On the Monday morning of April 22nd 2013, a musical legend passed away. I knew before the ripples of mourning went out across the planet. I knew immediately because the phone rang and I answered it. I knew because my sweet young nephew called to tell me his grandfather had passed.
I knew, because six years ago today, on that sunny, spring, Earth Day morning, it was my Dad who had transitioned to the formless realm. I could feel the change in the air. Not just from cold winter days to spring… but a shift— this world would never be the same—certainly not for me anyway.
For as long as I can remember, I have always shared him… not just with my sisters, or the rest of my family, but with an entire generation of people. We shared him with the history of music. We shared him with the counterculture. We shared him with young and old and all those in between.
I will never forget my 9th birthday… the word got out he’d be coming and there were cars parked down the road for a mile… there was a women crawling up the side of my house… there was my dad hiding in my bedroom crouching beneath the slanted attic walls, catching some shade from my friends who were wondering what this big dude was doing up there…
Those of us, who knew and loved him, in the mundane sense of the word, carrying his lineage in our bones, have lifetimes to reconcile with the emotions that come with sharing someone so close, with a global audience.
Because he just kept giving of himself… to the world.
He’d give it away give it away give it away until he sometimes had to be carried off the stage, in a pool of sweat, the shell of his body left to recover the soul of a man who transcended time and space every time he took the stage.
And we would be standing beside the stage, with a towel, this channeling, just a part of the norm. It was who he was—who we were. It was what we did. It was how a child comes up in the shadow of a being who is larger than life…
And after his death…
While, he may be free of the body we attached to, free of the audience he never disconnected from… We—those he created and those we created, are still backstage. Some peeking from behind the curtain, some stepping out in front of it—to stand in the light… carrying the lineage forward in our own way.
Yet in a culture built on celebrity worship… I wonder if we will ever be fully seen for who we are and what we carry forth… in our own way.
And should that even be our privilege?
I ask that question often as Chogyi takes center stage, nimbly on a tightrope between worlds…
He left a breadcrumb trail of song, my dad… I recognize the privilege of being able to hear his voice anywhere any time. I recognize the privilege of knowing who that Hawk is… calling from just outside my window right now…
There is no death.
This summer, the Woodstock Festival (and I) turn fifty. And as the world rubbernecks between looking back and looking forward, the next generation of badasses are calling us to look at where we stand right now… and then ahead. Sure… peek backwards to collect some of the lessons we’ve been asked to learn, and perhaps one day we will learn them. Or maybe not… But if we don’t look ahead and protect their futures… we will miss the opportunity again.
My father used to remind us that it wasn’t the Woodstock Festival itself that was so awesome… it was the people who made it awesome. You can try to commemorate that in some way… but in the end… what can a ticket buy?
We are everywhere and while the systems, that attempt to thwart our growth, get stronger. So do we…
As the life expectancy of the Earth Mother is threatened, our collective creative body is threatened… and yet, somehow we continue to be coming forth in love.
There are festivals planned, there are announcements and ticket sales launching.
I don’t know what this summer is going to look or feel like but I do know this…
There are young leaders stepping up to call us to account. Listen to them.
And there are young voices to honor. Honor them.
I don’t know where I will be fifty years to the day my father walked out onto the stage to make an indelible mark on humanity… but I know that my son will be somewhere, with a guitar in his hand, living the lineage forward.
Myself, I continue to be called back to the land where it all transpired. As if the blades of grass on that field today, could hold the DNA of hundreds of thousands of dreams… but if it could… if it can… perhaps that’s where I should be celebrating future generations.
The last six years of halfway to orphan, has taught me more than any other six year stint in this body… And what have I learned?
I have found validation in the truth that death is an illusion and there is no separation.
I have learned that energy moves faster than matter—but it effects matter more than we have been lead to believe.
I have learned that celebrity rules the culture of humans and corporate personhood is real.
I have learned that I know very little if not nothing and every experience any of us live is Illusory in nature.
Actually, I have always known those things, my dad taught me many of those lessons… They just feel more real now.
Perhaps I’ll take a drive today…
***From The Prison was written by Jerry Merrick and the first song performed by Richie Havens at the Woodstock Festival.