R.I.P. Joe Thomas

By on 1 September, 2012 in Greg Thornton with 2 Comments

Now your death is upon us and we’ll return your ashes to the earth
And I know you’ll take comfort in knowing you’ve been roundly blessed and cursed
But love is a power greater than death, just like the songs and stories told
And when she built you, brother, she broke the mold.

                                                                                        – Bruce Springsteen, “Terry’s Song

When the news came two weeks ago about the terrible accident that took Joe Thomas, Jr., there was no taking it in. It seemed as surreal and strange as standing in some far away hotel room following a wedding of dear family members and then, having someone take it all away, as if reality never happened, the day hadn’t started, storms were breaking as the sun burned down on us. The place was left empty.

If Billy Joel is right, that only the good die young, then we have lost another good one. When Joe and I sat at El Rey many months ago and talked about putting together a singer/songwriter night at the Cloverdale Playhouse, it was so clear that Joe’s passion for music, for the song and songwriter, was how he lived his life. It was a pure pleasure to connect with that, like an easy melody that just popped into your head, or a Dylan verse you could remember without knowing why. And of course, there was “The Boss”, such a central connection for so many of us who knew Joe. What a gift he gave to all of us who would walk through the clubs of Cloverdale or just about anywhere in the south where Joe was playing.

How music moves and shapes and joins you to somebody is sometimes all you need – sitting in  and playing songs that touch your life or learning some new lick or chord progression, or laying harmony on top of a melody and all of a sudden the sky opens up and grace floods in. There is nothing like it. You could grab all that energy from simply sitting around with Joe. It coursed through him like a driving rhythm you just got caught up in and you simply wanted to hang around for the ride. His passion carried over into an inspiring support of his fellow musicians, particularly the younger writers coming up. He was a member of the band, an integral part of a huge family of terrific musicians, a wonderful partner to his lady, a guy you definitely wanted to have a beer with, a friend.

When we’d do the sound checks for the Pull on Tuesday afternoons, the artists who filled out the stage knew they were at home and that their music was all that mattered. There in the center of the house was Joe, nodding and smiling, bounding up the stairs to the booth to tweak the sound just a bit, fill it with a resonance that came from a very deep place that he knew well, and then, back down the steps he’d bounce knowing he was exactly where he was supposed to be – right in the middle of the song.

Our prayers are said for Ginny and for Joe’s family and our offer will always be there to help in any way we can. And thoughts of Joe remain, his spirit instilling. To know that we shall carry all of this with us may just be enough to get us through this tough time and the gigs to come.

Greg Thornton is the Artistic Director of the Cloverdale Playhouse.

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Michael Azar says:

    Beautifully said, Greg.

  2. Scott Page says:

    Such a wonderful tribute Greg! Thank you.

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