jack’s back

My old friend Jack has been on my mind lately. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe he’s dead. Even though we weren’t close in any sense but our history over the last nine years of his life, part of me still misses part of him.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting back into music. Jack loved music. We forged our friendship with me teaching him to play and him teaching me to fish. Neither of us were particularly good students. I haven’t fished 10 times since those days 30 years ago. Jack continued to try and play for the rest of his life. I never could figure out why he didn’t progress much in spite of long hours spent trying to play. His older sister told me that she thought he suffered from ADD. I don’t know. I do know he didn’t seem capable of practicing but only of trying to play. That aversion to hard-work was one of the primary characteristics of his relatively short life. I think that was psychological. He was so damn much smarter than pretty much everybody that he was able to manipulate his way through most of his life.

The summer after smoking pot and drinking had replaced picking and fishing as our primary hobby I somehow wound up going to a James Taylor concert with him. (Seems like Jack’s girl couldn’t or wouldn’t go.) Prior to that, I’d had very little interest in singing or singers. I was way off into some “player’s trip” and somehow had managed to remain oblivious as to just where the real magic in most songs comes from. Jack had been subjecting me to J.T. for a year or more, but even though I was playing several jazz instrumentals on the banjo, the jazzy-virtuosity of all things J.T. alluded me.

Strangely, I remember we rode my motorcycle down to the venue. Rather than sit in our seats, we sat at the back-top so we could smoke pot with some degree of safety and anonymity. Taylor was supporting his Flag album then and had an allstar band made up of the usual suspects. First thing, though, J.T. came out by himself and played and sang Something In The Way She Moves solo.

And my life changed. To this day I’ve only seen a couple of musical moments that approach that. Without question it was and still is the most impressive display of musicality I had and have seen. (If you’ve seen J.T. you understand, even if soft rock isn’t your thing. Unfortunately he doesn’t come across especially well on most live tracks I’ve heard.) From that moment I began to appreciate singing and writing. Some 29 years later those facets have finally surpassed instrumental virtuosity as the things I most admire. It started with Jack and James Taylor.

Sadly, by the time Jack died last October, he was unrecognizable as his former self. The drugs had destroyed his health, both mental and physical. I had come to believe that he saw me as little more than a potential mark. Still, I liked knowing he was out there. I always hoped he’d straighten out. What I miss are the carefree days of late adolescence — a time when others were still footing the bills for most our adventures. Somehow they were much more enjoyable when we didn’t have to work hard to finance them. Life was free and easy as well as new and fresh. Neither of us could have imagined what a horrible path we’d already turned onto that magical summer evening 29 years ago.

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1 Response to “jack’s back”


  1. 1 misterbooks July 2, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Beautiful tribute to wonderful life-teaching times, and to a friend who did his job and left a mark on you, beit good and bad.


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