April 22, 2006

Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven

About the only thing I don’t like about getting older (besides physical changes, of course) is losing people I care about. This includes parents--mine and my friends’--as well as other people who have graced my life with their presence, if only for a short time.

This week alone, I’ve heard of the all-too-sudden passing of two guys whose friendship I enjoyed. The first one was Ron Thomas, who I never knew well but who was an entertaining character I’d run into fairly often and who always had a lot of energy and excitement whenever the subject of music came up, which it always did when Ron was around. I always got a kick out of how thrilled he was that I had mentioned the bar he once owned in Eastlake (Ryno’s) in my book. He was currently booking entertainment for Cabana’s in Mentor, and when I last saw him there a few months ago we chatted a bit, then he was off again, doing his thing. His car accident last week ended his life all too abruptly, and he will be missed by not only his family and family but also acquaintances, like me, who at least got to know him enough to appreciate his love of music and musicians, and the pleasure in seeing his smiling face and lively personality.

As sad I was to hear about Ron, I was struck numb by the absolute, unexpected death of my good friend, Jim Girard, who would expect nothing less than for me to write a bit about him at this time. He, too, passed away quickly, although I understand he’d been ill for a couple of weeks. I learned of his illness at 4 p.m. today, and learned of his subsequent passing not much more than an hour later. No time to call him and say a few words. No time to send a card. No time to say something to make him laugh, which I always seemed to do without even trying. That credit is more to him than to me. For although Jim certainly had his life struggles, he laughed easily and often saw the humorous side of things, which was one of the traits I found most endearing about him.

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to tell him how I so enjoyed our many, many phone conversations and meetings at coffee shops over the years, and of working with him as my editor for Citi-Music Magazine a few years back. The magazine has been in hiatus for sometime now, but you can still check out his terrific articles at www.citi-music.com

I first talked to Jim over the phone when I was knee-deep in research and somehow found my way to him, who throughout much of the ’70s, was the editor/general manager of the wonderfully eclectic Scene magazine. We then met at a local Denny’s and sat over coffee for more than 2 hours (the server must have loved us!) where he related these very interesting, entertaining, and some absolutely-not-fit-for-print stories of his days at the Scene. He was also a member of the Euclid Beach Band, which had an unexpected and highly promoted run from 1978-1980.

There is probably much I didn’t know about Jim as we’d mostly talked about music and of the people involved in the industry. But through the years I worked and talked with him, I grew to learn a few great truths about Jim Girard. He was well-read, he loved music, he loved his family and his kids, and he loved his friends. And he was absolutely loyal to those he cared about. If someone was in trouble, he’d round up the troupes to gain support. And when a friend--or his son--was working on a CD, he was out there getting the word out before it was even finished.

As we baby boomers all get older, a lot changes as time rushes by. Some of those changes inevitably include losing people who have touched our lives in some way, and who we don’t think much about how we’d miss them if they were suddenly no longer around.

The last time I saw my friend Jim, a few months ago, we had lunch at Yours Truly restaurant and on the way out, we hugged and I said, “See ya later.” One of us--I can’t recall which one now--said we’d call. Then we went on our way and got busy with other pressing matters.

And neither one of us called. Even though I had thought of doing just that a week or so ago. Now, I’m left beating myself up for ignoring the little voice that had told me to give him a call, see how he was doing.

Regret is a terrible thing. But then, I’m thinking that Jim understands and would tell me to not to think of it that way. To focus on the friendship we had developed, the fun conversations we had, and I hear him say, “And though it’s good to stay busy, don’t forget to enjoy life - and music, of course. And do what you love, and spend as much time as you can with the people you love.”

Yep. Sounds just like him. So in his honor this week, I’d like you all to remember that. And to keep those thoughts with you in whatever you do in your life.

I’m reminded of the article Jim wrote in Citi-Music about Warren Zevon when he was dying with terminal cancer. He wrote:

“Well, Warren, if your ride's here and it's time to turn the digital tapes off, remember it's just because we all gotta go and you're in good company UP there. You will NOT be forgotten...”

And neither will you, Jim.

We’ll all be seeing you down the road, and in the meantime, say hi to our fellow music lovers who are already enjoying the music in rock ‘n’ roll heaven.

I hear they have a helluva band.

God Bless You.