This past week marked the anniversary of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s death. Not to compare the two, but it was – in my life – my first JFK experience. My mother talked about knowing exactly where she was when she heard about his assassination, and I didn’t have anything in life like that yet until I heard SRV had died. It was a pretty big thing to me at that time, and I do remember exactly where I was – back pumping gas back on the Cape in Massachusetts after my first short chapter trying to settle in Austin, TX. A customer came in a told me “Stevie Ray’s helicopter crashed.” I couldn’t believe it – I called the local rock radio station and they didn’t know anything yet. My friend Don (decades later to become “3D” here at Birdsong for a bit) walked up and I told him what was going on while I was on the phone with them… “Is it true?” “They don’t know.” But before long we knew. Stevie Ray Vaughan died on August 27, 1990. It was almost as if someone had let some air out of life for a few days. And please remember, this was a pre-9/11 world. We might touch on that for a moment next week.
In 1990 Jessi Combs would have been around 7, probably showing the little boys how to put back together the stuff they broke and stunt jumping her tricycle. Many of you have no idea who this absolute badass was, but on August 27th she died – foot to the floor, chasing a dream. At 400 miles an hour in a jet car. The racing world has its share of loss; it’s inherent in such risky pursuits. But there are a lot of them right now feeling shocked, having their SRV, their JFK moment. Feeling like someone let some air out of life. You hang around on this rock and you see the gamut – long, slow declines, sometimes even WILLING long slow declines, where dreams and goals and passion were long ago handed over… and then, over here on this other end of the spectrum, the proverbial “Blaze of Glory.” Running into fire. Moving in where most are running from. Pushing the human experience farther up, deeper down, and faster across. Moving millions with a message. It’s not easy to compare those who challenge that level of risk for sport or by default in travel to others who do it as their duty or service – but the point is this. Those snuffed out in extraordinary moments leave us with the greatest gift, to look at our own lives, realize time is on its own schedule, that our heroes are human and to make the damn list. Get up off of that couch and make something happen. It doesn’t have to be a land speed record or lives saved or the cover of Rolling Stone. We don’t all have those kinds of movies.
But we’ve got ours, and we’ve got now, and there’s something we can do to kick it up a notch. Hone your craft whatever it is you do and reach with it. Whoever you are, whatever your situation… make death take you down moving. On the way from a gig, foot to the floor in pursuit of your dream, writing that book, changing that person’s tire by the side of the road, or just walking to get healthy as ironic as that would be. Be heading toward something with some drive in you. Go write a song. Go SING a song. The world doesn’t need another America’s Got Talent winner – it needs us all to push up through the dirt in the garden and turn that light and that rain into something.
It’s the end of August, and what a busy month it has been here! The thought of a total break – that was gone in the first week. I’m feeling too good. I’m getting too much done. There’s too much to do and I love doing it. I know I love doing a little too much a little too much; I’m very grateful that part of me focused on building guitars. Into September we go!
Listening to: Lots of old Bill Evans solo albums and Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography audiobook (CDs 5 and 6).