I had the great pleasure and honor of writing, recording, and performing with Ralph Carney for many years. Those were remarkable and often magical times for me. I was surely one of the luckiest musicians in the world, to stand beside Ralph Carney on stage for so many performances.
Regrettably, I’m afraid it all happened at a time when I was still too young, too inexperienced, too immature, to really comprehend the full measure of his singular genius.
I knew he was extraordinary. Anyone who heard him knew that.
But I was trying to build a career for myself then, and too busy making too many of the mortifying mistakes one often makes in that process.
I’m much older now, and the temptation towards regret is almost overwhelming—if I could have known then even a fraction of what I know now, I would have preserved every minute I had with him. I would have recorded every sound that emerged from his instruments. I would have made as much music with him as he would have let me.
I believe Ralph Carney was a multi-instrumentalist because he had to be—there was simply too much music in him.
As to myself, I was a fraud then, certainly. There were nights I’d look to my left and I’d see Jim Campilongo, and I’d look to my right and I’d see Ralph Carney, and I’d think to myself, what the hell am I doing here?
I know now, that Ralph was a gift to me, as he was a gift to anyone who had the pleasure and the honor of making music with him—he gave of his genius so generously.
It’s often said that “catching” a yawn from someone is indicative of an empathetic connection. The feeling of making music with Ralph Carney was like the feeling of “catching” a laugh from a giggling toddler—it just felt too good not to smile.
As I have grown into my life, I have learned that the people I admire most are those who are deadly serious about doing those things that are ultimately very fun. I think of Ralph Carney, and I think of ancient Zen poets running laughing through the mountains.
Deep bows to you, Ralph Carney. What else could I possibly do but weep, and say thank you?
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