I’ve always remembered where I first heard that Stevie Ray Vaughan had died in that helicopter crash.
I was on the Long Island Expressway coming home from the beach when the news came on the radio. It was late August, and I remember the initial relief was that Eric Clapton, first thought also killed, was not on the copter.
But then the news hit, and the lingering reality was that, tragically, Stevie Ray didn’t make it out of the crash.
And today, on what would have been his 55th birthday, he’s been on my mind and his music is in my ears.
I do count myself lucky that I was able to see Stevie Ray perform a few times. The first was a classic, over on the 42nd Street pier when they did shows there. He headlined and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, led by his big brother Jimmy Vaughan, opened the show for him.
The beauty of that show, and another at the Beacon Theater where Stevie just showed up, was that he ended up jamming with legends. At the pier, he ended the show with Steve Winwood, Johnny Copeland and Jimmy Vaughan on the stage. At the Beacon, it was Buddy Guy.
And you came to realize that he fit right in, because he had become a blues legend in his lifetime. And you almost knew it while you were watching it and listening to his music.
Granted, he’s not the first artist to die prematurely and to be greatly missed — heck, there’s an encyclopedia of them somewhere out there. But it makes it no less tragic.
Today you listen to guys like Chris Duarte, who we profiled for you recently, and you know Stevie’s alive and that his music has been taken to the next level. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
So, here’s wishing Stevie a happy birthday, wherever he’s plugging his guitar in these days.
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