Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Grieving for a friend. Nick Keir 1953-2013.

I lost a friend several months ago, and I haven't properly grieved. He lived in Scotland, so our goodbye last November was temporary. When I heard his cancer had returned and he succumbed in June, I was already miles away in my head. It was easy to pretend he was merely in another country and we just hadn't talked in a while.

Part of the beauty of art is that it allows the artist to live on years beyond his death. It's also part of art's sadness.

Today I am sad, as I listen to the beautiful music of my friend Nick Keir soaring out of my tiny living room speakers, reminding me that he once offered to bicycle across town hauling two huge stereo speakers to my Edinburgh flat when he heard we only had earbuds with us.

I am sad as I remember the time we first met. My tourmates and I knocked on Nick's door, hugged, and he handed over the keys to his flat, heading out to stay down the street with his mother. Awaiting us inside was a bottle of whisky marked "Drink me -- you know you want to."

I am sad as I listen to his version of my song, "The Ballad of Motorcycle Joe," which is the entire reason we ended up in Scotland. If Nick had not recorded that song, I don't think I'd ever have known that I had a following in the United Kingdom.

September 25, 2012 at the Leith Folk Club.
Nick, Marianne, the wee boy, and my mom.
I am sad as I remember listening in the back of the Leith Folk Club as Nick sang "Slow French Waltz," while my husband twirled me around gracefully with my nine-day-old son peacefully wrapped to my chest, sleeping through much of his first concert.

David and I knew that was a special moment, one that we'd remember forever. At the time, we thought it was a fitting tribute to our adventure in Scotland, which was coming to an end. Nick, a tall and sturdy troubador with a powerful and soothing voice, sang us out of the country as he had sung me in.

I am sad to hear his voice now.

But I am grateful to be able to share it with you. He was one of Edinburgh's most respected and loved performers, and I miss him immensely -- as do a lot of people.

Close your eyes, listen to "Fires of Edinburgh," and imagine yourself there wandering through the cobblestone streets, getting lost in the closes, staring up the volcanic rock of the castle walls, and sitting down for a pint in the back room of a pub, where a kind man with a penny whistle plays an old air for a lost friend.

Here's a fun moment from 2010, when Nick and I played guitar and musical saw together:

To buy a Nick Keir album, visit Coda Music, a brick and mortar store in Edinburgh. His music is also available on iTunes, of course.

1 comment:

  1. I remember sleeping in the lounge room of Nick's house on that tour in 08. A great guy. Sounds like you have many great memories of him. And through his music, he will always live on, and will always be in peoples hearts.