Just ran across this while rummaging down a rabbit hole. No better tribute from one friend to another, from one musician to another, from a fan to his idol ….
Chris first came out to Australia in 1993. I went to his Tuesday night show at The Basement in Sydney on the recommendation of a friend whose opinion I trusted. Just said ‘I think you’ll like this guy…’ God, how right could he be?!? I had not heard LWTL at this stage, but it didn’t take too long into the first song to be knocked over and sideways by the completely singular sound that this thin man with the National (that looked for all the world like it had been dragged behind a truck for 200 miles) was conjuring.
The next night I was playing in a Kings Cross bar, 2-5 am graveyard shift. In my break someone came over and said something to the effect of ‘There’s a guy here who wants to say hello, he’s in town from America. Have you heard of Chris Whitley?’ HEARD of him? Just the night before this guy had knocked my head off and here he was at MY gig?
I knew Chris for 12 years. As it is with touring musicians, sometimes we didn’t catch up for a year or so, but we always managed to pick right up again when we did. I had the distinct privilege of touring as an opener in Australia and some of the United States a number of times, the memories of the time spent in the presence of that sweet, gracious, humble and hands-down brilliant man are ones that I will carry with me always.
It’s hard to believe that some bozo from Geelong even got to record a duo record with him this year in Australia, but that’s what happened last Easter. At Chris’ instigation. Jesus! I cannot tell you what an absolute honour that was for me. Susann was out here with Chris during the first week and she was so lovely – it was such a pleasure to see them together.
I have such a mixture of emotions. My heart goes out to Susann, Trixie and Dan. For myself I feel so sad at the fact that I won’t get to see him again, but also grateful that I, as we all did, got to be uplifted by the fire of his intensity. Chris Whitley’s music had everything that an artist should aspire to: Transcendence, raw honest beauty, bravery, passion. As so many have testified here so eloquently, he was absolutely his own man and I can safely say that he will always be a huge source of inspiration for all of us out here in the trenches of the music world. His art is for all time.
Pick a record, any one of them. Play it loud. Right now it’s Dirt Floor at my place, might be Perfect Day next. I’ve been crying plenty, but smiling plenty too.
What an incredible body of work!
What a heart!
What a soul!
What a gift to the world!
Thank you my friend, for everything.
Jeff Lang, Melbourne, 2005
To commemorate Chris’s birthday in 2017, Jeff posted the following video to YouTube and to his Facebook page: