Re: condolences for passing of Michael

George,
MJ was so kind to answer many of my questions that day at the Cracker Barrel. Looking back, he sat down a pack of cigarettes and said he'd recently begun to smoke again after having given them up...someone had given him a celebratory cigar and that was it---he began to smoke again. His passing by COPD really makes me wish he hadn't. He asked me if I smoked, to which I said no. Then he said, "Man have you no vices??" We both laughed.

I asked awkwardly why he wasn't as big a commercial success as he probably should've been--he attributed it to his very common name and not being recognized because of it. (Sidebar: No offense to Dwight Yoakam, but MJ should've been CMA Best Song in 1987 with Wings)
At this point I said something like you are now getting to do just the kind of music you want to do and how the move to country in the 80's was a good one. He said "I've always been kind of folksy."

We discussed the early records--he had made me a cassette of Ain't Dis Da Life and For All You Mad Musicians and it was so kind of him to do that. He said listening to the early records was kind of like looking at fingerpaintings as an adult for the first time in many years that one might have made in kindergarten. Interesting.

Then I told him about how I'd been introduced to his music as a top 40 DJ in 1979, as one of my co-workers was very excited to share MJ with us. This guy was also a guitar player and he felt like we should go ahead and add "Almost Like Being in Love" to our playlist though it hadn't been released yet as a single. We did--and we took the unusual step of dubbing it from the album onto a Cart and playing it that way for several weeks before it was released. This made him smile, and he said we were probably the first to air it...then he asked which version of it was my favorite. The original or the acoustic on "Then and Now?" I really like the stripped down acoustic version and the very mood filled pause in it. He said the two beat pause?? Yup! He was happy about that too--said I had a discerning ear. He was just being nice of course.

Then he brought up LG, actually. He said it was an experiment that sort of failed--that he wasn't true to his acoustic folk sensibilities on it. But he added that he really wanted to do it and stretch out some musically. I mentioned the great moments on it--I loved "Whos that look in your eye" which was more his natural groove. He brought up David Sanborn and his beautiful solo on Im Gone. I probably shouldn't have mentioned "City of Angels" but I did. The producers tried to talk him out of that track but he persisted. As he said on the liner notes, "This album is for me." Nuff said.

I mentioned he'd done so well with story songs--"Two Ships" was the example I think I mentioned. I still love the rhythm of his guitar on the intro of that one! I asked about story songs in general--he said that he'd been fortunate with them as they were so hard to write, and due to short attention spans of radio listeners, very hard to have success with in the mainstream. Good comments. I learned something that day!

Another interesting learning point for me was how much imitation there is in music--I mentioned "Cheating on the Blues" and he referred to it as a Bob Wills style country swing song. I didn't know who Bob was, but apparently he was a pioneer of the genre.

He graciously signed my vinyl and Cd's, sprinkling in his stories about them as he signed. Like on the MJ Album, he described the gel filled hanging decorations on the liner photo. On Departure, he lovingly mentioned that the trunk on the back photo was his grandmothers trunk she'd used to immigrate to the USA. I believe Koln was the town she was from in Sweden maybe?

He told me he was honored to do the signing-and I believe he was. We had such a nice time and I was so fortunate to get to meet him...those of you who knew him better reading this know what a kind and gentle soul he was.

We had a great visit and I haven't forgotten it.