Posted by: kubiakl | August 29, 2010

Empty Arms

As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t grow up in a household full of cool music.  My parents were married in the mid 60’s and missed the folk revolution, Woodstock, Hendrix, The Beatles, The Who… pretty much everything after Elvis.  My father worked literally down the street from the Armadillo World Headquarters and didn’t go once (something about being caught up with providing for his family).  The point I’m trying to make here is that my parents, despite all of their great qualities, didn’t have great taste in music.

So at the time, August 27, 1990 was just another day in my nine year old life.  My parents probably saw it in the paper or on the news but it meant nothing to them either.  Some local musician, a guitarist, had died in a helicopter crash on his way to Chicago.

It was probably six or seven years before I learned who Stevie Ray Vaughan was.  My first memory is a friend slipping the Texas Flood album into his CD player while we were driving around.  This was after I had started getting into guitar music and I was hooked from the first note.  If I had to point to one guitarist who made me want to start playing myself, it would be Stevie Ray.  And I know I’m not alone.

During one of my conference periods on Friday I was reading the paper in my classroom.  There was an article to celebrate the 20th anniversary of SRV’s passing, focusing mostly on the memorial statue that stands near the river.  I’ll admit it – my eyes got a little watery.  One of my friends and coworkers was in the room and I tried to explain why, but it was tough.

How can a dead musician affect me so?  I never saw him in person, and the guy only recorded a handful of albums.  The best explanation I could give was to try and explain the intensity in his music, the way you felt every note.  Stevie Ray didn’t just play music, he channeled something greater through his beat up Stratocaster.  Go watch the DVD “Live At The El Mocambo”, or his two appearances on Austin City Limits.  It’s just astounding to see someone play the way he did, to put so much of himself into the music.

Nothing I say here will be a good enough tribute to the man who left us 20 years ago.  But maybe some of you will take a second to set your iPod for “In Step” and enjoy his music.

Because that’s all we have left now.

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