We all knew him.
Because he was always around. He always seemed, to me, to be around ever since I came to town donkey years ago. You’d go to a bar, or a music show – certainly if you went to a benefit – he was there…usually in support of a cause, in support of someone else’s band, backing up someone else’s dream. Sometimes he played out, but more often than not he was quite okay playing back, letting someone else shine.
A true musician does that. For it’s all about the music, you see. Not the ego. And if the ego gets in the way of the music, well, that just isn’t right, is it? Bravado, in the middle of a blistering solo, is forgiven. God, look at him go. Then, the lightning strike over, the musician smiles knowing a good job is done. The music is the star of this show. The musician is just the messenger, a conduit…
That was Jan. Always smiling, always with a hug like the big teddy he was, humility oozing from every pore. Just a regular guy who loved to perform, loved to lend a hand. Sure he was good. And he knew he was. But that wasn’t the point. The most important thing was bringing out the best in a song, helping to bring out the best in a band, and bringing a smile to an audience desperately in need of leaving a troubled world behind for just an hour or two.
It was never, ever – ever – about him.
I’ve known Jan for years. He was always good for a smile, a hello, a hug. He was never pretentious. That was a big deal for me, as I can hardly play a record let alone a musical instrument. I’ve always felt kind of intimidated around musicians because, dammit they can play and make music, whereas all I can do is make a nuisance of myself. But Jan was a guy I was instantly comfortable with.
We all were. How could you not?
We didn’t see each other all that often, Jan and me. But when our paths crossed, either in person or on social media, it was like we picked up right where we left off maybe weeks, months, or even years before.
It had been awhile since I had last seen him (I don’t get out much…). So there I am in the back kitchen of the WOLF/FRESH studios in mid-October when Kearnsy had Jan and the boys in for a live set on the WOLF. Jan spies me, laden with equipment, both hands full of guitar cases and amps, and he should have kept going. But he stopped, put everything down, grabbed my hand, gave me a bear hug as big as his smile. “How are ya, brother!” he says, like I’m important or something (I’m not important at all). “Love ya, man. Are ya good?”
Later Jan, Brent and Shea were out in the back parking lot, doing some puffing and swapping war stories from the trenches when I was heading out for home. They were getting ready for the gig, mellowing out as it were, and we spent what had to be a half hour shooting the breeze about god-knows what. It’s what good people….real people….people people…..do. Hanging out, enjoying each other’s company. Imagine, sharing some parking lot asphalt, these knights of four-four time, with a dweeb like me.
And then they went into the studio and…well….just killed it. Jan especially.
Now he’s gone. Gone, but not forgotten.
He’ll never be forgotten.
Guys who are always around, who don’t make waves, with talent to spare but not looking for the spotlight, but happy to help to make the spotlight shine brighter on you, are never, ever forgotten.
For they are loved.
Jan was a musician.
But more than that, he was one of the nicest, most genuine human beings you could ever meet, with a heart as big as they get. Considering the tributes that continue to pour in since his death, that view is widely-held.
I wonder, that his heart gave out as it did – because he gave so much of that heart, to others.
There’s wasn’t enough left over, for him.
Rest in peace, friend. You leave a helluva legacy. Yeah, and you played real good, too. A goodbye salute to Jan last night at the Black Horse Pub will be augmented by a Celebration of Life at the Historic Red Dog this Sunday night at 7pm.
Our sincerest condolences to Jan’s family, his friends, and the Peterborough music community.