A few years ago, I posted a piece on a Chuck Prophet tune called Summertime Thing that I’d heard one Memorial Day and fallen in love with. And like so many of my silly little essays, I just posted it on my site not knowing what impact, if any, it might have had on anyone who happened to stumble upon it.
But something caught me by surprise after my Summertime Thing post. I started getting messages and comments from an old college friend, who, through my post, had likewise fallen in love with the tune and wanted to know more about the man behind it. The next thing I knew, Cindy Collins had not only learned more about Chuck Prophet than I ever cared to, she’d dragged her husband, Mark, along one night and gone out to see the guy play live.
But that was Cindy’s way. The woman loved rock ‘n roll. Just loved it. Especially the live stuff. Only she didn’t necessarily love its superstars and those sitting in its corner offices and living in its palatial mansions.
She loved the grunts. The bar bands. The utility infielders and journeymen types who made a career out of shortening up with two strikes and going to right. The working stiffs who played the game the way it was meant to be played. The hard living and hard playing purists who, for any combination of reasons, never became rock royalty, but who never lost their passion or love for the music that shaped and added texture to our lives.
That’s why Cindy came to love Chuck Prophet. And that’s why she always loved Big Head Todd and the Monsters, her absolutely favorite band of all time.
That’s why she’d seen Todd and his Monsters play dozens of times in countless clubs and smallish venues over the years, and why she’d taken Caribbean cruises the band had sponsored. That’s why she, Mark, and Todd eventually became good friends, and why, just a week before Thanksgiving, while passing through town and playing the type of cozy venue that would define his career – the Troy Music Hall, near Albany – Todd took a moment to tell the crowd that his friend Cindy had passed a few weeks ago and that he and his fellow Monsters would like to dedicate the concert to her, calling her “a wonderful woman, a great artist,and a true friend of the band.”
So this one’s for you, Cindy. And you, Mark. And you, Trevor and Katie. It’s from Chuck Prophet’s yet-unreleased disc, and it’s a perfect tune to not only close 2016, but to honor a very special music nut the world lost during its run; a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a best friend, whose rock and roll heart was like a runaway freight train and whose passion for music could go toe-to-toe with anyone’s.
And, Mark, the next time you hear Big Head Todd and feel the urge to crank the volume, Trevor, the next time you slide on your bottleneck and grab your Stratocaster, and Katie, the next time you find yourself headed up the Northway with the radio blaring and singing at the top of your lungs, just know that’s not you. That’s Cindy. That’s your best friend and mother, the woman who brought the magic of music into your lives, and the woman who helped you become the musicians and music afficionados you are now.
So, Godspeed, Cindy. And keep rockin’. There is, indeed, as Chuck Prophet sings, “One more star in the heavens now.”
And wherever you are, whatever music is up there, and whatever live venues may exist, do me a favor. Save me a seat up close.
Oh, and get an extra T-shirt too, OK?