On Tuesday, March 24 2009, music - and the world - lost a legend, and a gentleman. A gentle man. Uriel Jones, Motown drummer, member of the legendary "Funk Brothers" died in Michigan from complications of a heart attack suffered a month ago. He was 74. In his honour, I decided to watch the 2003 DVD, "Standing in The Shadows of Motown." As I watched, and listened to the music, which I refer to as "the soundtrack of my life, I felt all the emotions that the memory of those songs recalled. As a boy, I heard Diana Ross and the Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Smoky Robinson and The Miracles. As a teen I heard Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations all on the Motown label, all backed by the same remarkable musicians.
Growing up, these songs, along with songs by The Beatles, The Hollies, The Dave Clark Five and many, many more inspired me to pursue a career in music. I practiced and played along with their records, the music feeling safe and comforting. Years later I was able to play music with some friends in High School and eventually I began touring and performing all over Canada, the U.S. Australia, and New Zealand. What experiences and joy I experienced... I also got to know the not-so-nice side of all things musical; the unending traveling, the fighting, the bad food, illness, and lonliness which in turn led to drug and alcohol abuse, self-destructive behaviour, and finally alienation.
Somewhere along the way, music began to represent not joy and elation that I felt listening to the radio in my room as a youth, but something that led to grief, sorrow, and the urge to just leave it all behind. In short, my dream became a nightmare.
There is an old saying, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it," which seems to accurately sum up my musical career. I got it all right, and as I look back on it, I realize that the dream looks much different from behind, that is to say, the memory is much different from the anticipated future.
Yet, as I listened to such songs as "What Becomes of The Broken Hearted," "I Heard it Through The Grapevine," "Heat Wave," and others, I once again felt that dream awaken, and I began to, like that boy of so long ago, wish I could one day grow up to play music like that. There was great soul in those songs.
I met Uriel a few years ago when he came to Cape Breton as part of the Cape Breton International Drum Festival. About a year and a half later he returned to participate in an event to kick off the upcoming Festival. I got to speak with him briefly, share some memories, and thank him for all those great hits that meant so much to me and inspired me. In his humble, almost embarrassed way, he thanked me and shook my hand. We had our picture taken together and said goodnight. But the boy got to meet the drummer, the backbeat to the soundtrack of his life. How cool is that!??
Rest in Peace Uriel. Rest in FUNK!