Monday, July 21, 2014
I know that there are massive tragedies happening in the world - Syria, Israel/Gaza, Ukraine, Sudan and on and on. But tonight I want to talk about an individual human tragedy. Even great disasters are just a mass accumulation of individual human tragedies.
I went to high school with a guy named Jeff Bond. Jeff was the son of the choral music/drama teacher at our school. Everyone in his family had talent. His dad was an operatic baritone, his brother, Bill, played the tuba; his sister Claudia was an excellent violinist. Jeff was a very high-energy drummer. He could kick the high school jazz band and make that group of youngsters swing harder than teenagers are supposed to swing. He could play funky drums that would make James Brown squeal. He was a dancer and a trickster. His sense of humor was infectious. It was an honor to play in the jazz band with him; he was an exciting fireball of a percussionist. Whenever I hear that old Todd Rundgren tune, "Bang on the Drum All Day, " I think of Jeff. I found 2 pictures of Jeff - his high school yearbook pic from 1973 and another, more recent shot. I also found one of his drum solos on the web. Jeff just wanted to play, man.
So Jeff graduated from Pacific High and headed out to beat the drums for a living. He played with some very big names - Mel Torme' was one that I remember, but there were many others. After doing the road thing for a while, Jeff settled in Reno and made a living playing drums in the casinos. He married, had a couple of kids and worked at being a good family man. Like most working musicians, Jeff felt the impact of the digital revolution and the "music for free" cultural shift - the casino work became less plentiful. He finally took a full-time non-musical job as a school bus driver in Carson City NV.
So we lost Jeff last Friday to cancer. I thought of him often, and we communicated once in a while via email. But I let the friendship slip away - I knew better, but Chicago is far away from Reno and I was wrapped up in my family and work. I didn't see Jeff much at all after I left California in 1976. I heard that he was sick a little while ago; Jeff was not one to call old friends with his troubles, so the news had to come via third parties. He died too goddamn young. He left a wife and two daughters who loved him to pieces, I'm sure. Jeff's death is another individual human tragedy.
Jeff, I am sorry you are gone, brother. And I apologize for being a shitty friend.