The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #70598 Message #1205417
Posted By: GUEST,Lydia
11-Jun-04 - 05:49 PM
Thread Name: Rick Fielding Eulogy
Subject: Rick Fielding Eulogy
As promised, here is the eulogy from Mose Scarlett. For those of you who know Mose, please try to imagine his soft, deep, rich voice speaking as you read through this...
RICK FIELDING EULOGY
As delivered by Mose Scarlett – at Toronto, Canada – Saturday, 5th June, 2004
(kudos to Tony Quarrington for tireless editing assistance and earliest details)
First of all, I'd like to apologize in advance… for not sounding as much like Mose Scarlett as Rick used to.
If you're here (and it's quite apparent that you are), then I don't really need to tell you what we've lost. Someone said, a while before Rick died, "I can't even imagine a world without Rick Fielding". He was so many things to so many people: a friend, a teacher, a mentor, a loving husband, a stirring performer, a tireless e-mail correspondent, a generous host, a friendly voice on the radio, a skilled leather craftsman, or just a warm human presence, playing and singing on his CDs. He enriched his friends - he enlivened their lives - and he enabled and empowered his students – while anyone can pass on a lick or a chord, Rick passed on, as well, the belief that 'If you think you can, you can'. He was passionate about what he did, and about what he knew others could do, if they'd only let themselves. He taught by example and by anecdote, and he believed in knowing how strongly we are tied to the past. As a teacher he became a link that could bind a musical beginner to a four-hundred-year tradition of string and song. Just how enormous his influence was, I think we're only beginning to appreciate. Eventually he became, not only a local guru, but a kind of 'folk godfather', world-wide, via the Internet.
Now he himself is the subject of song and story. He's passed into the oral tradition that he knew so well. We've lost him - but that we had him at all, was a wonderful gift.
Indeed, there's so much one could say about Rick… but one thing that stands out, almost above all else, in the minds of his many friends, is the sense of humor: it sometimes seemed that Rick lived for the joke, above all. Sometimes the joke would reflect his extraordinarily quick intelligence, and, then again, sometimes it was just pretty silly - like the famous 'tripping while carrying the soup-bowl' mime routine (it was especially popular at formal affairs or posh settings), or, more recently, the ever-popular… 'Fart Machine'… Often his mind made astonishing and surprising leaps of wit, but equally often, he was endearingly predictable… you had only to mention anything remotely East Indian, to be sure that he'd shortly find a way to use the line, 'Who's Sari Now?'
Practical jokes pleased him. He seemed to be particularly fond of trying to embarrass people close to him, in front of large crowds: for instance, in a super-market lineup he might call to Heather from a couple of aisles away, "Hey, honey, here's that 'Martian Baby' article in the Enquirer that you were looking for ". I know that Tony Quarrington came to dread going into record stores with him, because he'd inevitably shout, from across the room, something like: "Tony! You said you wanted that new Donnie and Marie album?"
The humor never stopped working, even in his final illness. He liked to do imitations of his Swedish oncologist and, while in the hospital, he would gasp for breath and pretend that people were standing on his oxygen tube.
He had so many gifts, musical and otherwise. His great gift for imitation sprang from understanding not only the surfaces, but the depths, of people. Though he put the objects of his mimicry in a humorous light, at the same time, he always conveyed a warm appreciation for what was human in their character. Some of his best imitative efforts involved Enoch Kent, Tony Quarrington, the late Alan McRae, and, as I mentioned at the beginning, myself. On occasion, some friend would call me up, and say to me, "He's doing it again! Tune into CIUT right away!" … and, when I did, I'd be greeted by my own dreary vocal tones, and an exaggerated mocking of my guitar style - on live radio. Rick would have me rolling on the floor [and, believe me, I don't roll very easily!]. Sometimes he just liked to 'do voices', for the sheer humor, or hell of it. He could be a one-man Goon Show. Eventually, all his friends became suspicious of any phone calls they received from people with heavy accents, after Rick had called once too often, claiming to be – for instance- Mohinder J. Krishnamurti, of the 'Late Returns Department' at Revenue Canada.
You know, I confess, I've wondered why Rick singled me out, and asked me, particularly, to make this speech, since – as most of you know - I generally have a slower delivery than…Canada Post… Actually, I do have a couple of theories on that…maybe he thought, at some point in the proceedings, you all could use a short nap…or possibly, this might have been, in a way, his last practical joke… because you have to listen to me and he doesn't…
Of course he loved to talk (frankly, I could never get a word in edgewise)…, and you could always count on a colorful, informed opinion from him, on a myriad of subjects. He was always ready to argue or debate: over politics, or baseball, about hockey [he was fer it], or organized religion [he was agin it] and, of course, he dabbled in so many eras and areas of musical lore and trivia. He read a lot, and had a capacious memory [also, no qualms about making up what he couldn't actually remember]. He found nearly everything absorbing, and he would take up somewhat surprising interests. We can all remember some of his temporary enthusiasms, or obsessions [often gleaned from late-night TV] – for infomercial-related gadgets, like the 'Veg-O-Matic' and the 'George Foreman Fatless Grill' - or for over-the-top TV evangelists, like Oral Roberts and Ernest Angley.
He wasn't one for reading much fiction, but he did like, especially, to read biographies of the very famous, or the very eccentric…Peter Sellers, Lord Buckley and Quentin Crisp come to mind, for example. He once shared with me his theory that truly famous people always had some major, grievous character flaw, a quite unacceptable gap, or quirk, in their personal make-up - something that would have, at the very least, made them difficult to live with. [He never did figure out whether they became famous despite, or because of, this character flaw.] At any rate, we decided that, if this theory was true, neither he - nor I - was ever going to become truly famous. [Of course, we also agreed that certain of our ex-girlfriends were pretty much bound to.]
Rick was not a simple man…by turns, he was funny, quirky, crochety, and humane… He was contradictory, like all of us – only perhaps more so… private, but outgoing and generous… profound, and frivolous… a bit of an outsider, who liked inside jokes. But above all, he was a 'class act'… a gentleman and a scholar… a true friend. And we'll all miss him.
He was proud that he ultimately got to meet, talk to, or correspond with quite a few of his personal heroes and icons: like Pete Seeger, Merle Travis, sportswriter Jim Bouton, and Erik Darling. Though he was too modest to think, or say so, he truly belonged in their company. And I can't help feeling that, somewhere, out there in the cosmos of music and memory, he's now with the spirits that he always wanted to hang with and to talk to: A.P. Carter, Bix Beiderbecke, Lou Gehrig, Tony Hancock, Leadbelly, Maurice Richard, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charles Dickens, Bob Wills, Quentin Crisp, Jimmy Rodgers, Robert Johnson, Babe Ruth, Woody Guthrie, and Samuel Pepys. In a better place, in a purer world, with lots of cats and banjos and table-hockey sets – and no onions… Up on the bandstand, The Gin Mill Syncopators are swinging away. Blind Blake is sitting in. And in some corner of that wonderful place, I think I hear Rick and Eddie Baltimore, having a bad pun contest… [So far, it's tied.]
A Jerry Rasmussen song that Rick liked a lot, and sang a lot, says:
'Some may leave stories, well tuned in the telling-
Some may leave jokes that can still make you laugh-
Some may leave lessons, hard in the learning-
Some, just a smile in an old photograph.
Some may leave money from a lifetime of saving,
Some, just their names on a marble stone-
It's not what you leave, it's the joy of remembering
And all I can leave you is- a handful of songs.'
He did leave a handful of songs, but so much more. He gave a giant gift of music and humanity to the people who knew him, listened to him, and learned from him. Tonight we're trying, musically, to give some of that back. One tribute to Rick is that so many of you came tonight, and many from great distances – there are people here from Montreal, Halifax, Winnipeg, San Francisco, North Carolina, Michigan, Connecticut, New Hampshire and… Scotland, at least so far as I'm aware. I know that all our hearts are with Heather, who knew him best and loved him most. She and Rick were so lucky to find each other, and to share the time they had.
Maybe in fifty or a hundred years' time, I'd like to imagine some almanac or journal…some sort of electronic Folk Music Who's Who… may mention a certain Richard Leslie Fielding [1944-2004], and maybe some researcher, poring over the data, will read a bare recital of the facts of his life, listen to the songs and, perhaps, be led to wonder what it must have been like to have actually known the man. For those of us here tonight, it's our privilege and joy that we don't have to wonder - just remember.
Rick, my friend, thank you for the many gifts you gave and continue to give, to all who hold your memory close to their hearts.