Jesse Fortune collapsed and died last night at Gene's Playmate Lounge, 4239 W. Cermak in Chicago. He was on stage, singing his heart out, and went down. He was 79 years old. There is something to celebrate here - a blues man living deep into his eighth decade, then passing while performing. If you have never seen Jesse perform live, you can see him on the Jimmy Burns Band DVD, "Live at B.L.U.E.S." He was a terrific blues singer, one of the greats. It is a painful loss.
We have had other serious losses recently - the legendary Les Paul, blues queen Koko Taylor, pianist Eddie Bo, human jukebox Snooks Eaglin, rockabilly great Billy Ray Riley...many of the greats that laid down the foundations of today's music have headed across the divide.
And now Ted Kennedy has joined them - not a musician, but a man with weaknesses, flaws and pain who achieved greatness in spite of (because of?) these features.
And we lost Tom Hebbard, the unfailingly cheerful and kind Viet Nam War veteran who worked the front desk during the night shift at the McGaw YMCA in Evanston. All of the early morning work-out people benefited from Tom's warm greetings and everyday concern (I am one of those early birds).
Mortality is the great leveler. We all will weaken and die.