A lot of people are walking around in
a daze saying Sam, gone?
For two days I was hoping it was a joke.
Asked Bob. He said no joke. Dang, it
would have been a perfect Sam tricksterish
I hear Fats was jumping last night. Wish
I could have been there.
He means a lot. His songs
mean a lot. To a very special group
You would find a lot of them at Fat Albert’s,
a remarkable institution driven not by
fuel or money or clout or anything but
the love of song. (Thank you Ray and Ed
and Mary and Tony).
One of the strongest forces in life in North
America in the 20ieth and 21st Centuries
is Love of Song.
And Sam was a great lover of songs. So much
so that the ones he birthed were from a crazy deep
place. The place that everyone was reaching
for. And that tone he exuded caused a room
of people to sit up straight and listen every
time. Hey, there’s that sound I’m reaching
for. There’s that guitar strum I have been
dreaming I could somehow someday nail.
And there was Sam, offering up some timeless
nuggets of gold from way down there.
And his way of playing them, total immersion.
He gave the impression of someone
who lived to play a beautiful song to a beautiful
lover at 4 AM to tears of joy and thanks.
And for a while there, we could all be that
pretty girl, enraptured, appreciative, amazed—
A lot of people don’t understand. They have
no idea what it means to be a Song Junkie.
And the strange fate of song junkies is that
they are hooked. They are dealing. They
are busted. They have cover behaviour for
the rest of the straight people in their lives.
But nothing matters. Nothing matters
but the song.
And there was Fat Albert’s a remarkably
durable institution for over for forty years.
I got to the party in about 1981.
Mirabeau Bridge was the unofficial anthem
of Fat Albert’s. So many cute young chicks
across the years caught the bug. As well
as sparkly eyed young guys with a guitar
strung across their back. They would ask
Sam to please play it again. I must have
heard him play it at least 100 times.
Like a lot of great songs it was half discovered
and half invented. Like Star Dust, a song about
a song…staring down into a well at a mysterious
place in the heart of everyone.
Well maybe that’s too grand. But then again,
maybe not. Maybe not at all too grand.
Reflecting on a man’s spirit, when their body
is gone, all you see is their love, their passion,
who they really were. That’s the usual. Sometimes
it’s a belated revelation. With Sam? Forget about it.
He is always and only ever was exactly who
he only always and ever was—the song fisher—
like Hemingway’s impeccable fisherman
in the Old Man and the Sea.
Who has not attended a funeral and asked the
question ringing in the air: “What is a
man?” And in lots of cases an existential funk
wafts in the air like a stink.
It will not be that way with Sam. Everybody will
know exactly who that man is and always was.
A song fisher extraordinaire. A mensch. A
great encourager and celebrator of all
There were two guys standing at the back of
Fat Albert’s several years ago. Both looked like
they had been living under a bridge. They were sharing
tales of woe. And one said amid the accounts
of many indignities suffered, “…but then I wrote
a song in November”, and that meant everything.
To us song junkies, you can take our house, take
our car, you know the rest. But forget the blue
suede shoes, let us write a song we love
and it’s a very good year.
Sam, as much or maybe more than anyone
stood as a great exemplar. He caught some
big ones. That’s a happy fulfilled life. A life well
lived and a song well sung.
And it bears mentioning that I know all this
without ever talking to Sam about it. He was
great for light banter with a benign accepting
smile. Emerson said who you are is screaming
so loud I can’t hear a word you are saying.
Everybody knew exactly what Sam was saying
without him ever having to say a word.
If you’ve never heard Mirabeau Bridge, click on the link
and listen to Sam.
“Shut your mouth in this world
and open it in the world beyond.
In the nowhere air will be your song”.
I hear you, Sam. I hear you.