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I'm sitting here, stunned.
It was late and I was bored, tired yet not really sleepy. The kids are in bed, so it's a good time to don the headphones and crank the music. It's been a really stressful day and when I'm stressed I turn to Dax. Yes, tonight, I think I'll listen to a little Dax Johnson. Dax is an absolutely incredible pianist that my wife, Chell and I stumbled upon one day in our local shopping mall.
There, in the middle of the mall, his face to an ice cream joint and his back to Sears, was a man that looked straight out of a metal band. He was too tall for the old piano and his knees, crammed beneath the keyboard, looked awkward and painful. He had one foot on the piano's pedals and the second bent out to the side. He played with an odd style completely lost in the emotion of the music, his free hand occasionally playing with the air, seeming to pull even greater emotion from the room to his fingertips. The music was raw, but at the same time it completely transcended what we normally call music. It was as if emotion welled from his soul and somehow miraculously slid through his fingers and the piano directly into the audience without translation. As his body weaved from side to side and his long hair dragged across the keys, feelings erupted from his soul into the room. I suppose a mall isn't the perfect room for a pianist, but it didn't matter to Dax or to the people walking by. Everyone, and I mean everyone stopped to listen. CDs were flying out of a box into people's waiting hands. Everyone wanted a piece of Dax to take home. Between songs, he would pause and autograph a stack of newly purchased CDs, pausing to speak to each new fan, thanking them for listening. Chell and I spoke to him for a bit and his generosity and friendliness proved as powerful as his music.
Later, I bought other albums and downloaded more material from his website. When he expressed an interest in singing, I was a bit apprehensive, but once again, the emotions in his music held the day. His voice might not be perfect, but it didn't matter. Dax's new music made us laugh and made us cry. We felt with him and we felt through him.
So here, tonight, after a stressful day, I come to once again renew my association with Dax. I listen to "Fundamental Elements of Madness" and "Through the Storm". As I listen to "Child's Garden", my heart takes over as it always does. My eyes closed, I can see my children flitting about playing. I see them throw childhood tempers and I see them run to my arms. I hear myself calming them and I hear Dax calming the children in his life. Perhaps I hear the music calming Dax as it calms me.
As the song ends, I realize it's been some time since I've been to Dax's website. I'll check in and see what projects he's working on. As I type in daxjohnson.com, I wonder what I'll see.
JUST RELEASED! Recorded in 2004, The Beauty of Human Error is his first and only - all vocal CD! Dax talked about an all-vocal CD for years, and following his death the parts came in from various places. Dax had spent many hours in the studio years ago and had a lot of useable tracks. In the end, we had eleven songs.
Wait a minute!
following his death… Dax can't be dead. What? How? When? The website mentions a tribute concert, a memorial service, nothing else.
The Spokane Review
Remembering a creative and passionate musician
Dec 2, 2005
Christopher "Dax" Johnson, 30, died Nov. 23 at the Harbor UCLA Medical Center.
Almost a year. He's been gone almost a year. 30 years old and gone. Gone from this world, gone from my personal world.
I suppose he was never really a part of my world, but his music certainly was and will be. Even though I didn't really know Dax at all, having shared but one conversation with him, I'm amazingly moved by his leaving us. I guess I always figured that someday, somewhere, I would see him at another show. I would tell him how much his music has affected me. I would shake his hand, introduce him to my friends, buy another disk and I would listen. I would listen and for a moment, the world would be a better place.
I'm still listening to my collection of Dax's work and it's already changed. It's as incredibly powerful and emotional as it ever was, but now it's somehow become… incomplete. He was 23 when he made this album. 23! At 23, he made music that can still make this jaded old man cry. (I'm doing it now) At 30, he was gone. What works of genius were still to come? What pieces of art were trapped in his mind until it was too late? I guess we'll never know. I guess I'll never know. I'll buy this last disk, but it will be the last one, Dax's last disk.
In a way, I almost feel guilty for not knowing about Dax's death for so long. Reading through his myspace page, I find memories of the people the knew him personally. Their grief must have been more tangible than what I feel. They've lost so much more. Still, I must be part of a large group that knew Dax primarily through his music, all of us finding out in our own way, a few today, a few next week, all of us grieving the loss of a part of our own lives. I guess the lesson is to treasure the times we have, not only with those we love, but with the others that influence us, the poets, the artists, the teachers and yes, the musicians. See the live shows, support their efforts financially, tell your friends, buy stuff. Most importantly, tell the artists what effect their work has on you. Thank them.
I've changed music now, to Michael Hutchence's unfinished "Slide Away". As Michael, with days to live when he recorded it, sings "I just want to slide away and come alive again", I'm wondering if Dax knew the song. Bono's lines, written and recorded after Michael's death, "I would catch you, catch you as you fall" echo all of our thoughts about Dax. Dax effected many, many people in his life through his music. How many of us would have caught him, had we known he was falling? Would we have noticed? Would he have accepted our hand?
I guess we just never expect the world to change. We adapt to changes in our own lives, big and small, yet somehow we expect the world outside our view to remain static. We expect little kids to stay small, we expect no one will build a store on the vacant lot where our club fort is and we expect the Daxes of the world to go on making ever better music. Yet, sight unseen, the kids always grow up and when we go home, some developer has picked up that lot and built something ugly on it.
And sometimes the last song is played.
And now I have to tell Chell.
| This is a lovely tribute. It is awesome when an artist can touch your life this way. Whether it be through their music or a painting or a book, when they touch you inside, that is special. I can tell by this write that is exactly what this musician did for you. Really sucks that he suffered an untimely death though, so much talent that will never again be expressed. Anyway, I found this to be very well written and really gives good insight to the reader as to the impact he had on you. Good stuff.|
|| Posted on 2006-12-07 00:00:00 | by lmz | [ Reply to This ] || Oh, Steve! I has been so long since I have been here to read anything and as soon as I do you amaze me. |
You have always been a wonder at words but somehow with this one I think you managed to hit the heartstrings just right.
This brought tears to my eyes. Even though I have never heard of this man the emotion in your writing tells me that he was a wonderful artist and person. To be honest with you, I have no idea why I feel so sad at this moment. Maybe it is your talk about change, or maybe its the wine. I don't know. I do know that I have to stop now, there seems to be a heavy weight on my chest.
(Just breathe, Crystal. Let Steve's words cleanse your eyes as usual.)
Your so talented Steve, and thank you every time I read one of your works of art.
|| Posted on 2006-10-20 00:00:00 | by lenotoire | [ Reply to This ] || I'm sitting here in a library with tears in my eyes. I am going to respond just as your words hit me rather than take this away and think about it. In some ways it deserves more attention but it has hit such raw emotion in me. What an amazing elegy (accept of course that it isn't a poem or a carefully thought out constructed piece of writing but a direct write from the heart) I'm sure that if Dax could somehow read this he would be deeply touched that his music and being meant so much to you. |
You have an amazing way with words and from what you write I would really love to hear this musician.
'The music was raw, but at the same time it completely transcended what we normally call music. It was as if emotion welled from his soul and somehow miraculously slid through his fingers and the piano without translation'.
He sounds very special and the way you introduce his death takes the reader by surprise not quite in the same way as it must have done for you who'd met and listened to him but powerfully none the less.
It seems very sad that such talant is lost to the world so very young.
A deeply moving tribute. Thanks for sharing.
|| Posted on 2006-10-20 00:00:00 | by comradenessie | [ Reply to This ] || I love you honey.|
I love that you stood patently in the middle of a mall for over forty-five minutes as I got lost in Dax's music.
I love that you quietly left me standing entranced and found an ATM to make sure I could listen to his emotions anytime I wanted.
I love that, when you learned that this amazing person was gone, that you're immediate concern was about sharing that information with me.
But most of all, I love that you are capable of catching emotion as it wells from your soul to somehow miraculously slid through you fingers, the keyboard, and the submit box on E.S., to arrive directly to this audience without translation.
Thank you for all of this, and many many other things.
|| Posted on 2006-10-20 00:00:00 | by Chell | [ Reply to This ] |