Back in the 70's, musician encounters with drug overdoses gave birth to the addled rock star stereotype. People joked about a future when rock stars would begin to die of natural causes.
Well sure, it was all laughs until it actually started to happen. There's something quite unsettling in the realization that these supposed anchors of our lives are in fact impermanent. It's an uncomfortable reminder of our own mortality.
Michael Brecker was not a rock star, but I'd be willing to bet that you've heard him play. His sax appeared on a stunning number of records that span the worlds of jazz (including the fusion/funk of the Brecker Brothers, with brother Randy), pop, folk, and rock. A complete credits list can be seen at Brecker's AllMusic page. Here's a (very) condensed list: Aerosmith (Get Your Wings), James Taylor (One Man Dog), John Lennon (Mind Games), Todd Rundgren (Something/Anything?), The Average White Band (AWB), Blue Oyster Cult (Agents Of Fortune), Parliament (Mothership Connection), Frank Zappa (Zappa in New York), Paul Simon (One Trick Pony), Mark Knopfler (Local Hero), Yoko Ono (Seasons Of Glass), Joni Mitchell (Shadows and Light), Pat Metheny (80/81), Bill Chinnock (Badlands), Bruce Springsteen (Born To Run).
The last handful of entries illustrates how an artist can draw a "thread of influence" through a long segment of what we think of as "our" music. Most folks reading this are probably not familiar with the name Bill Chinnock. Chinnock was part of the Asbury Park gang, playing with a group that went on to become the E-Street Band. He was also a musical hero of mine back in the my college days. Kind of interesting to me that Michael Brecker played on Chinnock's Badlands as well as Springsteen's Born To Run.
Brecker played in Joni Mitchell's stellar touring band that was documented on Shadows and Light. What a band that was with Pat Metheny on guitar, Lyle Mays on keys, Jaco Pastorious on bass and Don Elias on percussion. The lineup on Tales from the Hudson is equally amazing — Metheny, Jack DeJohnette, Joey Calderazzo, Dave Holland and on two tracks: McCoy Tyner and Don Alias. My mind's ear can draw a line from my listening past all the way through to the present while listening to the smoldering version of Metheny's "Song For Bilbao" (on which Tyner and Alias play). Sure, it's a little sad that that thread of memory now contains death…but that does nothing to diminish this music.
Michael Brecker, 1949-2007.Powered by Sidelines