Yesterday I checked the mailbox. There was a note from a dad who wanted me to sign a card for his two-year-old son, because the dad wanted the son to know about the people who had been an inspiration or influence in his life.
He wrote that an older album of mine called Saturn Returns had meant a lot to him. That album was recorded in Seattle, where I lived for years and got my musical feet wet in a pool of musicians much more talented than me.
I met one of those musicians through an ad I’d placed in the local music magazine. I needed a bass player for what would be my debut full-length album and the first call I got was from some guy who called himself Joe Bass.
He said he sometimes went by the name Joe Skyward. Since I was new in town, I had no idea that among the bands he’d played with were the Posies and Sky Cries Mary, and he was considered one of the best players anywhere.
He came to our dingy rehearsal space in a building we shared with a thousand other Seattle bands. He had bleach-blonde spiked hair and full-sleeve tattoos, needled into him long before it was hip for guys with beards to do those kind of things. The word “RENT” was tattooed on the fingers of one hand and either “FOOD” or “BEER” on the other. I don’t remember which now.
But I will never forget the moment he hit his first note in that rehearsal space. I felt like somebody punched me in the stomach.
We recorded many songs, including that album Saturn Returns and played many shows together over the next decade.
The only way I can describe him is as one of the (if not the) purest, truest, and best human beings I’ve ever known.
I was back in Seattle a few days ago to see Springsteen in concert. He’s why I do what I do and gave me a hand to hold as I started stumbling toward a dream. The almost four-hour show galvanized the kind of man I want to be, strengthened my faith in humanity and resolved my hope to put something beautiful in the world. I felt the circle come around several times as he played, this awareness that I was here in the town where I discovered twenty years ago that I could use my words and music to affect change in people. And myself.
The next morning we drove by the studio where we recorded ‘Saturn Returns.’ It’s an empty storefront now, buried in a city I couldn’t even recognize in the massive stakes of steel and concrete recently driven into its heart.
I thought of Joe Bass and wondered how he’s doing.
And the next day a massive light in this sometimes too-dark room went out.
The world was a better place because of you, Joe.
Rest in peace.