As we shelter-in-place, trying our best to make it through this crisis as best we can, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about two members of our music community who passed away in recent days. Neither of them died of COVID-19, but they were nevertheless affected by the virus, and we mourn their loss.
Jerry Slick, a cinematographer and filmmaker who was Grace Slicks first husband and a founder of the pioneering psychedelic rock band the Great Society, died of cancer at his Mill Valley home on March 17, the first day of the shelter-in-place order. He was 80, which is not young for a rock n roller, his widow, documentary filmmaker Wendy Slick, says.
The Great Society made rock history as the band Grace Slick left to join the Jefferson Airplane. She and the Airplane would achieve immortality with White Rabbit, a classic acid rock song she wrote when she was still married to Jerry and singing lead in his band. I asked Slick if it was true that Jerry, who played drums and later guitar and bass, had at least an indirect hand in the creation of that song.
He told me that he once said to her, Go in your room and write something, and she came out a few hours later with friggin White Rabbit, she says and laughs.
After the Slicks divorced in 1971, he went on with his career in cinema, meeting Wendy eight years later when he took a video class she was teaching at College of Marin. When he asked her out after the class was over, she kept turning him down. But it was his talent that changed her mind.
Someone showed me some camera work, but I didnt know whose it was until I was told it was Jerry Slick, she says. I felt electricity running through my body. It turned me on. He was amazingly talented. I fell in love with his camera work. He was kind of a strange guy, but I liked that.
They were together for the next 40 years, often working separately and together on documentary and commercial film and video projects.
Courtesy of Wendy Slick
Id met Jerry briefly when I went to their home to interview Wendy about her 2007 documentary on female empowerment, Passion and Power, which had its debut at Lincoln Center. When I spoke to her a few days ago, she explained that her husband had a bout of cancer seven years ago that he recovered from relatively easily and quickly. When it returned, though, it was a much more serious matter, but he decided against having any treatment or therapies to prolong his life, knowing the hardship and danger that would pose for his wife.
He didnt want to go down that road, she says. It was the beginning of the pandemic and he didnt want me to go to doctors with him, to risk me being exposed to the virus. He just didnt want to do it. He really was protecting me. I could tell that.
Jerry died at home in his own bed on the first day of the lockdown. Its lonely enough when you lose a spouse and youre grieving. For slick, though, who says shes doing OK under the circumstances, having to shelter-in-place has added isolation on top of all the other emotions shes feeling.
Id had all these people around helpers and Hospice and friends, she says. Then they took his body out and that was it nobody has been here since. Its pretty bizarre. Thank god for Mill Valley. Its beautiful here. I walk my dog. I have such a good community of friends. Food and other things are being dropped off. But, if it had been a normal time, this house would have been filled with people and food and music and laughing and crying. It would have been a whole other scene.
Rahman DAmato, a Marin singer, songwriter and guitarist, had been relying on help and support from his friends as he fought against chronic health problems that had plagued him for years.
There was a handful of us helping him and cheering him on, says his longtime buddy and bandmate, guitarist Tom Finch. But that was no longer possible during the lockdown, with everyone having to keep their physical distance from each other. DAmato was 54 when he died March 27 at his fathers home in Fairfax. Cause of death is pending.
He was a terrific songwriter and guitar player with an amazing voice, one of the better male rock voices around here really, Finch, who played with DAmato in the Black Sabbath tribute band Sabbath Lives, says. That band was his brainchild. Wed been doing it for 15 years, but recently weve had to do it without him because he wasnt well.
DAmato, who relied on Medi-Cal for health insurance, was so strapped for money that he had to sell or hock much of his music gear. He didnt have a car or a place of his own to live, and finally had to move in with his dad.
We did a couple of fundraisers for him, but they didnt add up to much considering what he was dealing with, Finch says. He wanted to go into a holistic healing center, but, sadly, he didnt have the money and we didnt, either. If hed had money, it might have been a different scenario.
A community of DAmatos closest friends helped get him into a detox program in San Rafael around the first of the year to deal with substance and alcohol issues, and he seemed to be doing better. At least until the coronavirus ended life as we know it.
When COVID hit, that was the last straw, in a way, Finch says. Until then, he had other places where he was going and staying and getting support from people who were his friends. But then they were having to say, Sorry, you cant come here. The little support he did have waned. That was extra terrible timing, and the situation definitely impacted him. He was stuck there in his dads little apartment at the end. We did what we could, but were all consoling each other, wishing we could have done more.
Now Finch and his fellow musicians will have to wait until the crisis passes before they can give their colleague a proper sendoff.
His dad said we have to throw him a big rock celebration, Finch says. I assured him I would spearhead that. Well honor and celebrate him properly.
Contact Paul Liberatore firstname.lastname@example.org
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