this is a letter by a bandleader to his friends & fans about the loss of one of his music heroes. I have been thinking about my artistic heroes so much lately. Especially how important it is to have heroes/mentors whether you talk to them in real-life or just in your own head-- especially in this sort of gypsy life where there is so much change constantly. I miss Merce and Pina. And I really loved this song too.
We found out that William Garvey the man who wrote "Goodbye Horses"
(originally performed by Q. Lazzarus) died last night.
I'm so fucking sad. I'd heard the rumor from David Hawes from Catherine Wheel who was hanging out with us. So I googled it this morning and I found the death notice online and now I can't help but be so sad about it. Something about those words: "death notice."
He wrote a beautiful song. I understand why he wrote it. I know it in and out. Those enigmatic lyrics, the longing of it, the sadness. We've played it so much, I feel like it has become part of our lives.
He wrote me an e-mail a few weeks ago to tell me that I'd been singing the lyrics wrong. He'd watched a bunch of YouTube clips of us playing it and said that the line at the ends was "flying over you" not "lying
over you." He was annoyed. I wrote him back, apologized for the mistake (a few lyrics websites have it listed as "lying" and I honestly thought that's what it sounded like) and told him I would correct the mistake, that I admired him and thought it was a wonderful piece of music.
He perked right up with a few more e-mails and told me he loved our version and that we should record it. He told me that he really liked our band and then talked about how he'd spent a long time trying to
create a new sound for music. I didn't quite understand what he meant, but then I didn't care. It was just great to have this interaction with him. To be part of his world, to feel as if we were part of the same
world. Like we were both artists and we shared this song in common. It was literally the first time I'd ever felt this way.
And I love his song. I love playing it. The big break, the odd notes hanging in the air at the beginning, the crescendo at the end. We were going to ask him to join us onstage on our fall tour to play the song.
So he died on Monday and I found out last night and I read the Death Notice this morning and I can't help but tear up.
Touring is madness and you lose touch with reality. We've been on the road for over a year now and the days keep getting more and more surreal. After awhile, you start to feel like you're living in a dream-world. Like the people you meet are just characters in some kind of waking dream. It becomes a blur. There's a lot of drinking and a lot of loud music, loud crowds, crazy nights, quiet mornings, endless flights and meet-and-greets and phone calls home. And of course, music. The only part of it that feels meaningful. And William has been part of that for a long time now since we've been covering the song every night. So I feel like I've lived with him, or his creation, for a long time, here in this dream world.
I read somewhere what he intended the meaning of the lyrics to be: that in Eastern philosophy, horses are symbolic of the 5 senses. They represent the things that keep you tied to your physical existence. And when you achieve a higher level of consciousness, when you transcend your physical state, you leave the horses behind. You are "flying over" them. So the song is about someone who is so affected by loss that they decide to give up on the things that keep them tied to this world.
I know almost nothing else about him. I guess there's some sort of mundane statement to be made here about the power of music to connect people. But it doesn't feel like that. It feels like he's here, watching me write this. Like he'll be there tonight when we play it at our show. Like I know him because I know his song. And I'm so sad he died because I was so grateful that he lived.