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Godspeed Pat DiNizio

The year 2017 has sucked on many levels. Somehow Donald Trump is our President. We nearly elected a pedophile to the US Senate. We’ve managed to kick-start the cold war. Nazis are feeling suddenly emboldened. We’ve been battered by global-warming induced hurricanes and floods (yet continue to elect people who claim global-warming isn’t real), and currently our most populous state is on fucking fire. We live under a potential mushroom cloud because some dwarf in North Korea watches too many Hollywood movies. We’re racist. We’re mean. We’re frighteningly susceptible to the most blatant forms of idiotic propaganda. Our collective IQ has plummeted. When history is written, the year 2017 is going to come with a large * asterisk. Or a least a very large Parental Advisory Sticker.

Oh, and I lost my Mom. So there’s that.

Musically, we lost Tom Petty. We lost Fats Domino. We lost Check Berry. We lost Greg Allman. We lost Chris Cornell. And we lost Pat DiNizio.

The latter hit me the hardest.

pat-dinizio-2682-2-1-819x1024You may not know Pat DiNizio. But as the leader and songwriter of The Smithereens, he fronted one of the great underrated American bands, for over 30 years. (the first CD I ever bought was “Green Thoughts” by The Smithereens) They had some radio hits in the 1980s (“Blood and Roses”. “A Girl Like You”. “Only a Memory”), and then seemingly disappeared. Except they didn’t. They continued to release great records (“God Save the Smithereens” is my personal favorite)  and tour….ignored by all except a small, dedicated fan base. DiNizio wrote 3 minute pop gems, as tight as the sheets on an army cot. Simple, instantly, insanely memorable…..filled with crunchy hooks and heavenly harmonies and the wanderlust of one who refuses to give up on love. Timeless music that will only sound dated when the Beatles and Buddy Holly and early Who singles start sounding dated. He was frequently great….always good. The Smithereens never released a bad record.

In the last few years DiNizio was doing 50+ house concerts a year….playing acoustic shows in fan’s homes for $2000 a pop. When he got sick, these same fans rallied around him via online campaigns and helped pay his medical bills. He was as down to earth as a rocker who had touched the sky can be. He worked his ass off, and loved every minute of it. He never spoke down to his fans. Even something as modest as a stage made him nervous. He preferred to perform among a crowd, not perched above it.

And when he died I was gutted in a way I hadn’t felt since we lost Kurt Cobain. Ironically, I’ve since learned that Cobain had the Smithereen’s debut “Especially For You” on a permanent loop in Nirvana’s tour van during their early years, and tried to recruit Especially For You producer Don Dixon to work on Nevermind.

What made Cobain so special was his supreme gift for melody. Underneath the blitzkrieg, Nirvana songs are as melodic as anything McCartney ever cooked up. And one of the songwriters Cobain tried to emulate was Pat DiNizio.

What it all boils down to is this. If a band makes great music in the forest for 30 years and nobody hangs out in the forest anymore, is it still great music?

Like Cobain, I now travel with the Smithereens for company. I’ve listened to nothing else since DiNizio passed. It makes me happy. It makes me sad. As a songwriter it makes me jealous. I wish he was still here.

Pat DiNizio, a man responsible for some of the most enjoyable 3 minute snippets of my half-century long life, is dead. So yea, it’s been a shitty year and this is simply the cherry on the sundae.

But it’s the music that matters to me. More than the silly politics and all the dumb racist fools who clutter my world these days. When I close the car windows and turn “A Girl Like You” on….at Spinal Tap-ian volume….I’m at least reminded of what we’re capable of. And that gives me hope. And I’m reminded that it’s possible to do it all with class and decency, with grit and determination, with humor and a lack of hubris, with honest hard work, and with a merry band of friends who share your rock and roll dreams.

Thank you Pat DiNizio. For everything. Godspeed.

In a bit..


Categories: Uncategorized
  1. jimbob
    January 3, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    Surprisingly, I saw the Smithereens twice. they opened for the Blasters at the Stone Pony and for Squeeze at Jones Beach Long Island.
    Also if you are alive to complain about 2017 you have had a Very Good Year.
    There was this guy every morning when he woke up he started complaining, one day he did not wake up and he never complained again.

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