Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saying Good-bye to Eric Lowen

I was sitting in the theater Friday night waiting for The Hunger Games to start. It was after 11:30. I had gone to the movie spur-of-the-moment by myself. I was idly checking FB to pass the time. And I saw the post that made my heart sink.

Posted by Dan Navarro:
"At 5:13 pm Pacific time today, March 23, 2012, Eric Lowen peacefully ended his nine-year standoff with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease), surrounded by family and awash in love, gratitude and beautiful music. We all appreciate the support and well wishes that have come his way these many years, and will always hold dear the shining example he was, and still is, to us all."

I almost left the theater, but decided to stay for the movie. The moment I left, I burst into tears--running for the car. I sat sobbing for several minutes before I drove home. I knew this was going to happen. When I blew a kiss to him and turned away at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA on June 6, 2009, I knew that I would never see Eric again.

I first met Eric when he and Dan Navarro joined my buddy Don Conoscenti on stage at Eddie's Attic on February 8, 2003. Sure, I had heard of the duo Lowen & Navarro before, but even though music is my biggest passion, there is only one me and there are MANY talented artists out there. One of my best buddies and I had just returned from crashing Folk Alliance in Nashville. I remembered passing a room where Dan and Eric were playing. They were somewhat of an odd couple. Eric--tall enough to make a mandolin look like a toy & straight blonde hair. Dan--less tall, and a mop of dark curls. What happened on stage that night was everything I love about live music. I never was sure who was supposed to open and who was the headliner. The three friends decided to just play. They played some of Don's songs, some of Lowen & Navarro's songs, some covers, and some shit they made up on the spot. They laughed, they sang outrageously beautiful harmonies, they insulted each other and made fun of me and some others along the way. They collaborated on songs they had never sung together before. There were shenanigans. It was magic. It was imperfect--yet perfectly wonderful.

After the show Don introduced me to his friends. There are times when you meet people and things just click. Tina and I stayed out past our bedtimes and had a blast. In the following years I would see Dan and Eric play in five more states. Sometimes there was a chance to hang out after, and sometimes not. If the timing was excellent, we would grab a bite before or after the show. At some point, I mentioned to Eric that Sunday lunch with my Poppa was a weekly tradition. I never saw him again that he didn't ask how the previous Sunday's meal had been.

I admired Eric before we were ever introduced. After his diagnosis, I would learn how well-deserved that admiration had been. He demonstrated a grace, strength, dignity and determination that amazed me. He did everything he could to help others who had the diagnosis. He wrote the song, "Learning to Fall" and recorded it with a group of 30 people affected by the disease. If watching that doesn't move you, nothing will.

Dan and Eric's most well-know song is often attributed to Pat Benatar, but I know better. If I have the correct information, it was one of the first they wrote together. This video of the two of them singing "We Belong" was recorded after Eric's diagnosis. It shows his and Dan's wonderful musical talent. It also shows the amount of grace with which he approached his disease--which at this time had him walking with a cane and using a thumb pick due to loss of finger dexterity.

He was a special person. He left a mark on my heart and on the hearts of many, many others.

Travel well, my friend. Travel well.

1 comment:

  1. You have written a lovely tribute to clearly a dear friend. The beauty of muscians is they never really leave because you can always hear them play in your heart.