The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #111474 Message #2348428
Posted By: Big Mick
24-May-08 - 06:18 PM
Thread Name: Obit: Utah Phillips (1935-2008)
Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
I cannot describe adequately how I feel at this moment. It was always my goal to meet and sing with Utah. Over the last 4 months or so we became friends over the telephone, as I planned the benefit concerts for him at The Ark and at the Wealthy Theater. We even sang to each other over the phone 2 weeks ago. Art and I spoke a few weeks back and Art told me how it was from listening to Utah that he learned how to use humor to get across important points. I spoke with Utah about this and he felt honored at that, and then spent a half hour talking to me about the whys and hows of doing that. Garnet Rogers, Claudia Schmidt, Matt Watroba, and I were talking in the green room about his preparation to play a local venue, how he went out and bought papers and visited libraries, so he could appear to know about the town he was in. I asked him about that a few days ago, and he told me that if folks were going to pay him, he should have enough respect to get to know the stuff that affected them. He told me how he would spend a lot of time preparing, so he could sound very much "unrehearsed" in his concerts.
And the last thing he did, was to thank me for all that I was doing!! I just chuckled and explained to him that I was simply paying down an enormous debt that I, and others like me, owed him from his years of carrying the water of common sense and progressive ideas. His humility absolutely floored me. That is something the great ones share. People like Utah, and Jean Ritchie, understand who they are but keep themselves real with regard to their fame. And I admire a person who is willing to accept graciously the kind of help they gave so freely over 30+ years.
We will go on with the projects we are doing. I have a concert in Grand Rapids, MI on June 18, and we will use it to help Joanna with expenses. We will remember our friend. We will sing through the tears, just as he admonished us to "sing through the hard times".
Those of us that perform now have the obligation to keep his voice alive in our work. It is our obligation to sing of the things he sang of, espouse the values he espoused. Let us get on with it.
I will miss you, sir. God be good to you.