Orrin Hatch’s Connection to New Bedford
Orrin Hatch died this past Saturday at the age of 88. I'm glad to remember the longest-serving Republican U.S. Senator and former President Pro Tempore as a singer-song writer and poet rather than as an iconic fixture in politics for more than four decades.
I'm well pleased to have had a radio friendship with him that hardly covered controversial politics, such as his influential recommendation of Ruth Bader Ginsberg to President Bill Clinton – who Clinton had not previously considered – and how he played a big role in confirming Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.
Our relationship centered not around Orrin Hatch, U.S. Senator from Utah, but rather around Orrin Hatch, the accomplished pianist, violinist and grand organ player. He was a frequent guest on my syndicated morning show from New Bedford's Shawmut Diner. He called the diner show his "favorite juke box," because we played a multitude of songs he composed and recorded on about 12 albums.
The late senator also enjoyed this neck of the woods, especially Hyannisport. Despite their political differences, Hatch was a longtime close friend of fellow senator Ted Kennedy, speaking at his memorial service and publicly suggesting Kennedy's widow as a replacement for Kennedy in the Senate. He wrote "Souls Along the Way," a love song and sentimental ode, honoring Ted and Victoria Reggie Kennedy early in their marriage and it was also part of the soundtrack of the movie Ocean's 12.
One Memorial Day holiday, he was on with me and we talked about his and Janice Kapp Perry's "Heal Our Land," a patriotic hymn that years later in 2005 was performed at George W. Bush's inauguration. Hatch also wrote the "8 Days of Hanukkah" song that's really catchy! His "The Answer's Not in Washington" deplores "people breaking the rules that keep our country free and disregard for the many things that make our country great," Hatch wrote.
There's one more interesting twist to the unlikely friendship with Kennedy he shared with our listeners: when Hatch first came to Washington in 1977, he wanted to upset Kennedy's apple cart and obstruct Kennedy any way he could, because the newly-elected senator saw Kennedy as the embodiment of all things shamefully liberal – and he was going to stop him.
I hope Hatch's death doesn't mark the end of an era where friendship thwarts partisan differences.