It seems fitting to me Dave Brubeck died on the way to his cardiologist, on his way to have that great heart of his checked out. It was that great heart that hit its final downbeat today, the day before Dave's 92nd birthday. As the news continues to sink in and I continue think about the incredible person that was Dave Brubeck, I keep going back to that heart. His powerful heart that beat for nearly 92 solid years after his parents welcomed him in Concord, California.
Pictures flashed across my mind of young Dave, playing in the grass, learning to walk and then run, growing under the California sun to a strapping young man working on his father's cattle ranch. When I think about the machine of that heart…pumping life through a man whose musical gifts were too great to ignore… it's almost staggering.
He opted out of studying beasts and went to study the essential rhythms of the universe: music. It was Dave's heart that carried him across country and around the world multiple times, logging millions of miles as he reached millions of other hearts with his performances. It was Dave's heart that fueled the incredible machine that was his brain.
In an interview I did with him years ago, he told me his brain was composing constantly. Constantly. Imagine living your life with not just music coming into your consciousness all the time, but much of that new music, new arrangements, urging you to pen them and let them be heard. And that heart of his kept him on his feet until his very last moment. And kept him playing long after many musicians are forced to pull back. That strong muscle of a heart that drove the physical Dave Brubeck was amazing, indeed. But, to us, the heart is so much more. Possibly referred to more often in the emotional and spiritual sense than in the physical sense. And, so the heart of Dave Brubeck feels even more powerful to me. While speaking him years ago, in what would turn out to be a very intimate conversation, not just about the music in the world, but our place in the world. He talked to me about his mother, Ivey, also a musician and tears came to his eyes as he recalled her gifts to him. I could see the pride in his eyes when he spoke of his rancher father and how it was to work with him. He shared his heart when he smiled at the mention of his wife, Iola, the love of his life (with not a bit of cliché attached) and their children. There were the aches in his heart… memories of war time and finding a stronger spiritual path because of those experiences. Injustice didn't sit well with him. He was, at his essence, a kind hearted man. That heart of Dave's informed how he raised his kids, four of whom are musicians in their own right. Dan and Chris recently released a project, Lifetimes, to honor Dave and his music. They'll keep playing those great compositions, as will thousands of other musicians worldwide for many years to come.
Through each note, each unique time signature, Dave's heartbeat will be heard. There will be many words written about Dave Brubeck in the coming days detailing his extraordinary career. I just wanted to take a minute to share with you how lucky I think we all are that we shared time on this earth with Dave and that his music will outlive us all. May he rise and fly and rest well.