Sunday, May 18, 2014

I am finally at the age where I bury more friends than I make.

               Sometimes you meet a person that changes your life. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes, not. That's the crapshoot of friendship. If you are asked why you are friends with someone you likely spout platitudes as you grope for an answer. Friendship, like love is something that happens in spite of our best intentions.

Dan(Jeremiah) Freeman was a friend.

We met around thirty years ago. We both did cable TV. We both loved music. We both shared a best friend.

Jeremiah had spent years in the music business. He started playing professionally at thirteen. The man had a rough, raspy speaking voice but sang clear as a bell. He could take a sad country song and reduce you to a puddle of tears in a honky tonk. And he seemed to know them all.

He played bass guitar primarily. Though he was also an accomplished lead player when he wanted to be. But as a singer is where he made his greatest impact.

Danny was an old school country singer. He took the old classics and infused them with life. You felt the pain and joy in the lyrics. Love lost or found. Drinking to forget or remember. Riding the rails or your thumb across rural America or the factories of the North. And he could do all this loaded.

All the people who knew him have a plethora of "Jeremiah" stories. After a person's passing there is a tendency to gloss over flaws. Well, no matter how hard you try you'll never be able to paint Jeremiah Freeman as a saint. Hell, no one could do that with a straight face.

Danny was the kind of guy who drew strong reactions from people. If you knew him, you either loved or hated him. Sometimes both in the same hour. He could be kind and caring, then a real bastard. Sometimes, but not always, it depended on the Budweiser consumption, as to which Jeremiah you were dealing with.

He could give you the shirt off his back as he stabbed you in yours. He could be funny, sweet and charming. or he could be vicious as he told you how to fix your life, even if there was nothing wrong with it.

The bastard would have a handful of new jokes every day. They were never politically correct. He had a sharp wit. I once said to him"No one phrases like Willie Nelson." His reply? "Who'd want to?"

Oh, he drank. He would order two beers at the bar at a time. I once saw him so drunk he forgot the words to "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey". A friend of mine once observed that if he and I drank as much as people thought we did, we'd be dead. We simply couldn't drink that much and function. Jeremiah did drink as much as people thought he did. Sometimes more. He would then sing you down a country road, or across a forlorn stretch of highway.

In the last year we didn't see each other as much. I was too blind with cataracts and too broke to go see him. He was legally blind and no longer drove. But, we'd go see an act  at the house of a friend of his. He managed to get me lost going there. He also sang with Linda Ronstadt at one after show jam.

Sleepy LaBeef had him sitting in with the band whenever he played Columbus. Sleepy offered Danny a gig in the band. Jeremiah asked if he took it would I help him move to Northwestern Arkansas. I said, sure. Danny was getting sick then, I think and passed on it.
Danny playing bass for Sleepy LaBeef Aug. 2013

 We had a rocky relationship. There were days we hated each other. There were days when we we as close as two friends could be. And everything in between.

The city of Columbus is a little duller now. Even more boring. Dan was one of a kind. Thank God. I know my life will be duller, less chaotic and fun from now on.

                                                       Good-bye, Jumbo.

With Sleepy LaBeef at The Hey Hey gig in Aug.2013
(Photos copyright 2013 Thomas Givens all rights reserved)

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