Michael

What sorrow.
So much it makes me feel a little foolish, for I had such a one-sided, far-off (if at all) personal connection. Like so many, I had been dreading this more and more this year, as I watched Michael’s dates get cancelled due to illness…. But I kept hoping .. that Wadena, yeah or at least this fall….
He was so much a part of my life, all one-sided, for me a fan…going back 43 years....
A college mate in Minneapolis - who grew up seeing Michael around - introduced me to Michael’s music in 1974 with a copy of “There is a Breeze,” showing me the so-cool drop-D tuning and opening riff to “My Opening Farewell.”
( I think there was some Young Life connection? With Michael Monroe? In the western suburbs..? in 1970 or so, where my friend first heard and saw Micheal )
From that point, Michael’s music was such a lodestone for me; formed my musical taste, such as it was….Those first three albums, still, have never gotten the recognition they should; just bought a couple LP copies of “Ain’t Dis Da Life,” just last spring in St. Louis Park..…
I've said forever no one was such a virtuoso on guitar and voice.
I saw Michael about 30 times in concert and he became so important to me, even more so the past couple years, as we all sensed he wouldn’t be performing for much longer, maybe.
All the great relationships with those I went with to Michael's concerts; a book of my life.
The past 10, 15 years, I often would end up going alone to see him; and he began to recognize me, and had a sort of mildly wondering”what’s up with this guy? “ look….
Got there early once at the Crossing in Zumbrota and helped him carry in his stuff….;
Saw him in the Blue Bird in Nashville in 1994; he did his new version of “Cain’s Blood,” joking about writing a song with himself…..
Saw him in 1978 in his triumphant return (as I remember the feeling of us “hometowners”) after hitting the “big time,” with “Bluer than Blue: and as I remember, he had the perfect sheepish demeanor of the guy who for years had scorned chasing the big time at the expense of his art and craft; and now he had to admit he had, well…. “Sold out,”... I think he used those words or something to that effect… joshing, of course, in a way, but also giving us longtime and diehard fans exactly the words we needed to hear.
And ever since, of course, the main message in introducing Michael’s music to people always began, “Well, you probably know him from “Bluer than Blue,” but his really great stuff was way before…..”
I saw him at a dive bar in East Grand Forks in 1984-85… a hard rock place that decided to invite him in on a Sunday afternoon to add some class, ...about 10 of us were there… and I felt so bad and wondered . what happened??
That had to be a nadir for him. I had breakfast with them the next morning - Sally was with him and in retrospect I figured she was care-taking? - and I kept clumsily trying in a million ways to find out how someone as great as him was playing at such a failure of a venue,. What was it? someone had ripped him off in the biz or something? But he was so gracious and had no bad or discouraging words, nothing bad to say about anyone. Looked like he was in a sort of rough patch, maybe; but he was just gracious, as he always was..
Saw him in Chatfield in an old school/arts center a couple years ago…; he told a great story afterward of having been in the Black Hills recently and inside the refurbished historic theater in Deadwood, found a photo (or playbill ) of his dad performing there in 1930s….!
Saw him at the Dakota Jazz Club a few years ago when he first mentioned publicly his newly found daughter and pointed her out in the audience.
Saw him a couple three years ago in the 318 in Excelsior.. With my three most-wonderful children, two daughters and a son; They grown and I so glad they could see him up close.
They have such great musical taste, beyond mine in many ways. But a funny thing that at first offended, hurt me: They had to suppress grins during a couple tunes - at the mournfulness that seemed too thick to them
Of course, it’s something Michael would joke about in his segues in and out.
I think it’s a generational thing… that tone was so perfect for me,from "Pilot Me" to “Old Folks” it fits me. And of course he had Rooty Toot Moon. and Snowflake Dreams and High on the Border. And of course, he could do no wrong for fans like me.
One of my favorite memories was hitting Williams Pub to see MIchael Monroe, circa 1981, and hoping maybe… and yes.. Micheal was there, and Monroe had him come up, and Micheal played a few, including “Circle of Fifths” … on his steel string Martin,00, I believe… Was that great or what?
Reminds me of a goofy time right downstairs of the old Williams Pub, in that peanut lounge, about 1977, probably…. Greg Brown… I had never heard him.. I just knew him from the liner notes as the writer of “Rooty Toot Toot”. I was the only one in the place! And I asked Greg Brown if he would do Rooty Toot?? He seemed sort of pissed, but he did it. And I in my unlettered, uneducated musical ways had no room yet for the genius of Greg Brown and could only listen and think how much I loved Michael Johnson.

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