“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”
— Terry Pratchett
We live and breathe and learn and fight and write and sing and we struggle for our lives to be heard above the noise.
We push forward even though we know the odds of ever ‘making it’– as they say… whoever they are– are slim.
Here’s what you don’t realize about the term ‘making it‘: whoever came up with it was not one of us. Not one familiar with this particular struggle. Not one of the fighters of noise.
None of us would have come up with a phrase like that. We have too much respect for everything that goes into what we do to create some imaginary line, across which one group of artists is clearly more accomplished– this level of accomplishment demarcated exclusively by monetary compensation– than those on the other side.
We’ve all made it as soon as we record our first offering of music for the world to hear. It’s as simple as that.
Here’s the best part about playing music for a living– about writing songs and making records and touring for your living–
In doing so, you become immortal.
If you have courage enough to put yourself out there… waaaaay out there on an emotional limb, all by yourself, all alone, with nothing to protect you… If you have courage enough to share the entirety of your soul in the songs you write and the music you play for complete strangers… then regardless of fame, fortune, tour busses, headlined festivals, branded liquors, signature guitars, Grammys, or groupies– you, my friend, get to live forever.
You’ve made it.
Allan Goodman was my friend. He was a few years older than me. He was a good hugger. He sang like Neil Diamond. He liked this video game called Halo that I never understood. He enjoyed a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. He was a baseball fan– an Angels fan. He was a son, a brother, and a husband. He was funny. He played drums like it was akin to breathing. He played the guitar like Mozart, if Mozart would’ve been able to get ahold of a Stratocaster. He played through this little solid state amp that sounded better than a solid state amp should sound. He played bass if you needed a bass player, and he was incredible at that, too.
Allan and I toured together, along with Matthew Briggs and Austin Gilliam. It was pretty much the only time in my career where I had a dedicated band. Everyone played incredibly well together. Matthew was on drums, Austin on bass, Allan on lead guitar. It was more fun than you can imagine.
Then, I went back to the solo thing.
The following year I had this idea on how to make what would become my Fresh Water In The Salton Sea record. Basically, the idea was that it was possible to make a really great album with a couple of close friends who played a few different instruments apiece, and together we could cover almost everything that was needed for the record. So, I called Allan. He was all for it. Then I called my friend Stephanie Macias. She was all for it.
So we went into the studio and came out with the Salton Sea record. It was the single biggest jump in overall quality, from songs to production, that I’ve ever made as an artist, and the three of us did it together.
If you really listen closely to the 10th song on the album, The Life And Times Of A Sad Song you’ll hear a lot of Allan. He played all of the acoustic guitar on that song… mostly because he and Stephanie came up with this idea for a bridge in the song and I wasn’t a good enough guitar player to pull it off. So he tackled the whole thing. He sat on a creaky chair to play the part… and you can hear the chair on the record if you know what you’re listening for. That’s Allan. That’s his brilliant guitar playing, and his brilliant body shifting ever-so-slightly on a chair that was probably too noisy for a recording studio. Now that Allan is gone, I find those tiny creaks to be one of my favorite sounds on that whole album.
Allan fought cancer for a long time. He was amazingly calm about it. I don’t know how he was able to be so calm, but his approach made the rest of us feel better about what he was dealing with. It made us feel like it was no big deal, and that it’d be gone before we knew it.
Actually, I’m not sure that I can speak for everyone else on that point. I don’t know if his demeanor made anyone else feel like that– but that’s how it made me feel.
He fought it for a long time, and then a few days ago word started to spread that things had changed. It sounded bad, but there was a large part of me that was convinced that Allan would handle it, like he’s always handled it.
My friend Bryan flew up to Nashville, where Allan and his wife Ashley have been living, to see him. The report I got from Bryan was not good. That was yesterday.
Today, Allan is gone.
Except he’s not.
Allan made it— remember?
He put his heart and soul into songs, and he shared those songs with the world. He fought against the noise of the universe and rose above it with his music. He left a piece of himself to float forever through our ears and into our minds. To listen to Allan’s music is to keep Allan alive.
Listen, and hug someone, and take risks, and leave your mark.
Do something that will last forever and you will last forever. Maybe not you as in exactly who you are right now… but the essence of you– the idea of you– the spirit of you. Those are the things that make you who you are, after all. It’s not your body or your hair or your bones or your blood. It’s your thoughts and ideas and feelings and art. Do something that will last forever and you will last forever.
Allan Goodman knew that. The man might not be with us any more… but Allan Goodman the person will always be around. All you have to do is listen.
the making of Fresh Water In The Salton Sea: