Late last week the world lost a great person. This past Sunday my wife and I were informed of the passing of a great family friend and mentor Jack Richardson. He was 81. He had been battling pain and illness for years and ffinally he succumbed to it at University hospital in London, Ontario on Friday May 13, 2011.
The newspapers and radio stations across Canada broke the news and spoke about his Carrer and what he meant to the Canadian music industry. Burton Cummings (former Guess Who front man) in the middle of a tour in Ontario paid tribute to Jack during several of his shows in the London and Hamilton area. Alice Cooper wrote a piece on his website honoring his life long friend and mentor, thanking him for all that he had done. What all those news stories and tributes failed to do was inform you of just how wonderful a human being Jack really was. I only had the pleasure of meeting Jack a few times but he welcomed me into his home as if we were long time friends.
Very soft spoken, Jack never made you feel uncomfortable for asking to hear his stories about Elvis, or Alice Cooper. He spoke like a grandfather talking about the good ol' days. You would have never known he was in his 80's and a year from his death. Jack was so young at heart, very much in love with his wife Shirley of 63 years. He often joked about their romance and how she robbed the cradle being a few years older than him. Young in mind and spirit, old in the body, if Jack could be producing music today he would have. Julie would look often to Jack for advice with music and he was always willing and able. When Julie brought her new songs to him she knew he would give it to her straight and pull no punches, that's what made him so special to her.
I'll never forget the smile on his face when we were at his door in London just a year ago. It was if he was seeing his granddaughter for the first time in years. Jack and Shirley insisted we go down stairs to lunch with them. when we got to the eating area he introduced us to the staff at the Amica "This is Julie and her husband Jamie, I produced her". He smiled so proudly when he spoke of her and I know it meant the world to Julie. When he spoke it was if he was speaking about the Guess Who or Bob Seager, but this was Julie Litt from Brother's the Band and he didn't skip a beat. As we sat at the table he spoke of stories past, about Elvis and his gun, of course Shirley piped up, "I never liked that Elvis.... I always liked that Sinatra". He talked about American Idol and how it exploited young kids, Justin Bieber and Julie's favorite topic....Nashville. The food was good, the laughs were loud but most of all the company was Amazing!
A gentleman by the name of Joel came by that day, he was working on writing a book about Jack and his life. When he arrived we said that we would leave them alone for a while but Jack insisted that we stay. When we did finally leave to give Joel some time to interview Jack he was adamant that we come back because he wanted to listen to her songs that she had brought. Julie was so excited that Jack had made her feel so important, here was a guy interviewing him for a book and all Jack cared about was listening to her new music. When we returned to the Amica Jack went right to it, played her CD and told her what he thought. She got some great advice that day but nothing could have prepared her for what was about to happen.
The Amica is a small place, not very big at all. Most of the awards and achievements that Jack had obtained throughout the years had been put in storage as he told us. Just a few pictures and awards were around what one could only call his mini studio. A mac computer, and a small CD player, a couch with a cabinet. After he gave a listen to her new stuff and offered his advice he couldn't help himself, he went into his little cabinet and pulled out a CD case. In this CD case he had the original Cd's that he had produced. I'm talking about the REAL DEAL! the masters of what he had done. As he flipped through the pages and pages of Guess Who, Bob Seager, Alice Cooper one page happened to catch both Julie and my eyes. A Guess Who album... These Eyes... and right beside it Brother's the Band "Go that Far" the very album that Jack produced with Julie. Some might not think that it's a big deal but to us it was huge. With everything that this iconic producer had ever accomplished, the awards, the albums, the recognitions and accolades he had Julies album next to one of the greatest hits in Canadian Rock and Roll. It could have been in storage with his Juno's but it wasn't, and it meant the world to a girl from Owen Sound that he thought so much of that project.
Unfortunately that was the last time that I had the pleasure of being in Jack's presence. Julie went down to see him a few more times and she spoke to him very often on the phone. He was more than just a music producer, he was a gentle, kind man who loved music and most of all to talk with people. He treated us like we were family and offered helpful advice when asked. When Julie told me the news I couldn't help but shed a tear as though I had lost a friend as well. How is it that a man can touch your heart and soul with only a few visits? Maybe it's the stories that Julie tells me about the recording of their album, or when Jack visited their house in Owen Sound. Maybe the story about the steak house pants which none of you reading this will ever possibly understand. Maybe it's the void felt when you hear about such a great man being gone that you can't help but wish you got to see him more.
Jack might be gone for now but he will most certainly never be forgotten.