Tomorrow, February 4th, is Rich’s birthday. He was a music-loving Jersey Guy and just after his passing, I’d say “play me a song, Rich” when I’d start out on the road and turned on the radio. Soon there was a pattern, a constellation of songs, that would inevetibly come on over the airways and sometimes even on two stations at the same time and then in the store (muzak version), or in a restaurant, just moments after I’d left my car.
I’ve come to refer to this as Rich’s Playlist from Beyond.
Then, I noticed something. These songs all had a New Jersey theme, with a personal connection to Rich in particular.
Hear me out now.
“We’ve got the right to choose, and there ain’t no way we’ll lose it, this is our life, this is our song.”
My New Jersey and New York-based friends will know of a popular band with Jersey Roots called Twisted Sister, headed by frontman Dee Snyder. One of their most popular hits is the anthem, We’re Not Gonna’ Take It. Long before I met Rich he lived in an apartment building where one of the band members also resided; I can’t recall which one. Anyway, Rich was working nights back then and slept during the day when this said band member used to like to practice his guitar loudly and frequently. One day, after Rich had asked him several times to cut back on his playing, Rich really wasn’t going to take it anymore. He relayed how he’d knocked on the guy’s door, took his guitar and tossed it out in to the street. I wish I could ask him to repeat this story as I don’t remember the outcome, but I kind of recall that the guitar playing sessions subsided. I believe the guitar was retrieved with little or no damage done with Rich probably buying the guy a beer.
“I wanna be the one to walk in the sun…”
The other one I hear without fail, nearly every time I drive, is Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” That song was written and originally recorded by a musician named Robert Hazard in 1979 and later made in to a hit by Lauper in 1983. Also before Rich and I met, he and Robert were colleagues, sharing retail space in a shop in Cape May, New Jersey. Rich had nice things to say about Robert, who passed at age 59 in 2008. Hazard’s version is quite different from Cyndi’s and you can catch his original take on-line. He was quite talented.
“We’ve gotta hold on to what we’ve got
It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not
We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love…”
But there is one more song that I hear more than any other when I’m out and about and that is Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi. Several year ago Rich and I attended a charity auction event in Monmouth county organized by a good friend. We were seated at a table next to a good-looking long-haired blonde man. He was very personable, fun and down-to-earth and we spent a lot of time talking with him. Eventually, I realized who he was; David Bryan, keyboardist for Bon Jovi. Rich and I got a kick out of hanging out with him and I see that Bryan has a birthday next week, three days after Rich’s.
This is Rich’s third “Heavenly Birthday” as many call it. I wanted to write something different this year, something that would capture a different side of him. Earlier this week, nearly two years since he’d been interred at the Jacksonville National Cemetery in Florida, I stopped by for a visit. As I did, I watched the cars in the funeral procession lines as they idled, waiting for the military services to begin for their own Loved Ones. I truly knew what they were experiencing in that same spot where I’d waited with my own friends and family not too long ago. Rich served as a Navy Corpsman, a medic for the US Marines Corps, something of which he was very proud.
Rest in Peace, “Doc”. I hear you Dee Jaying from afar and I tune in each and every day for motivation and navigation through good days and those more challenging. Thank you.