My old computer gave me a little technological warning today… a massive system error and absolute refusal to start. After a few Hail Marys and Nam Myohos, it de-crashed and came back— a resurrection, a small miracle. Reminded me of mortality, of my need to back up the hard drive, make a will, call old friends.
Another guitar player I knew died Friday. This one a massive talent, maybe over-appreciated by some, undervalued by others. News travels quickly; ditto the rumors and the gossip-mongers. He had a small bout with cancer, but the wording of his death-notice left room to assume his old demons had surfaced and played a part in the mix. In a way this is as it should be… we all return to our ‘roots’ at the end, like a dog going off into the woods when it picks up its own scent.
But typical of the pettiness of some musicians… they all get sort of possessive of their memory. Everyone wants to perform at the benefit, everyone wants to claim their musical relic, their little piece. Like those endless Ovation channel documentaries: once the rockstar is dead, the legends begin. No one is there to tell it as it was, and half the time they were too fucked up for accurate recall, so unless a camera was rolling, there is no damage control.
As my past recedes, I can’t always distinguish between friends and ex-lovers either, no offense to those involved…but this guy… well, there was a month or two way back where I sat up with him, when he was trying to stay clean. We’d do laundry (a kind of metaphor)…watch Star Trek and Dick Van Dyke reruns in those innocent pre-cable nights… lie around and talk and laugh, talk and cry. Nothing musical.
So my own possessive claim to memory would like to sucker-punch some of the nasty bloggers who retro-diagnose and wag fingers. They weren’t fit to be on a stage with the guy who was generous and huge-spirited and hungry and maybe had a massive musical heart that many nights kept a lot of people up trying to plug its holes with music, love, pipes and whatever got him through. He bled for us all. Listen to his music. It’s the tip of the iceberg he was. Even when it sucks, it has soul and intelligence and a little genius which blurred color-lines and a sense of humor and maybe never took itself seriously enough, or the guy wouldn’t have made it to 52.
One thing I begin to realize: it’s the pure version of serious talent that kills. You have to dilute it with all that other stuff— politics, roadgigs, other people’s material— life, parties, hangovers and bad choices. Otherwise you’d be dead at 27. No starting back up in safe mode.
I salute you, HB. Rock on. Kiss the sky.