A Village Song: “Bazooka Joe Don’t Live There Anymore”
The singer-songwriter Gone Marshall recently celebrated a bit of vintage Greenwich Village which might be familiar to you, over on the corner of MacDougal and Houston Street. If you’re thinking fondly of some of the old-school neighborhood heroes, you might find meaning in the new song, “Bazooka Joe Don’t Live There Anymore.” Marshall, known for a distinct narrative lyrical style, centered ‘Bazooka Joe’ around Greenwich Village in the late ’90s and early 2000s, particularly a well-known neighborhood variety and mailbox shop near and dear to our hearts, Lenny and Lucy Cecere’s Something Special.
Of the song, Marshall said:
“Bazooka Joe” was inspired by a neighborhood hero I knew in New York’s Greenwich Village back in the early 2000’s, Leonard Cecere. He ran a superb old-school corner store called ‘Something Special’ on the corner of MacDougal and Houston for many years. It’s gone now, and Lenny has passed away… learning of his passing was a spark that led me to write the song, actually.
I had a mailbox there, and it turns out, so did quite a number of celebrities and notables. His shop was a bit dog-eared, but it had a lot of character — something that’s gone a bit missing over the years. Anyway, he told me once how he guarded a bridge with a bazooka during the Battle of the Bulge, and that’s how the song got its name.”
Gone Marshall is a singer-songwriter, lyricist, and vocalist who spent two decades working as a filmmaker before pivoting full time to music and songwriting over a decade ago. The result is evocative, image-driven musical storytelling with roots in alternative folk and rock, neo-psychedelia, and spoken word poetry. He has released a debut album (‘The Crunch’), several EPs, and numerous singles to date.
Marshall first met Lenny Cecere at his shop, Something Special when he relocated back to New York City to make a film and needed a mailbox. He was living in a small rented room on Morton street in the West Village and found Something Special, which he called “an old-school, slightly dog-eared combination card, gift, trinket, and mailbox shop on the corner. It was a real old time, independent establishment through and through, something that must have been standard in the Village throughout the 50s, 60’s and 70s.”
Lenny and his wife, Lucy — winner of a 2010 Village Award — were long time, original residents of that corner of the South Village, and they were beloved by all.
Lenny Cecere was born in Brooklyn, and Lucy was born in the Village, each to Italian immigrant parents. A WWII veteran, Lenny’s unit was responsible for salvaging material from the battlefield. According to his son, Leonard Jr. “He landed in Normandy two weeks after D-Day, was involved in the Normandy hedgerow battles and in the Battle of Saint-Lô…The unit went through France and Belgium and was near Bastogne when the Battle of the Bulge began. My father told about his hour of glory during a freezing night when he defended a bridge with a bazooka against attacking tanks”.
After marrying at Our Lady of Pompeii in 1949, Lucy and Lenny moved to nearby Sullivan Street. After they bought 51 MacDougal Street (part of the Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District) in 1962, Lenny eventually took over the retail space on the ground floor, turning it into a store called “Something Special,” selling doughnuts, bagels, candy, greeting cards, and eventually renting mailboxes and copying keys. Lenny became a beloved and widely-known fixture in the community, whom countless Villagers, famous and every-day, came to rely upon for essential services in their daily lives. Lenny was also an active member of the Father’s Club at Our Lady of Pompeii School, and a member of the Knights of Columbus and American Legion posts in Greenwich Village.
Lenny passed away a few years after Lucy, in February of 2015. In their memory, Village Preservation proposed and led efforts that resulted in co-naming the corner of MacDougal and Houston Streets “Lucy and Lenny Cecere Way” in honor of the late Greenwich Village fixtures. “I know I will never forget them,” Village Preservation Executive Director Andrew Berman said. “They really touched my life. I’m sure everyone here feels the same way.”
And indeed, two years later we have the song “Bazooka Joe.” Marshall wrote: “It didn’t matter to Lenny that I was still scraping to get by – literally. I even painted his storefront once in exchange for mailbox rental, I was cutting it so close… I’m quite sure that any listeners who knew Lenny or his shop, or some of the folks who hung out there, would recognize a lot from the lyrics.” Marshall talks about his awe at all the famous people (celebrities, writers, you name it) who had mailboxes at Something Special, too. Other notables, like Patti Smith, who didn’t have a mailbox there would stop in for a coffee, or donut, or just to shoot the breeze with Lenny. Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick had their photos up in the shop. Lucy Lawless’s (‘Xena the Warrior Princess’) photo featured her in a an outfit which Marshall refers to in “Bazooka Joe” as a ‘jungle dress’, feeding us with ‘fire and thunder’
Marshall explained the song’s title, referencing the story of Lenny’s Battle of the Bulge experience, and adding that “it also made a bit of sense to allude to the popular Bazooka Joe bubble gum comics which were launched in the 50’s. The Bazooka Joe sensibility kind of matches the feeling of ‘Something Special’, which was in its multi-purpose way, also a candy shop for school kids passing by on their way home from school. I believe he and his wife Lucy were quite possibly saints.”
There’s a wistfullness to the song, in that ‘Bazooka Joe’ does not live there anymore — however, their memory is not gone. Marshall wanted to document the kind of person Lenny was – open, frank, character-driven. It’s really something straight from the heart.
A Song by Gone Marshall
Writing, Composition, Acoustic Guitar, Main Vocals: Gone Marshall
Fingerpick Acoustic Guitar: Richard ‘RJ’ Marshall
Female Vocals: Ieva Zdram
Electric Guitar: Jake Bisognin
Percussion: Brian Petry
Bass: Alan Reynolds
Mixed by: Skyler Taylor & Jason Rosette
Produced by Jason Rosette @ CAMERADO (ASCAP)
(c) 2020 Camerado Music & Jason Rosette obo dba Gone Marshall