I don’t write about music very often. Although I am, as a writer, an artist in my own right, I don’t have the same kind of creativity it takes to make music. I wish I did, but I don’t. And perhaps there are some musicians who are equally envious of those of us who can put words together, I really couldn’t say. I do know that music has been a huge influence in my life; it has defined my generation in its own unique way and it continues to be a measure of our time in much the same way contemporary literature has.
But music is a performing art. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to sit around watching me type. Even with the relatively recent technology that allows us to record and replay music - it is still not quite the same as being there. In a very significant way, when a musician dies, so does the music. Even if it can be replicated so perfectly as to capture the exact same sound, there is an indescribable quality that the original artist brings that no one else can. Literature, paintings, sculpture and photography can live on quite easily without the presence of its creator.
Today, the music world lost another unique talent. Canadian Jeff Healey succumbed after a life-long battle with cancer. He was 41. He leaves behind his wife, two children and an unreleased album - one that Healey will never be able to perform live. His interpretation is limited to whatever recordings exist - and that is it. I was fortunate enough to see Healey open at a ZZ Top concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1981 (it might have been the Oakland Coliseum and it might have been 82 or 83, but it’s close enough for jazz, as the saying goes). He was, at the time, riding a wave of popularity that most performers never get to experience. Although his moment in the spotlight was brief, it was intense.
Healey, like a number of other notable musicians, was blind. According to Canwest News Service, “Healey lost his vision as a baby to a rare form of retinal cancer and he battled the disease throughout his life.” He sat down while he played, laying his guitar across his lap. Although he couldn’t see what he was doing, he sure could feel it, and so could his audience. Indeed, due to the unique way he played, it would be extremely difficult to duplicate his sound, never mind the life he brought to his music. Even when he performed at the fictional Double Deuce on the big screen in the film Road House, the feel he brought to his music was palpable.
Although he will never perform before an audience again, he has left the world with his recorded talent. It will have to be enough. He was a true artist and truly devoted to his music. The music world and the rest of the world has suffered the loss of a talent that can never be replicated.