You know, probably that best advice that people give to the grieving is to try to remember the good times, as painful as that may be. My brother Andrew was ten years older than me, so one of his prime responsibilities was to indoctrinate me into what constitutes good music. This was a job he performed with admirable judgment and skill. When my classmates were still listening to KISS and other silly things, I was listening to Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and Bob Dylan. But his musical tastes were a lot more developed than what you’d later hear on Classic Rock format radio stations. We were as likely to sit contemplatively listening to Pat Matheny as to rock out to Boston, and he was as likely to put on Fairport Convention as The Kinks.
So many of my memories are related to music because that’s what we’d do. And I can’t think of anything we bonded on over more than John Prine, and particularly Prine’s fifth album Bruised Orange that came out in 1978 when I was eight and he was eighteen.
If you have a turntable and can dig that vinyl out of storage and play it from beginning to end, that will give you the best idea of what he was like, what he valued, and what made him truly happy.
I’ll embed a few of the songs of that album so you can get a sense of what I mean.
This one is exquisitely painful to listen to today, but just the advice I need, and just what he’d tell me if he could.
There are values and sensibilities in these songs. They defy description, but they are profoundly good-hearted and decent and wise. And these are the values Andrew embodied and the ones he imparted to me.
He gave me so many gifts. I’ll remain, always, so grateful.