Every year, we have to get used to the fact that, sadly, we've heard the last of some of our favorite performers. In 2012, the one that hit me hard early in the year was the sudden passing of Davy Jones, maybe the first celebrity/singer I'd ever crushed on. I was just a little girl when The Monkees debuted in the mid-60s, and Davy was my guy, oh yeah. That show (on Tuesday nights, and repeated on Saturday mornings for those who missed it) was the reason I wanted to live in a beach house with my besties when I was old enough.
However, I should say that the passage that hit me hardest was that of Nick Curran, who had just turned 35 when he succumbed to cancer. It just wasn't right: in an ideal world, that man would not only be alive and kickin', he would be a huge star. I suppose he always will be, in my eyes, and in those of so many others.
I first came in contact with his music when my husband brought home a copy of Nick's first cd, Fixin' Your Head, recorded when he was in his early 20s. I don't recall being all that impressed at the time, but I do recall that it had the "vintage" feel to it in the mono mix. Fast-forward to 2010, when Little Steven's Underground Garage featured "Sheena's Back", from Reform School Girl, as one of the Coolest Songs in the World. Holy shit! One listen and you knew Nick was the real deal: not just vintage-styled, but a dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying rocker. Two more of his songs were featured that year, including "Baby You Crazy" and the title track. In the weeks before I bought the cd, I can remember sitting in my car, listening to another one of Nick's songs, and thinking, I've never heard that Little Richard track before. Surprise!
Before long, I had my own copy of Reform School Girl. Then I had the chance to see Nick play at a local casino. It was almost too good to be true. He played a huge Gretsch electric with an ease and confidence I don't know that I'd ever seen up close before then. Thinking about it later, I realized that I'd actually seen someone like Johnny B Goode, "playing guitar just like ringin' a bell." I didn't think it was possible. And he sounded great. That was part of the package, too: a voice that could howl or shred as needed; a little rough, just like the rockers of old. It gave me goosebumps. And his look was distinctly his own: Misfits t-shirt, jeans, black nail polish, black leather motorcycle cap...and tattoos, loads of them, adorning pretty much every available surface. (My personal favorite was the bright-red lip print on the right side of his neck. I had to wonder who'd been the model for that kiss.)
Some time later, my husband went with me to see Nick again. It was even better than the first time. When I was lucky enough to see him, Nick thought that he'd beaten the cancer that he'd battled once before. Sadly, this wasn't the case. Soon afterwards he announced on facebook that he was ill again, but was determined to "F*ck Cancer" and move on with his career. He kept his fans advised of his treatment; his continuing love of and additions to his tattoo collection; the progress he was making on restoring a vintage cycle left to him by his late dad; and the fact that he was still making music whenever possible. His spirit and sense of hope simply amazed me.
Shortly before his last birthday, Nick added one final tattoo to his canvas: a single tear on his face in memory of his father. And just about a week after turning 35, he left us. I may have been choked up over the loss of Davy Jones, but Nick's passing made me cry. It broke my heart to think that someone so talented was gone so soon. Like so many others, I feel a terrible loss, but his music really will live on. I'm grateful to have seen him perform, and feel lucky to have loved his music, as I will continue to do.