That last snowfall (Eddie Boggs, 1945-2014)Written by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief | email@example.com
“Timing is everything in music.”
— Eddie Boggs, Oct. 12, 2012, email
“I have been diagnosed with Lymphoma and am undergoing chemo treatments. Unfortunately, I am having bad days and don’t know when the good days will come. Hopefully, soon. I have faith that all will be well and I can get back to doing what I love to do.”
— Eddie Boggs, June 19, 2013, email
At Eddie Boggs’ Jan. 13 funeral, visitors could fill out an index card with their memories or thoughts. It was a sand-colored card printed with footprints (evoking the story about walking with Jesus) and rows of indexed lines led by the brief but powerful words “I remember …”
There must be scores of people who could write books about Eddie, and while my time with him was limited and does not warrant claims of friendship status, even my brief interactions were enough to make me grieve his Jan. 9 passing. There is a story in this week’s issue with the biographical details and quotes from people much closer to Eddie than I was; my story is offered as a microcosm of his kindness and humility.
After the success of the first “Holiday Wishes” CD for Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2011, I pursued more lofty and legendary artists for the 2012 volume. Kerry Patrick Clark, one of the most genuine and generous people in my life, suggested his friend Eddie, and I had a slap-my-forehead moment for not thinking of him myself. I emailed Eddie with an explanation of the project and asked if he had any holiday songs we could use for the CD.
He responded by sending an MP3 of his original song “That First Snowfall,” a catchy, warm tune about how the season’s first snow can transport us back to childhood. It’s a near-perfect pop song, played and sung with sentiment but no schmaltz. This is the Sept. 9, 2012, email that Eddie sent with the song: “Much appreciation for your thinking of me. Good work toward a good cause. I hope this song is OK and meets what you are looking for.”
Of course the song was OK. It was Eddie’s humility attached to such a great track that stuck in my head.
In a follow-up email, Eddie reminded me that he had once been a member of The New Christy Minstrels and remained in contact with one of its principals.
“I can ask if he would be interested in donating a song, if you wish,” Eddie wrote.
So Eddie sent a request, copying me on the message.
What came back was unexpected to the point of stunning. Eddie’s contact sent back a nastygram railing against organized charities, saying, “Eddie Boggs is a dear friend of mine, and he’s entirely too polite to ever tell you how I feel about Make-A-Wish, even if he is aware of my feelings (and I don’t suppose that he is). I LOATHE organized charities because of the corruption, the deceit and misuse of other people’s money. I have done my part for decades, but no more.”
The email raged against Make-A-Wish and charities in general, did all but urge Eddie to drop out of the project (while denying doing so) and had the temerity to demand that if Eddie was involved, The New Christy Minstrels not be tied to him.
“I would be embarrassed to be associated in any way,” the email said. “ … I want NOTHING to do with this organization or their fund-raising efforts.”
The famous musician’s message may have been intended to discourage me or vent about some perceived slight, but it mainly had one result.
It broke Eddie’s heart.
His email response was immediate.
“Michael, Please forgive me,” Eddie wrote. “I am so sorry for opening a can of worms that I did not know existed. I would have rather [he] simply say that it was not possible and let it go at that, but that was not the case. [He] and I differ on this topic. I realize that money is spent unwisely in every aspect of life, from our family budget to the federal government, but I don’t believe in ‘throwing the baby out …’ If a child who has limited time left on this planet is given a few days of joy, I am not about to quibble over how the money was spent to make that happen. Again, my apologies. If you find my song worthy of the album, I am more than happy to participate.”
I of course assured Eddie that his contact’s bile did not splash on him, but Eddie sent a number of additional apology emails. He had done nothing wrong, but his heart drove him to try to compensate for another’s actions.
He supported the CD through email blasts to his fans, and I have no doubt his name and music helped sell many, many CDs. He came to the 1370 WSPD studio in December that year to play his songs and talk about his life in music. It was the only time I saw him in person, the only time I shook his hand, the only time I witnessed his mastery of guitar and vocals.
As I assembled the 2013 summer music CD for the American Red Cross, Eddie was one of the first to respond to the call for music. He donated “Another Put-in-Bay Summer,” which, with tracks by Pat Dailey and Mike “Mad Dog” Adams, became the heart of the “Red, White & You” CD as “The Put-in-Bay Trilogy.”
It was while arranging a concert for the CD that Eddie told me about his cancer diagnosis. My last contact with him was an email exchange wishing him well and asking him to stay in touch. And now he’s gone.
But he made it through one last Christmas, one last New Year’s Day. And his last snowfall was a whopper, a maelstrom of cold and ice that allowed Eddie to see plenty of snow cover his beloved Toledo.
He will never again ride the Jet Express to Put-in-Bay, but his music and legacy are as much a part of that experience as the waves; deeper than the caves, taller than the Perry monument.
“Timing is everything in music,” Eddie told me, and that is often true in life. But no matter when it came, his death was destined to be lousy timing.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star and news director for 1370 WSPD. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: 1370 WSPD, American Red Cross, Eddie Boggs, Jet Express to Put-in-Bay, Kerry Patrick Clark, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mike 'Mad Dog' Adams, Pat Dailey, Perry monument, Red, The New Christy Minstrels, White & You” CD, “Holiday Wishes” CD, “The Put-in-Bay Trilogy”