next, featuring the ex-Beatle's appearances on the show.

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