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Randy Castillo: No More Tears

By Phyllis Pollack, Contributor
Thursday, March 28, 2002 @ 2:41 PM


Here's A Look Into The History

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Copyright 2002. May not be reprinted without permission of the author.

The following article is based on extensive interviews that were done with Randy Castillo by the author. The first interview took place in 1984, and the last one was done with Castillo four months before his death. The writer of this lengthy work saw Castillo perform many times, the first of which was 27 years ago, in 1975.

“What can a poor boy do, except to sing in a rock and roll band?
---The Rolling Stones’ “Street Fightin’ Man”

Randy Castillo, a Sagittarius, was born in 1950, on December 18, sharing the same birthday as Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. Castillo, who was always looking for hidden meanings in things, and therefore didn’t take this information lightly, meaning either the date that he was born, nor the fact that he shared it with someone he deeply admired as much as Richards, who was born on that date in 1943. Castillo would elaborate, “I was just thinking about how there were 18’s all over my life. My father and mother were married on that day, I was born on that day, and my father died on that day. My license plate on my car, when I got it, it said “666” on it, which is 18.” In 1995, Castillo would have an 18 tattooed on his arm, after eating at a restaurant with bassist Mike Inez.

I would eventually point out to Castillo that the digits of his now final phone number at the last apartment in which he lived, also added up to 18. “See,” asserted Randy. “It’s the 18 thing, all over again.”

“Life is very precious, you know,” I said to him. “It’s the highest value,” I told him, as I explained the significance of the Kabalistic meaning of the number 18 to him, which in Gematria, a form of numerology studied by Jewish mystics, equates the number 18 as specifically signifying the word “Life.” One night while explaining this to Randy in great detail, and showing him the Hebrew letters that comprised the word “Life,” I handed Randy the silver Chai that I had bought for him earlier that day. “Randy, this is the Hebrew for the world ‘Life,’ and it’s representative of the number 18,” I would passionately tell him. “You must live,” I wished out loud, as I handed it to him. Randy would often say that he believed that nothing happened by accident, and there were times when he would state his intense belief that certain things were “meant” to happen.

Castillo’s upbringing would also serve as yet another reason for him to strongly believe in some sort of predetermination. Randy would certainly never consider his family lineage as being the result of circumstances that were merely due to an “accident of birth.” Not by a long shot.

Randy simply could not overlook the events in his life as merely being things that happened by chance, or by coincidence. Not his birth, nor certainly his death, would ever be a random passage.

Music ran in Castillo’s veins, so very deeply, as is often the case when it runs in one’s family. “My father was in a band called “Los Aguilas,” which is Spanish for ‘’The Eagles,’ so you could say he was in the first Eagles!” Randy would proudly remember. His father, who would not live to see him become a star, had played guitar. Randy became mesmerized by the attention bestowed on his father as a result of his being a musician. Randy remembered, “It was a trip because I remember seeing these fancy women, all dressed up. They were sleazy, slutty, and had runners on their stockings! It was just the way they looked. They had that real slutty look about them. You know, overkill on their make-up, lots of lipstick. Groupies! And they were hanging around the band. I used to go over there, and these quote, unquote ‘groupies,’ they were always lavishing all this attention on me! I was intrigued by them. And the smell! There was so much perfume! And they were always treating me like, “Come here, give me a kiss.’ It was a trip!” Castillo, already on his way to becoming, indeed, quite the lady-killer as he watched how these women reacted to his father’s band, was only seven or eight years old at this point.

Randy would later regret the fact that his father did not live long enough to see him become a famous musician. Just as his musician father before him had done, Randy also passed away at age 51.

Prior to playing drums, Castillo briefly played trumpet. “I was in grade school band, and I was probably in seventh and eight grade when rock and roll started to hit. But once the Beatles hit, it was all over. That was it. It was unbelievable how it changed everybody, and how incredible the effect was that it would have on young kids. I remember seeing them on Ed Sullivan.” On February 9, 1964, that was the shot in the arm that would get Castillo hooked for good. Castillo became obsessed with Beatles drummer, Ringo Starr, and he begged his parents to buy him a drum set for the next two years. “My mother ordered the drum set from a guy who had a drum shop in town, and who eventually became my drum teacher, Nick Luchetti.” Wanting to emulate Starr, Castillo’s first drum set was exactly what he wanted. “It was a small Ludwig, a silver sparkle. I guess you’d call it a beginner’s kit. It was small; it had one symbol and one high hat, but it was a beautiful.” As always, viewing life as being bejeweled with omens, Castillo would quickly add, “The thing that was amazing was that the day I got it, it was the same day that my youngest sister was born. So I can track when I started playing to the day she was born, because to me that was when I officially started playing, and I was fourteen.”

Castillo played his drum set in the garage, nonstop. “I’d just play ‘til my hands fell off. My parents would yell at me to stop because they couldn’t stand the noise any more! I was terrible! It must have been hard for them to listen to me as a beginning drummer," he said, still feeling highly sympathetic towards his parents. Randy was quick to note, “My parents really encouraged me.”

Castillo would learn about rock and roll heartaches early in life. He recounted the following story of his first musical heartbreak. “One day I was playing in the garage, and this guy comes walking by. I didn’t know he was out there. I had the garage door closed, and after I had been playing for a half hour or so, he banged on the garage door. I opened it, and it was this guy who was in a local band, The Shelton’s. He told me, ‘’Our drummer quit,’ and he asked me if I wanted to try out. I was like, ‘Well, yeah! Hell, yeah!’ So the next day, I went down to their rehearsal. My dad took me down there. I threw my drums in the back of his pick-up truck.

I got the gig. So I was in a band after only having my drum set for two weeks. I was like, ‘Wow!’ The Shelton’s were huge to me!”

The style of music The Shelton’s played was rhythm and blues.

Castillo added, “It went to my head right away. I thought I was the shit! Until about a month later when the original drummer decided he wanted to come back! He was a better drummer than I was. They called me up when I was getting ready to go to a rehearsal, and one of the guys in the band said, ‘Randy, don’t come to practice.’ I asked, ‘Well, why not?’ He said, ‘’Because Toby’s back. He’s back in the band.’ I couldn’t say anything. I just hung up the phone, and started crying.”

“I had been in the band for about a month by then, and we had played about three or four gigs, weddings and a birthday party, and I thought I was hot shit. So I was devastated to be kicked out of the band. But you know, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“I started crying, and my mom asked, ‘What happened?’ I go, ‘’They kicked me out.’ My mom was great. She held me and said, ‘Don’t worry. You’ll show them. We’ll get you lessons.’”

His mother immediately arranged for Randy to get lessons from Nick Luchetti, who taught Castillo how to correctly hold his sticks, what the proper technique was, and he taught Randy the rudiments.

A year later, Castillo was playing in a new band, called Doc Rand And The Purple Blues. “We had a singer, this black guy. He could dance like James Brown. Couldn’t sing like him, but he could dance great!” Randy remembered. “He was a great performer.”

The band had a horn section, and played some original numbers, as well as covers that included a rendition of James Brown’s “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag.” Castillo recalled, “We learned every song that was on James Brown’s Live At The Apollo album.”

Castillo’s first bad break in rock and roll would soon be vindicated, when his new band played at a battle of the bands. “The band that kicked me out, The Sheltons, came down to be against my band, The Purple Blues, and we kicked their butts! We won! It was such sweet revenge,” he proclaimed. “Those guys were like, ‘Wow, you sure got good!’”

While playing with the Purple Blues, Castillo and the rest of the band wore uniforms that consisted of sparkly shirts and a tie. At one point,” said Castillo, “we got the collarless jackets that The Beatles made so popular, and we also got pointed boots.”

The band recorded a 45-single, “I Need A Woman,” which was soon added onto the play list of the local Albuquerque radio station, KQUO. Eventually, it reached the Number One spot on the station’s weekly Top 40 chart. The song would hold the top position for five weeks. Castillo was now considered a “huge rock star” in Albuquerque.

“I was heavily into the whole music thing in high school,” noted Randy. He attended West Mesa High, where he was a member of the school’s first graduating class. “I knew music was going to be my calling.” An early bloomer, Randy was still in school when his first hit was being played on the radio.

Randy’s love of rock and roll was fervently expressed when talking about his memories of the concerts that he attended. Throughout his life, even during the peak of his career as a “rock star,” Castillo always remained a fan, which kept him feeling humbled, as well as keeping him in touch with his emotions that made him fall in love with rock and roll in the first place. “My first real big show I ever saw was James Brown and The Famous Flames,” he remembered.

Devoted to rock and roll, he went to see bands perform whenever he could get a ticket. Castillo was spellbound by the concerts he saw. He studied the artists who were on stage, and soaked in everything that he observed. Castillo went to see performances by Ike and Tina Turner, and countless other groups that came to town, including those who were in the first wave of the British invasion, acts that included The Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits and Freddy And The Dreamers. Later, he’d see Brit acts live that included Led Zeppelin on their first American tour, when they were booked on dates with Carmine Appice’s Vanilla Fudge. He went to see countless other bands, such as Humble Pie, and acts like Janis Joplin. For Castillo, it was a religious experience.

Castillo reminisced, “I remember Sonny and Cher were in town, around the time of their first hit, “I Got You Babe.” This was in 1966, and they were at the peak of their fame. As soon as they left the theater where they were promoting a movie they were in, Good Times, I told my sister, ‘Let’s go see where they’re going!’” Castillo and his sister excitedly followed them as they left the venue, as Randy convinced his sister to start up her car, and wait for the two pop icons to drive off. Then the siblings would chase after Sonny and Cher, as the couple were driven away in their limo.

“We just followed it, and they ended up going to the airport,” said Castillo. “They pulled up to Lear jet, a private jet, so we pulled up behind their limo. They went up into the jet, and we got out of our car, and we just stood there, looking up at the jet. I could see Cher in the window, and she waved back at us. We were just standing there, staring, like, ‘Wow! This is unbelievable!’

A couple minutes later, she came up to the door of the jet, and she yells, ‘Come on up!’ We were like, ‘What? No way is this happening!’ She was asking us to come up into the jet! We were just dumbfounded. We went into the jet, and we didn’t say anything. I remember asking Cher if I could touch her! I was just shaking in my shoes; we were just giddy kids.”

Castillo proudly added, “We got to see the little secret world that nobody else saw. We were the only ones that got to do it, because we dared to do it.”

Many years later, Castillo would again run into Cher, only this time, it would be backstage at a show that he played with the Motels. Randy would recount the story to her. “I remember you,” Cher gushed to Castillo. “I thought you were so cute!”

****************************************************

After chasing Cher down in her limosine, time would pass, and much later, Randy’s passion as a fan would compel him to write a letter to Pete Townshend of the Who, after reading an interview with the guitarist in Rolling Stone that was edited by Dave Marsh. Years later, Marsh remembered the article distinctly, and recalled working on it during the New York City blackout. The amazing thing was that Townshend actually wrote back to Castillo.

Castillo was an ardent admirer of the late drummer, Keith Moon of the Who, and the late John Bonham from Led Zeppelin. However, his favorite drummer was Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones. “I dare anyone to play like Charlie Watts,” Castillo said during a 1984 interview; he would continue to express his admiration for Watts’ playing until the end of his life.

The memories that Randy had collected as a result of meeting artists and legends in years that were long gone brought great joy to Castillo. Even just months before his death, Castillo would fondly recount his memoirs, such as in one from ’68, when he got to meet Muddy Waters at a club in San Francisco area. At the time, Castillo was playing in a band called the Tabbs. “We looked like Star Trek,” mused Castillo. “We had mustard colored Nehru jackets!” Randy laughed, as he described the band by saying, “It was like one of those Saturday Night Live lounge acts that they had in a spoof. We played songs like “The Girl From Ipanema” and “Mustang Sally.” We were like what you’d see in a Holiday Inn, when you walk through the bar, and see the group that’s playing in the lounge.” The Tabbs were not Castillo’s musical cup of tea; it was during this that time, he had begun listening to blues artists like Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King.

Talking about one of his typical escapades, Castillo described a 1972 encounter he had with blues legend, B.B. King in Albuquerque. “I was just tooling around Albuquerque with my friend Logan, who has since passed away from leukemia. With nothing to do, we were cruising up the main drag, which was Central, and we came to a stoplight. This yellow LTD pulled up right next to us, and there were four black men in it. I looked over, and I recognized B.B. King driving. So I yelled at him, ‘Hey, B.B.!’ and he looks over at me goes, ‘How’re you guys doing?’ I go, ‘We’re doing great.’ I knew he was playing in town that night.

“He goes, ‘Do you know where the Civic Auditorium is?’ I go, ‘Yeah! Follow me!’ and I took him right to the backstage door.”

The King of the Blues invited Randy and his friend inside the auditorium, and led them to backstage, where they passed the time together, engaging in small talk. Randy related that when it was time for the guitarist to go on stage for his performance, he said, ‘”You guys enjoy the show!’ We never even asked him for autographs. We were just glad to be there! So that was my B.B. King brush with fame!”

Randy had many “brushes” with fame in Albuquerque, the epitome of which involved his sneaking into a Jimi Hendrix concert, and hiding under the stage to get a closer study of one of rock’s greatest icons. The show was on June 18, 1970. It was exactly three months before Hendrix died on September 18. “There’s the 18 thing again,” Randy pointed out.

After leaving the Tabbs, Randy began playing with a band called the Mudd. During this period, Randy was experimenting heavily with drugs, and began using heroin. He sadly looked back on one of his reasons for getting off junk. The band’s lead singer, who Randy deeply admired, Tommy G, died of kidney failure, which Castillo blamed on Tommy’s heroin addiction. Randy felt the two had “bonded,” and had shared “spiritual” experiences while using drugs together that included mescaline and peyote. “We were our own medicine men,” Castillo believed. However, when Tommy died, it seemed such a pointless tragedy, that he was turned off to smack for good. “It was so very sad,” said Castillo, although he relapsed, and used it a few more times.

One of Randy’s final indulgences while using heroin caused him to throw up on stage while he was playing a gig at a fully packed club. Randy remembered his vomiting on stage as one of the most embarrassing experiences of his life. “The audience just stood there and stared at me. Some of them were holding their hands up so they wouldn’t get vomit on them. Everybody in the band had their hands up, like these horror movies. I had vomit all over my hair, chunks everywhere. I stood up, and you could hear a pin drop in the club. I handed the sticks to my friend, J.R., and he didn’t really even want to touch them! I walked over to the side of the stage, and everybody was still staring at me, and I threw up again over the side of the stage.”

Randy credited his longtime dear friend, J.R., with helping him to fully deal with the fact that he had to stop the path he was on. Randy would never use smack again after the night he had thrown up at the gig.

Randy’s next band was originally called Cottonmouth, but the group later changed its name to the Wumblies. They became legendary on the club circuit, playing respectable gigs to fully packed houses in dozens of cities that included Denver, Albuquerque, and towns as far south as Amarillo, Texas.

After a series of personal dramas, Randy ended up moving to Los Angeles with a friend named Tim Pierce, who is now a successful studio musician. The two rented a room together in Hollywood at the Montecito, located in Hollywood, on Franklin. Merely describing the place quite visibly depressed Randy, who still had not fully come to grips with his past surroundings, despite the many years that had passed. “It was such a dive,” he lamented. “I think the rent there was only like two hundred bucks a month. It was nothing but hookers, transvestites, all that. It was scary there, man. The beds were the kind that pulled out of the wall. They were so bad, these old springy beds.” While living in Hollywood Babylon, the two aspiring musicians constantly went to auditions, hoping for a break. “We were worried about getting robbed all the time,” Castillo complained, as he described some of the threats they had received from hostile neighborhood thugs. “It was fly-infested, and it was so hot there during the day with no air conditioning. It was so depressing. I’d be thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing here man?’ I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t have any money, and I went into a total depression.”

It was during this period that Ozzy Osbourne had just left Black Sabbath, and was now beginning his solo career with the brilliant guidance of his wife, Sharon Osbourne. Randy would describe this era in Ozzy’s life by saying, “There wasn’t even a Randy Rhoads yet.” Tim and Randy went down and auditioned for Ozzy. Sharon told Randy that Ozzy was impressed with his audition, and that she would contact him to let him know when Ozzy would audition him yet again, in order to give him more consideration. While Randy anxiously waited to see if he’d get a callback for a second audition, he and his equally miserable roommate moved out of their dreadful apartment, and Randy was resigned to taking his only option, which was to sleep in his truck at night.

Castillo set up his drums in the house that Tim had rented and was now living in. Randy matter-of-factly gave an account of how badly he was living. Castillo maintained that he paid twenty dollars a month in exchange for being allowed to park his vehicle in front of the house. He hooked up a long extension chord, which allowed him to watch television in his truck, in which he now lived. When sleeping in his truck at night, Randy revealed, “I had a big jar in my truck to piss in, so I wouldn’t have to get up. I was wingin’ it hard.”

Like something out of a bad dream, Randy finally received a message that Sharon Osbourne had called, saying he had been picked for a second audition. However, unfortunately, Randy didn’t get the message in time, because when Sharon called, Randy was in San Diego, where he had given a ride to a friend. Although as soon as he got the message, Castillo drove like a madman on the 405 Freeway, but by the time he finally arrived at the studio for the follow-up audition, everyone was already gone. Randy was totally devastated.

Now spending his nights aimlessly wandering through L.A. clubs, and almost like a tease, seeing many people that he recognized as rock stars, Castillo would eventually run into an old acquaintance, Randy Rand, a bass player who had played on the Wumblies’ circuit, in a band called Wolfgang. Rand’s group, a club favorite, had played at the Starwood with rock royalty, Van Halen. After Wolfgang soon dissolved, the two would join forces as a threesome with an incredibly talented guitarist, Glen Sherba, and they formed what was probably the country’s best club act that was never signed, the Offenders. The group, under the wing of their manager, Dave McKay, who Castillo fondly remembered as “one of my favorite people on earth,” recorded an album, that was given the tongue-in-cheek title, For Promotional Only. Although the band’s performances were comprised of numerous original songs, the Offenders also played covers that included renditions of the Rolling Stones’ songs, one of which was the illustrious ode to groupies, “Star Star.” McKay, now a concert promoter, got the band gigs that included a couple dates opening up for U2.

After Castillo had left the Offenders, Rand would become a member of Steve “Plunk” Plunket’s Autograph, and Sherba would join Commander Cody’s band.

During his fight with cancer, Randy conceded, “Sometimes I wish I would have stuck it out with the Offenders, but I was too impatient. I wanted something to happen now. I have regrets I left that band. I have real regrets about it, but I was too damned ambitious, and I saw a band that was on greener grass, and that was Code Blue.”

The grass on the other side didn’t stay green for very long, however. Prior to Code Blue soon being dropped by its label, Warner Brothers Records, Castillo and fellow-band member, Mark Thompson, would sell their concert passes from a gig they had just played, to John Belushi and Robert DeNiro for two hundred bucks. The late comedian and member of the Blues Brothers, who was out for the night with DeNiro, wanted to see the groups that Castillo had just opened up for, Cheap Trick and Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders. Randy was all too happy to take off his pass, and sell it to Belushi. Randy laughed it all off as he snuck back in to watch the rest of the concert, as he carefully passed the venue’s security, hoping that he wouldn’t get hassled for not having a pass. John Belushi died two weeks later.

****************************************************

Castillo’s next musical sojourn would be a short-lived stint with Stone Fury, before moving on to an ill- fated situation, playing for Lita Ford. Although Randy was proud of the music they played together, Randy felt Lita’s management had underpaid him, and he felt he had gotten screwed. According to Randy, he couldn’t afford a lawyer, so he did the next best thing. “When I left,” Randy said, “they owed me a lot of money, so I kept the drums and the cases, and I went back to Albuquerque.”

After breaking his leg in a skiing accident, his life would change forever, two nights later, as a result of a phone call he received from Los Angeles. He was happy to hear from the two drummers who were now on the phone with him, Tommy Lee of the fledgling Motley Crue, and Ratt’s Bobby Blotzer. An almost incoherent Castillo looked at his clock as he answered the phone. It was four o’clock in the morning. “Dude, Dude!” intoned an impassioned Lee. A confused Castillo listened intently as he tried to understand what it was that the two musicians wanted at this hour. “They were fucked up,” mused Castillo.

Excitedly, Tommy Lee told Castillo, “We have someone here who wants to talk to you about playing with him. You’ve got to talk to him right now. Here he is,” Lee concluded, as he handed the phone over to a mystery fourth party who was now a part of the call.

“I’m looking for a fuckin’ drummer. I’ve been looking for a fuckin’ drummer for fuckin’ ages!’’ Can you come out tomorrow and play?” Castillo, still dazed by all of this, and still half asleep, not to mention also zoned out from painkillers, could barely understand the words being spoken to him, by way of a thick English accent that were emanating through his telephone, and were coming from Ozzy Osbourne.

“Great timing,” barked Castillo. “I’ll come out, but I have a broken leg.”

“I don’t give a fuck,” Osbourne warbled through the phone. “Just bang on the table with your hands. I just want to see you and meet you.” Randy said he would bring video footage that he had of himself, playing with Lita’s band, so he could show his playing under more optimal conditions.

A nervous Castillo met the Iron Man the next day at the Burbank airport. Castillo knew that it would take three months for his leg to heal, and that Ozzy didn’t have three months to wait.

The two ended up at a hotel located across the street from the Tower Video store on Sunset Boulevard, the ultimate Rock And Roll Avenue. Randy pulled out his video, but there was no VCR on which to play it at the hotel, so the two ventured across the street and entered the Tower Video store, hoping that there would be a VCR in there, and that Randy could play his audition tape for Ozzy. As they walked into the video store, the young clerk, who was working behind the counter, looked more like the type of individual that would be hanging out down the street at the Rainbow, and not working in retail. Staring at them from behind the counter, with black, frizzy, almost psychedelic hair, and wearing a top hat, the store’s employee smiled, his eyes lit up, and he immediately proclaimed, “Wow! Ozzy!” The cashier was clearly thrilled at the idea of letting Ozzy Osbourne watch whatever video he wanted in his store.

Castillo would later see this mad hatter many times after that, including early one evening when the elated drummer would run into him backstage, during a Rolling Stones concert at the L.A. Coliseum in the fall of 1990, by which time the Tower Video employee had become known to Castillo simply as “Slash,” after the wiry haired mad hatter had joined a band called Guns N’ Roses. That evening Slash was now opening up for the Rolling Stones.

Castillo well understood what it was like to be the underdog. After watching the video, Ozzy asked Randy to play at the audition he was holding the next day at Mates, a rehearsal studio in North Hollywood. Castillo complied, but dejectedly felt his effort there was useless, as his broken leg wouldn’t allow him to play right. On his way out of the studio, as the rest of the hopeful drummers awaited their turn, Castillo felt the eyes on from musicians who were wondering why this fool, whose foot was so swollen from putting so much pressure on it, had even showed up to audition.

Ozzy followed Castillo out, who was walking on crutches. “Come over here” Osbourne intoned to Castillo as he motioned to him. The two were soon seated in Ozzy’s car. “It’s a drag about your leg,” Ozzy lamented. “You seem like a great guy,” Ozzy told Castillo. “But I need a drummer now.”

The question from Ozzy that would immediately follow this would later amuse Castillo for many years to come. Ozzy muttered, “Do you have any pain pills?”

“Yeah, I happen to have a few,” replied Castillo. “Here are some Percodans,” he said, handing some over to Osbourne.

Grateful, Ozzy then offered Randy an exchange. “Do you want some waffle?” Ozzy asked him. The two began snorting cocaine in Ozzy’s car, as the other musicians, who were inside the studio, waited to audition, and wondered where Ozzy had wandered off. Castillo looked back and laughed, just thinking about it. “It was a bonding experience. We sat there talking for almost an hour, and we really hit it off.”

Eventually, after hanging out in the car for close to an hour, Osbourne apologetically told Randy, “Well, I’ve got to go audition these other drummers. I’m really sorry it didn’t work out for us,” the British singer told Randy, as he pulled himself away to get back to the job at hand.

Three months later, Ozzy would again telephone Randy, who was back in Albuquerque, and the following day Castillo would join the former Sabbath singer in Scotland, where he would finally officially join Osboune’s line-up.

Note from the author of this article: Much was left out of this writing, including, most obviously, the years that were to follow, due to the extremely massive length of transcriptions by the author that tell the total story in its entirety. However, hopefully this story will offer more insight into Randy Castillo for his fans that want to know more about him, particularly given the lack of in-depth writing that has been done on him.


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