Passing of The Torch



This may seem a bit of a strange post to be making, but I feel strongly that all facets of Life and Experience shape the way we interpret, create and perform musically, so in that sense all things are necessary to talk about in conjunction with Music since art is simply a manifestation of all things experienced, channeled through a created medium. Perhaps this is not so simple of a manifestation.

I’m writing this note because as of 530Am this morning, the 12th of February 2011, my father has passed on to the next phase of existence. As you could imagine, writing this is not the easiest task in the world right now, but I feel perhaps it is best to make this public and to make this personal. That, and it helps to put these thoughts down on “paper,” as it were.

As artists, we have to learn the valuable yet difficult lesson of embracing our feelings in a positive light and manner, something which is incredibly difficult to do. Many of us struggle to grasp the inner self and the emotions that come with it, often creating music that is perhaps lifeless or stale. Others, learn to grasp their emotions, to use it as a fuel to power their art and allow their creativity to flow, but at times, the realities of our modern world drain on their psyche, leading them down a darker path of self destruction which inevitably ends with either the demise of their art or of themselves. Then there are those who learn to transcend all of this, who can take all the joy, the hurt, the pain, the happiness, all of these emotions and emotive concepts, all the beautiful and horrifying circumstances and instances in our world and channel that into an energy that is their art that then allows that person to act as an agent of change and healing. These types of people, I feel, are what All musicians and artists, as well as all people, should strive to be. A life of meaning.

For me, this has been something I’ve striven for since the day I decided that music was my path. When I was a child, my Dad exposed me to music that otherwise I would have never heard, music that you simply would not hear on any 80’s radio or MTV. A lot of it was Jazz, Fusion, as well as Funk, Blues, a plethora of Classic Rock, Progressive Rock, (lot’s of rock n roll in the house), as well as Latin Jazz, Classical, and Good current rock for the time (King Crimson, The Police, Rush). These styles of music would be the stepping stones from which the world of music, as well as the world itself, would open up for me to experience. Music was my way of finding myself, understanding who and what I am, and a means to see the world as it is, to experience it openly and without prejudice or fear as is so common these days.

But along with music, my dad also exposed me to the way a person should be. He showed, rather then taught, that one should be kind to those around you. To treat people fairly, and to stand up for what you believe in, to stand up for what’s right and what is better for those around you as opposed to what is better for yourself. Perhaps it was due to his upbringing, living in a 3 bedroom apt with 13 people and only one person with a job, to immigrant parents in Brooklyn. Or perhaps these were lesson he learned along the way in life. But I’ve seen what that kind of living does to a person, and far too often do they choose selfishness over empathy. I’m proud that my dad chose empathy to live his life by.

My dad was and will always be a musician, a drummer to be exact. He was a self taught musician, with a great ear and a knack for melody and rhythm, probably why he chose drums and singing. He was also somewhat of a late bloomer, not starting till about the age of 16, when is mother had finally saved up enough money to buy him a 4 piece Sears drumset. From this humble kit, he toured with various rock bands in the early 70’s, recorded with the 70’s funk group Brass ,Silver, and Gold, recorded with Gloria Gainer, until finally when got the call to play with my grandfather, Bobby Cruz, and joined his band exclusively. This inevitably lead to my birth, since he married my mother, Cindy, the back up singer and daughter of Bobby Cruz. He toured with them until the Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz Farewell concert in Madison Square Garden in 1991. Midway through his life though, he made an incredibly difficult choice. He decided to leave his chosen path to support his family, and to support me. He did this, as he told me years later, because he wanted to make sure that I never grew up they way he did, that I would have a better opportunities then he had, and that I would go far and wide with whatever I decided to do in life. There’s not a lot of people in world he would give up their dream in their prime years for the sake of someone else, but for him, he said that once I was the born, I was the most important thing in his life, and he proved this to be true for the last 28 years. So in leu of this, hebecame a businessman. A white Collar chap, if you will. But he did so with his same sense of morality and consciousness, of caring and sacrifice, which is something of a rarity in the business world. But he lived a life that he spoke about.

What he said and felt, he acted upon it. Sometimes, considering his booming voice and near deafness, quite loudly. But he always spoke with complete honesty, another trait I find absolutely crucial to any musician or artist. Honesty and transparency, these two things are so crucial to creating and communicating through art. Because in the end, what we do, what we say, and vice versa, All conveys a message to those around us. We then must look at ourselves and ask, “what are we Truly saying to one another?”

In light of this simple question, I can look back on the last 28 years and say that because of what my parents and family have said, the path that they helped set me towards, he decision that they tirelessly supported, wasn’t merely a destination for a career choice, or allowing me to pursue something that I had either a talent for or desire, but they, by facilitating this curiosity, allowed me the chance for salvation. I believe that Music has the power to inspire, heal, and change lives, and I say this because all of these things I’ve experienced through various musics and by the people who created them, and I choose to use music as a tool for change, for peace, and for healing. Whether its playing Jazz, or Death Metal, or Samba, or Techno, or Funk, I choose to use music as voice of reason in a time where there is not a lot of peace or reason in this world.

I will miss him tremendously. It’s hard to convey in words just how much love and support he poured out. Sometimes, in moments where I Desperately needed it. Perhaps now he knows just how much I needed him.  My dad was one of my best friends, and though we’re very different in many ways, we were truly the same. To a point where somehow, even though we look physically different, (I have long hair, he was bald; I’m skinny, he was linebacker-sized), we were always mistaken for each other. And to those who’ve heard both of us play, they say we sound the same. Now that I’m slightly wiser, (slightly), I will agree.

He always acted as a voice of reason and fairness, whether or not I was ready to accept it, and we always were close, even after my parents divorce. Yes, he was not the typical deadbeat dad that we hear so much about. He always believed in me and supported everything I did, even when I myself did not believe in my choices and felt like giving up in life. Some of the last words he shared with me, via phone, was that he was proud of whom I was becoming, and where I was going. He took pride in all the various projects and bands I’ve played in and places in the world music took me. He reminded me, even in while being deep in depression, to not give up. He was my number one cheer leader, even to a point where I’m sure people got annoyed at how much he gushed over various accomplishments or recordings. But really, he was a loving, proud, father. In his last day, he taught me that you should cherish who you are, cherish those you care for, what you have, and to cherish what you do. His last lesson to me was to take pride in what you do, if it is a part of a life worth living.

I hope for those of you who read this, that you can take something positive from this. I do not believe that the postings on this site should simply be “Hey, check out this cool music!” or “Come see my show!” I would like that every time you visit here, you can at least take to mind and heart something positive, or hopefully enlightening, or what ever it is you need that day. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I’m sure the next posting to come will have some good news with it.

To my dad, I love you and will miss you in this life, but cannot wait to see you in the next. I hear that by then, they’ll have Dead Space 17 and Metal Gear 52, should be pretty good. 🙂