I don’t know when I was first aware of Jeff. I don’t really recall a time before my knowledge of his work. And that’s a good and bad thing. I never had to know a universe where his work wasn’t a part of our cultural fabric. And it’s deeply beautiful to have his work. And it’s heartbreaking to have only that to remember him by. I never knew a world that he was physically in. And yet he taught me and many others everything we need to know about life and love and art and the heaven and hell of it all.
Jeff fans are a mixed bag in my experience. They’re all sorts of different ages and races. They come from different places. They’re men, women, and all the beautiful beings in between. They’re every shade of grey that a human being can be. But there’s one common thread. They all create. They all have it in their soul that all they want to do is make something from nothing every day for the rest of their lives. They tend to be sensitive and empathetic, which comes across in everything they create. There’s this almost spiritual drive behind it. Like it’s meditation. Like it’s therapy. Like it’s church. It’s just a part of their soul as much as the god(s) they believe in. Or don’t.
I learned something from Jeff. Just like these people must have. I learned what it is to expose yourself. Not in a physical sense, but somehow it’s even more primal than that for me. And for people who are meant to be doing the things that I do. It’s instinct. And it’s hard as hell. It’s exposing every facet of your soul, warts at all, and hoping that someone hears you. And hoping someone understands. And hoping someone loves you. And how much it hurts just to be sometimes. But that you always have your outlet for the drippings of your damaged soul. And there’s a sense of calm in that despite the chaos it can bring to your mind.
I don’t think that anyone can listen to him–I mean really listen and not be changed in some small way. You may not notice it. But it’s there. The way he had a voice of his own that still held onto everyone who came before him. Be it his father or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, his Elvis. We pick up on our heroes. Whether we realize we’re doing it or not. I think Jeff did, but I didn’t always. It’s a process I suppose. And you have to experiment to get there. Just like Jeff. Like all the different genres of music that consumed him. Like the songs he wrote and the books he read.
There’s something about Jeff. Even though he’s been gone twenty years today. The spark of his soul lives on. The pure abandon with which he attacked sounds and words and most importantly, the way he reminded us all how it was to feel the full spectrum of human emotion. Because that was just the sort of ethereal being Jeff was. And is. Sometimes I wonder what it was like inside his head. If he ever realized how pure and special he was. And if he ever thought that he was too bright of a star for this world. And that he’d fit in better among the angels. And I wonder if he ever realized how much people would miss him someday.