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December 05, 2007


By: Bernard Chazelle

I can't listen to this without getting goosebumps. All guitar players will always remember where they were when they heard his helicopter had crashed — only a few years after this concert in New Orleans and his recovery from drug addiction.

Written by Bernard Chazelle

Posted at December 5, 2007 10:15 PM

I was not a big fan. I unwisely expressed that view rather loudly at a bar on the night that he died. Unfortunately for me, I was living in SRV's hometown at the time, Austin, TX. The reception of my perspective was, er, not friendly.

Posted by: Rojo at December 6, 2007 01:58 AM

For my next adventure, I describe slagging Eliott Smith in my new home, Portland, OR. Also not recommended.

Posted by: Rojo at December 6, 2007 02:00 AM

Although Elliott Smith slags do, based on my personal experience, carry rather less threat of physical harm from the offended than SRV disparagements.

Posted by: Rojo at December 6, 2007 02:03 AM

A great loss.

Posted by: Batocchio at December 6, 2007 02:46 AM

I was a Bowie fan so when Let's Dance came out I started looking at the liner notes. Who is this guy that upstages Bowie on one of the best songs on the album? A few days ago I was listening to SRV in the car, when the progeny asked, "eh who's this"?, "SRV, he's dead", "drugs?", "no, ski slope and powerlines."

Had they used SRV's speechifying for the perennially bad anti-drug ads, it might have appealed to some stoners, but then his death would have made it obvious that being clean doesn't guarantee old age.

That stuff will kill you. Life.

Posted by: Ted at December 6, 2007 08:09 AM

I don't think I got into Stevie until shortly after he died. I was in my metal and punk phase when he croaked, so blues-rock was not on my radar. I think all of the retrospectives after he died made me think, "Wow, this guy is awesome."

Still, I think its good to admit you're not a fan of a celebrity who just died. I mean, you shouldn't be a dick about it or anything, but all the people who never talked about Kurt Vonnegut all of a sudden proclaiming how he changed their lives when he died is kind of sickening.

Posted by: David Grenier at December 6, 2007 08:58 AM

David: I agree with you. I enjoyed Vonnegut when I was a teenager, but I never thought of him as a particular great writer.

Re. SRV, it's not for everyone, I'll admit. But for us blues guitarists he's a cult figure. Like Jimi or BB King.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at December 6, 2007 04:58 PM

I googled Vaughn after listening to this clip, and found an interview he gave some talk show guy. He came across as a very decent person, a good guy. It reminded me that their are only two types of Texans in this world: those I really like a lot, and those I really don't.

Clapton has told that the first time he heard Vaughn play, he thought him so brilliant that he seriously pondered what was the use of carrying on with his own work. He'd heard a master craftsman, realized he could never touch him, and was momentarily bummed about it.

Posted by: at December 6, 2007 06:18 PM

One of my old friends treated me to a ticket to accompany him to a concert that Stevie Ray gave in Philadelphia no more than 2 to 3 weeks before his death. His playing was, to dramatically understate the case, astonishing. His mastery of his instrument and of the blues marked him out as an inspired being. But there is another thing that I still recall vividly after all of these years. In the middle of the performance, he stepped up to the microphone and briefly addressed the assembled. He spoke about his long struggle to get clean, how he had succeeded in this, and how grateful he was to all who had believed in him and helped him. He was just so full of joy, and relishing the vista of the sunny future that lay before him. His joie de vivre was palpable.

It saddened and shocked me to hear of his death so soon after that evening; but I know that he had found clarity in his role in the Great Going Forward. This is something to celebrate.

Posted by: JerseyJeffersonian at December 6, 2007 06:39 PM

I had the pleasure of seeing Stevie play an outdoor show in Dallas very early in his career. Texas Flood had just been released but hadn't gotten any airplay yet, and it was especially fun introducing other people to his music. By 1983, and I wasn't the only one sick of bouncy synthesizers and spiked hair. We were due for a guitar hero and got one.

Stevie combined warmth, intensity and technical proficiency in a unique way, creating the ineffable positive vibe that occurs between great artists and appreciative audiences. He fed off of it, and returned the energy in kind.

Although I never heard any speculation about him contemplating an album of jazz guitar, in the period approaching his death, I believed it was a path he would likely pursue. Even now, it's hard for me to believe he wouldn't have, but we'll never know.

Fans who have never experienced the absolutely astounding DVD, Stevie Ray Vaughn: Live at The El Macambo, would do well to get it immediately and fire that mother up, cranked to maximum tolerance. The '83 performance captures the show-boating guitar slinger when he still had something to prove, and, man, did he ever prove it. It's still the most captivating, raw, intense musical performance I've ever seen committed to DVD. The ghost of Hendrix is very much a presence during much of the show, best exemplified in SRV's out-of-body experience during Third Stone From The Sun. The underrated rhythm masters of Double Trouble are amazing for their cohesion and intuitive interplay with Stevie's ethereal shredding.

I hear the SRV influence on lots of technically proficient guitarists these days, but none of them come close to capturing the passion that fueled Stevie's live performances. He was one of the last larger-than-life rock & roll icons, but his humility and gentle spirit distinguished him from the rest. There will never be another one like him.

Posted by: Arvin Hill at December 6, 2007 07:04 PM

I was at a Crosby Still ans Nash show at Red Rocks in Colorado, when the band announced the crash to crowd. They played and extra set dedicated to him and his manager, who also died in the crash. It was very personal for them because he was their manager too. Needless to say, it was quite an emotional concert.

Posted by: stupidBaby at December 7, 2007 02:04 PM