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  • Writer's pictureJOHN OSLER'S UPBEAT Admin



The life cycle of something is the series of developments that take place in it from its beginning until the end of its usefulness or its death.

This past week I seemingly experienced the completion of my life cycle and then was given a chance to start a new one. I don”t know why.

I was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery this past Wednesday. Unfortunately I went into anaphylactic shock and my body shut down completely. I was aware that life was passing out of me. Through a ton of good luck and good emergency medical help my heart and lungs were revived after five minutes, and I miraculously survived. Except for the pain from the pounding that I took during CPR, there will be no lasting damage.

It will take me a while to get a handle on what I am supposed to do with my life now. I will be slowing down a bit while I try to process what happened to me this week.

By chance, I had started to write about two artists whose art has sought to show us their idea of what  the cycle of life looks like to them.

They share the name DIEGO RIVERA and a love for life. Life is a river with obstacles that change its course. It requires a steady stream of water or it becomes just a dry ditch.

RIVERA :  a brook or a stream

DIEGO RIVERA:  a talented artist

ART BY DIEGO RIVERA                                    JAZZ ARTIST DIEGO RIVERA

Few of us who have visited Detroit’s gem of an art museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, have not spent a significant amount of time in the museum’s Rivera Court.

Detroit Industry: The Murals of Diego Rivera

Michigan, for many years, depended on an auto industry. When the cars sold well, we flourished. We were swept along through the good times. The city on the river has always had a lot going for it. We had so many gifts. Talented and hard working newcomers flowed into the city to grab the good paying jobs, many created by new technology and mass production. Machines and men were pouring out the goods, which often required repetitive and monotonous tasks.

At the the height of our prosperity in 1932, the brilliant Mexican muralist Diego Rivera was commissioned by Edsel Ford, the son of Henry Ford and president of the car company that bears the family name, and William Valentiner, the director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, to paint two murals for the museum’s Garden Court. The only rule was the work must relate to the history of Detroit and the development of the industry.

Here is a description of Detroit’s iconic mural by National Public Radio

“Assembly workers with tools raised in a frozen moment of manufacturing. Doctors and scientists stand near a child in a nativity scene that pays tribute to medicine. Secretaries and accountants, heads bowed, fingers on typewriters and adding machines. One panel even shows Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, seeming to watch a collection on unseen workers below him.

The meaning of these images is complex, a view of industry that challenges ideas about its role in society and raises issues of class and politics. Rivera was already well known as the leader of the Mexican muralist movement when he started the work.

Soon thereafter Rivera and his wife, painter Frida Kahlo, arrived in Detroit and began studying and photographing the Ford automotive plant on the Rouge River. The factory so fascinated and inspired Rivera that he soon suggested painting all four walls of the Garden Court. Ford and Valentier agreed and soon Rivera’s commission was expanded

He spent about a month on the preliminary designs, and started painting in July 1932. The murals were completed in March 1933. Besides images of the assembly lines made famous by Ford, the murals also depict office workers and airplanes, boats and agriculture as well as Detroit’s other industries at the time — medical, pharmaceutical, and chemical. They also show images of nudes representing fertility and a panel depicting vaccination.

Edsel Ford, patron of the murals, never publicly responded to the outcry. He only issued a simple statement saying “I admire Rivera’s spirit. I really believe he was trying to express his idea of the spirit of Detroit”.”


Diego Rivera brought his strong personal opinions to our town, and yet Edsel Ford was wise enough to only see the artist.

Many people objected to Rivera’s work when it was unveiled to the public. He painted workers of different races – white, black and brown, working side by side. The nudes in the mural were called pornographic, and one panel was labeled blasphemous by some members of the religious community. The section depicts a nativity scene where a baby is receiving a vaccination from a doctor, and scientists from different countries took the place of the wise men.

When Diego Rivera finished his mural he considered Detroit Industry the most successful piece of his career. Despite all the controversy he was allowed to express his personal vision of the cycle of life in Detroit.


Born in Ann Arbor, raised in East Lansing and named for the muralist, tenor saxophonist, Diego Rivera is a state treasure. Known for his muscular sound and ability to create complex arrangements, Diego will be coming to the Dirty Dog this week.  Diego will be bringing something special beyond his talent. Diego thinks it is  “about putting myself out there, planting my two feet, speaking with a loud voice,” Diego is not afraid to let you know what he thinks is important…just like his namesake.

Mark Stryker has said that “above all, Diego is a story teller, whose improvisations make a real emotional statement-a quality always worth  celebrating.”


Lawrence Cosentino wrote this about one of Diego’s CD releases.

“Saxophone man Diego Rivera taps into the cycle of life with infant daughter and new CD “The Contender.”

He continued, ” Rivera, 35, is playing and arranging with more intensity and focus than ever, teaching a full schedule of jazz studies at MSU and hopscotching through the Midwest for a series of CD release gigs. He dotes on his 4-month-old daughter, Nefeli, so fondly that his colleague, trumpeter Etienne Charles, has a new Diego imitation. He puts on an excited grin and points to an iPhone.

The burst of music making comes as a relief to Rivera, who wasn’t sure for a minute that his life’s passion would survive the coos of his baby girl.

Two days after Nefeli (named after a cloud Zeus turned into a goddess) was born in early June, Rivera went straight from the maternity ward to the East Lansing Jazz Festival to play with the Professors and the Lansing Symphony Big Band. Immediately afterwards, he rushed back to the hospital with the plastic bracelet still on his wrist.

Otherwise, Rivera’s horn sat in its case all May and most of that summer, a thing that hadn’t happened in over 15 years.

“Every time I have  played since then has been an absolute joy,” he said.” I know that in my heart of hearts, I love being a musician.”

“My future looked completely different,” he said. “My priorities changed completely. Everything just became about family.”

Something else that Diego has said is something I think I can take to heart.

“Every time you go around the cycle you listen to something with a little bit more information, a more informed ear, “This does not necessarily lead me anywhere,” he said. “It just keeps me coming back.” The trick, he said, is to get smarter every time it goes around, with music or life experience.


When I regained consciousness after several hours that will be forever lost to me, I was in the company of my family. I was confused, yet their presence brought me calm. I regained my ability to hope and will forever be thankful for the soft landing that their love provided me.

Diego Rivera , the muralist, considered the family of man his family. He used his art to give a voice to the part of the family who is often asked to keep their silence. This is good.

Diego Rivera, the musician and friend, knows that his family is waiting for him after each gig. This is really good.

I think, at this moment, that I will get a lot out of listening to Diego’s sax express his love for his family.

John Osler




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