Michael Hedges : Starseed Eulogy
written by: Patrick Brayer (12-3-97)
Today I got the life altering news that my dear friend Michael Hedges perished in a dangerous curve automobile accident in Mendocino California. The caller was Hilleary Burgess, Michael’s longtime friend and manager.
(photo: Irene Young)
It was a day that had started with promise. I awoke, spun a bagel on my finger like Wyatt Earp and French kissed a soy-ed out cup of coffee. My Alabama girl friend had rushed off into the world in a floor length skirt to do temporary work at a fire department that had lime green fire trucks. Her destination was Riverside California, two blocks from the spot, now etched in my memory, where on the pale sidewalk outside of the municipal auditorium I was unknowingly to say my last face to face farewell to my friend Michael Hedges, there on the evening of October 26, 1997. Michael was performing that night in a guitar summit with three other prominent players, Herb Ellis, Rory Block, and Sharon Ibsin. As a little backstory I’ll add that earlier that morning, after coffee and cactus enchiladas, I set out to go to yard-sales in and about my Fontana weed patch. In doing so I came upon a little battery operated handheld T.V., displayed alongside of some lipstick smeared martini glasses and a taxidermized chihuahua, grouped black-comically on a rough corn colored horse blanket. I didn’t really want it, but in the spirit of yard-sailing, I offered a pittance that I assumed they would refuse, but to my surprise they took it. That’s what I always liked about yard-sales, they seemed like free admission to a one-act play, that while they were busy being joyous and humble, at the same time there was always the slight scent of downfall. I could just picture the sun striking down on a car up on blocks, that isn’t there, but should be. After soundcheck that evening Hedges took me backstage to meet famed jazz guitarist Herb Ellis (Benny Goodman, Joe Pass, etc), where we were both reduced to kids in awe. As we talked I noticed that Ellis seemed really sad, and questioned him if he was o.k. He said that he was just a little upset to have to miss game seven of the World Series, between the Cleveland Indians, and the Florida Marlins. I told him I was thinking along those same lines, that his lucky day was my lucky day, and handed him over my new salvaged T.V. He seemed surprised at first but eventually lit into a smile, after he realized it wasn’t going to explode. He tuned into the game as we sauntered away. Later, after the concert, Herb played me a few lines of Danny Boy on his sunburst Gibson, and told me, like he wanted me to know, that he played that song for his wife each night before they went to bed. As I thanked him, I pictured him at home with a Chanelle bedspread, and grossly flattered myself to think that we were in any way even.
Michael was on his way into Los Angeles where later that night he’d study Yin Yoga in a garage with his teacher Pauli Zink (who also taught movement techniques to David Lee Roth and others). “Don’t bend anything I wouldn’t bend” were my parting words, and the words now that I peel from my memory like the adhesive side of a bumper sticker