If I had had a blog on August 27, 1990, I probably would have written something at that time. There wasn’t even a real internet back then, so you’ll have to forgive the lateness of this post.
These days I mostly listen to rock music. I’m more likely to listen to indie acts like The Pixies or Spoon, but growing up listening mostly to 70’s and 80’s R&B – the road to listening to what I do now was a little circuitous. In the 80’s I had a few “gateway” artists that ambled me down this road: The Police, Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears, and Crowded House to name a few; artists that would be acceptable to my more R&B focused ear, but that were definitely different. In the late 80’s while in college I discovered Stevie Ray Vaughan – and bought everything he had released in a two-month stretch. Probably started with “In Step” and then quickly got everything else, which wasn’t a lot. While I had heard Eric Clapton and Robert Cray, SRV was my first true blues artist. He hadn’t “crossed over”. Often cited as one of the all-time great guitarists, I had never heard anything like him.
To this day I remember hearing he had died by first hearing WMMR playing 2 or 3 of his songs in a row, and then Pierre Robert coming on the air with the horrible news. To this day if I hear an artist on the radio played for more than a couple songs in a row, I get chills. I had only been listening to SRV for 9 months at the time, and he had been a constant companion on the train to work and school, so it was insanely personal – the first celebrity I followed to pass away too soon; I’ve gotten too used to this now with both Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley also passing away too soon. An alcoholic that had turned his life around (which he wrote about from both ends of the struggle), it seemed so unfair; I was crushed.
Over the years there have been far more SRV albums released after his death than during (only four studio CDs). I’ve purchased only three of these, and they’re all musts – In the Beginning (an early live recording), The Sky is Crying (must have collection of b-sides and rarities that has some of my favorite SRV songs on it), and Family Style (an album that he recorded with his brother Jimmie Vaughan that was released a month or so after his death). A man that toured all the time and that did a lot of guest work, there is a lot of stuff out there, most of it superfluous.
Stevie Ray has pretty much disappeared from my listening. iPods will do that to you – limiting you to what’s on your computer, I hadn’t ripped any of his CDs, and so they sat in my attic unloved until this week. Nissan recently did a commercial using one of his great songs “Pride & Joy” and I finally decided to rip those CDs. He’s as good as I remembered. Doesn’t really fit in with what I listen to now – but there is something so unassuming and straightforward about his work; it was satisfying to listen to everything while cleaning this past Friday (of course playing air guitar and singing along). If you’re interested, I put together an iMix of what I’ve listed as the best Stevie Ray Vaughan songs.