I recently went to one of the most profound and joyful memorials I have ever attended, held for Ian Timothy Whitcomb (July 10, 1941-April 19, 2020).
Covid sidelined everything including a proper goodbye. That would have to wait until his celebration of life wouldn’t contribute to someone else’s. It is nearly impossible to write about this event, (graciously hosted by The Valley Jazz Club in Los Angeles) without mentioning his contributions, so I won’t even try.
A musician, entertainer, educator, writer, composer of music, Grammy nominee, television producer, chart topping pop star, actor and broadcaster. The term one in a million is an overused trope but I don’t think million is large enough. He didn’t dabble in these careers; they were all successful. It is indeed rare to get a full obituary article in the New York Times. Ian did.
Ian suffered a stroke in 2012 which led to complications, and anyone who has been a caretaker knows that can drain even the hardiest of humans. His lovely wife Regina needed a helping hand. Covid made any kind of gathering almost impossible and with the enormity of planning such an event, it almost didn’t happen. Dan Levinson stepped up and orchestrated and organized a truly beautiful afternoon. The house band that volunteered their talents were: Keith Elliott, trombone; Chris Tedesco, cornet; Benny Brydern, violin; Geoff Nudell, sax/clarinet; Marquis Howell, bass; Gareth Price, drums; Sue Keller, piano; John Reynolds, guitar; Janet Klein, vocals; and Molly Ryan, vocals.
Others that lent their talents to celebrate Ian were:
Sheila Murphy-Nelson, vocal; Guerin Barry, whistler; Scott Pitzer, uke/vocals. And numerous others who told stories of his humor, kindness, and that unique ability to make others feel special.
The last tune of the day was a sing along: “We’ll Meet Again.” A photo montage film played, and it was hard not to feel the loss, even if you had not known him.
After the main event in the afternoon there was another in the evening at Casey’s Tavern. There were more musical tributes at the rustic Los Angeles bar. The overall theme of the day and evening was how much joy Ian gave and his love for the old tunes. Everyone knew of his accomplishments, but accomplishments do not trigger the love that was palpable.
As I was waiting my turn to pay my respects to Regina, someone else was talking about having been to funerals and heard people speak about what a wonderful person the deceased was, and her own inner monologue was, “Really? Are we talking about the same dead guy?”
When it was my turn to speak, I expressed how the afternoon affected me and how I was genuinely sad that I didn’t know him. Regina said, “He really was as wonderful as everyone said.” I had no doubt.
Not many can sustain a two year plus wait on their bon voyage…..Ian Timothy Whitcomb may have written and performed the 1965 chart topping “You Turn Me On” but clearly for those that knew and loved him, it was mutual.
Too cheeky? I suggest you watch some of his old broadcasts and get back to me.
So will you please say “Hello”
To the folks that I know?
Tell them I won’t be long.
They’ll be happy to know
That as you saw me go,
I was singing this song.