As if the weather and my lack of updating the blog wasn't depressing enough... so, I'm snowed in with the family and working on this week's CC issue and my book manuscript (T-minus 22 days and counting) when I stumbled across the news that the blind Canadian blues guitarist Jeff Healey had died. He was 41 years old and died of cancer. When you write about music and popular culture for as long as I have, you get used to seeing obits. They're always a little rattling (like the recent passing of Heath Ledger) but every once in a while, they cut me right to the quick.
Healey was the first artist to ever get a standing ovation on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" in his American television debut. His playing style (laying his guitar across the lap and press-bending strings as he strummed) was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. Everyone from Clapton to B.B. King to Stevie Ray Vaughan called him the Second Coming on guitar. When Healey came to Cleveland for a show, I saw him at a place called Peabody's Down Under on the East Bank of the Flats (which has since relocated to another part of town). I even managed to get my dad to go; he had watched the Carson show and couldn't believe his eyes either. The place had double the occupancy and the Cleveland Fire Department was ready to shut the place down... but on that night in 1988, Healey's presence in the club even brought the Cleveland Fire officials into the club to watch. I've never seen anything like him. He tore the damn place down.
Healey was also one of the first major interviews I ever conducted as a music journalist. After a nervous 11 minutes on the phone with Healey, my voice cracking and wavering, I thanked him for his time and was getting ready to hang up. He sort of chuckled and said, "Are you sure you've got everything you need?" Gulp. Uh, yeah. Thanks. I'm good... he knew I was a bit star-struck, but he let it go. If you've never heard See the Light, you've never seen the light. I'm changed. I've got the blues in a bad way... what a loss.