John’s cremation was held the following week at Paris’s Père Lachaise cemetery. It seemed like half the musicians in Paris, certainly most of the ex-pat musicians, turned out to see John off. Throughout the service, a gospel choir that John was involved with sang selections from the songs that he had written. It was quite an experience, intensely emotional yet a rich vein of joy ran through it too, albeit one with an unintentionally humorous end.
As the service came to a close, John’s casket was carried by 6 crematorium pallbearers and walked solemnly up the 16 steps to the raised platform from where his remains would be transported “back stage” for cremation. As this took place, in a comic clash of circumstance that only this weird and wonderful universe could arrange, the choir sang John’s final chorus of the service…
“You lift me up,
Nothing’s gonna put out this fire!”
And I looked up into the domed ceiling of the chapel and heard John laughin’ his ass off and beaming a huge smile down to us!
* * *
Two months later, November 2008, we held a memorial gig for John, organised by myself, Barry Johnson and Romello Rivers. It was held at “O’Sullivans by the Mill”, a bar where I knew some of the managers from some of my gigs over the years (Ciara and Solange – I love you!). The back room could hold 300 people and had a big stage with all the equipment and trimmings. O’Sullivans kindly donated the room and staff for the evening and the music was provided by a cast of 30 musicians – friends and admirers of John’s from back through the years.
I really wish I had kept a list of who played because many of John’s regular musicians I didn’t know and I’m unable to name. But a big band was put together by a lot of those guys, including Romain Dru (who we played with in Marrakech) and they were incredible! They started their set with Stevie Wonder’s “I wish”, Romain laying down that opening bass line like there was no tomorrow! It was such an exciting moment, I was blown away!
I’m not going to attempt to list all those who played (because I simply don’t have such a list) but I will mention one particular moment that was special to me. The final set of the evening was played by myself and Marten Ingle. For our last tune, a funky version of Miles Davis’ “All Blues”, Marten and I suddenly found ourselves joined on stage for a most magic moment of spontaneous jamming. If my memory serves me well, and I think it does, that farewell cast to John included the following…
Marten Ingle (bass, vocals), Kevin Kretsch (guitar), Nicolas Roy (bass), Barry Johnson (percussion), Charlie Seymour (drums), Rob McHardy (harmonica), Paddy Sherlock (trombone), and Mike O’Dougherty (sax).
For years, John’s talent on stage brought people together. In his death, he still managed to do it. And that still continues today – the classic soul trio I’m currently working on (with Florencia Guerra and Stefano Guiot) would not have started had John’s passing not brought Barry Johnson and I together. Even more, we will add some of John’s songs to the set list. What better way to keep his memory and music alive than to do what he did – SING IT!
John, my big brother, three years on you are still in our minds and inspiring us to sing and play and do it better everyday. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
With love from your doctor in the house,
You can download John’s album “My Acoustic Soul” here at CD Baby.