Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small

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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

Jim Nayder, who brought his Annoying Music segments to this program for many years died yesterday at the age of 59. Scott Simon has this remembrance for his friend.

SCOTT SIMON, BYLINE: Jim Nayder was a sweet soul and a cockeyed wit in a world with too little of both. He said annoying music wasn't bad so much as good songs recorded by big stars who should have known better.

(SOUNDBITE OF "PROUD MARY")

LEONARD NIMOY: (Singing) I've pumped a lot of pain down in New Orleans.

SIMON: Jim, I'm sorry, let me come up for air again. That's the first, like 20 years ago, God forbid, where people were graded for school. That was the first record you ever gave me. (unintelligible) Proud Mary.

JIM NAYDER, BYLINE: And I'd like it back now, it's pretty valuable.

(SOUNDBITE OF "PROUD MARY")

NIMOY: (Singing) But I never saw the good side of the city...

SIMON: But I once met Leonard Nimoy. He lifted his eyebrows with Vulcan distain to ask: Why won't that annoying man let me forget my own singing? Annoying music became Jim's signature, but he did that show mostly to support another program he did for 21 years on WBEZ in Chicago called Magnificent Obsession, a program for, not just about, people battling addiction.

They told their own stories; no experts, no analysis, but the open beat to real human hearts. The show aired before dawn each weekend when people, like Jim, who were struggling to get control of their lives. I'd switch on a radio for company and solace in a long dark night.

NAYDER: If you reach the point where you know you are addicted to the point where it controls your life, and you sort of lose track trying to figure out why. It's like why did I get cancer? It serves no purpose. The energy has got to used to stop drinking. It's as simple as that.

SIMON: But staying stopped is a struggle that never ceases. Jim will be missed by those of us who loved him, but also remembered in a lot of laughs by listeners. And even as he lost his own battle with drink, Jim Nayder did shows that gave others the grit to keep going.

NAYDER: Someone in addiction often describes that magnificent obsession for that drink to be like trying to catch a lover, type of thing, so you end up listening to love songs in the head of someone ensnared by this. You know, the song that comes to mind is from The Phantom of the Opera, "The Music of the Night."

SIMON: Yeah.

NAYDER: The lyrics are something like this: Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams. Purge your thoughts of the life you knew before. Close your eyes, let your music start to soar.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MUSIC OF THE NIGHT")

RAMIN KARIMLOO: (Singing) And you live as you never did before.

NEARY: Scott Simon, remembering his friend and WEEKEND EDITION contributor, Jim Nayder. This is NPR News.

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Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small