Wednesday, March 19, 2008

And Another One...

I was reading down the Wikipedia Scroll of Doom for 2008 earlier, as you do, and got upset. Not over Arthur C. Clarke, Captain Birdseye or even "Hurricane" Smith. They'd all had a decent knock (I didn't realise Hurricane Smith was 85!) so fair play to them. It's when there's so much unfinished business that there's a very real sadness.

Anybody remember the Patrick Swayze film "Roadhouse" from about 1989? The film was pretty average but one performance stood way above that of anyone else. The blind guitarist in the cage may have been miming but he was doing it to his own soundtrack. His name was Jeff Healey and he died of cancer on March 2nd. He was only 41. I don't believe in curses but the rest of the cast of that film must be quaking, considering Patrick Swayze's cancer diagnosis a few weeks ago. I was a fan and I didn't know and I was more than a bit shocked. I went on Youtube, watched a few clips and found I was blubbing like a baby. Yet another performer I'd always promised myself I'd see live but never got round to it.

There are very many good guitarists around but few of them are truly unique or possess a talent to raise them above the journeymen. Jeff Healy was a popular musical polymath. He played that Squier Strat like nobody else, his laptop technique giving him a stretch that no contemporary player could emulate traditionally and as such a definitely recognisable sound. If you play the guitar, you can't take your eyes off that left hand; he was very, very good. He'd been blind since 8 months and he'd said that his distinctive style was because he didn't know any other way to do it, never having seen anyone play before. Despite enjoying a devoted following and critical acclaim for his blues based rock, his true love was jazz and he'd begun a parallel performing career as a jazz trumpeter and guitarist. He was also heavily into the Toronto music scene; someone I knew who was involved in organising one of the big festivals over there said nothing happened in the city without Jeff knowing about it. He hadn't given up on the meat and drink stuff and his final rock album, "Mess of Blues" is shortly to be released. Here's a couple of career clips. The top one isn't his usual band - yes, that's Dr John on piano. Enjoy.

And some trad jazz. Watch him steal the guitar solo:

2 Vegetable peelings:

Blogger Phil said...

Well said Richard.
My good friend Ray Minhinnett, who is a fine guitarist, was telling me of a time he had a blow with Jeff Healey and how he was looking over his shoulder to watch how he played. When you think about it, it's better than the usual method, in that you have 5 digits to fret with instead of 4.
I remember the first time I saw him - watching the film - and being knocked out by his playing. He had a difficult life and yet through it all he remained a lovely man, liked and admired by all.
Such a loss...

1:21 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Phil, I don't generally like show-off guitarists as you probably know. 36 notes when 4 will do turns me right off but Jeff Healey could do all that if he wanted to and because of his technique he kept it fluid.

2:30 pm  

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