Born in Jersey, Made in Detroit
The lessons of David Blair
Published: August 3, 2011
Blair, I take solace in knowing that because you worked so tirelessly in life, we are left with a seemingly endless catalogue of music and poetry that will allow you to continue to inspire and teach us, even in death. I will be forever grateful for the time we spent together. From the long nights of Scrabble on our Prentis porch, to the longer rides in the van on what seemed like never-ending tours. Moments like that have always been special to me and now I will appreciate them in a different way. They shaped me into who I am today. I was just an 18-year-old kid from the suburbs when I met you, and you helped me develop my understanding of this city. A city that you loved so much. I've been here for 12 years now and recently my eyes had grown hard. I had become cynical and begun to turn away from the city. When I found out you were gone, I went to the places we used to go, walked the streets we used to walk and began seeing things the way I used to see them. The way you taught me to see. The city, in a way, has become new for me again. Thanks to you.
Goodbye my friend, my mentor, my bandmate. Goodbye, and thank you. —Dale Wilson
A complex and rarified individual, Blair was a poet in one of the oldest senses: He was a bard. And like those extraordinary Celtic poets, he committed himself to the study of the craft, memorization of the lyric, and arresting conveyance. His was the bardic realm of song, when song and lyric were indivisible. —Vievee Francis
David Blair is an artist, a poet, a musician, an actor, an author, a thinker, a performer, a teacher, and one of many gods I've hugged in life. I'm so happy, in a way, that I have an opportunity to help cultivate the seeds he's spread. He's not gone, but he did die. I'm expecting him to call and say, "Oh, they mixed me up with some other dude. You know how it goes!" — and then laugh big with a piratey tooth gap. But he left, and he just gave everyone he touched the next task: to take his lessons and craft them into our own beauty, to give that beauty to other people of all creeds and stations (I don't care how cheesy this is) and to ensure that that beauty is multipliable infinitely. He traveled the whole world and called Detroit home. He introduced me to half of my friends, and the other half just knew him. I played his CD release two years ago, my birthday eve. We did an impromptu unrehearsed "Purple Rain." I'm rambling but I guess I can't help it.
This loss is such a shock that it requires me to be vigilant of all the amazing people that Blair has touched in his life. He was so completely uncompromising that he lived seven lifetimes in his short years. And he didn't lead just by example; hundreds of students can attest to that. I'm one of them. ... He has believed so enthusiastically about humanity that typical Detroit cynicism immediately stops being cool as soon as he enters the room. His natural knack for musical and English language commands whatever he points his tongue or pen or guitar toward. He's worked hard his whole fucking amazing life. The things he can see make the most privileged feel blind. Just say "hello" and you may have stopped a war, right? ... I'm going to leave you with a poem about this city. <what does this refer to??> Why? Because I can't lie, I hate it here sometimes. But you can't listen to this piece and not fall in love with the insanity like the first time. You just can't. Us mental cases are too sweet. —Julia Stephenson (Stephenson and her fiance Scottie Stone played occasionally with Blair in his band the Boyfriends)
"Blair's dead." A shock. He went through my mind the night he died while I was waiting to play a set at the Corktown Festival just around the corner from the hotel where he was found. He just came up in a conversation I was having with one of his former Black Planet bandmates. I said that he was one of the best and most successful talents that Detroit had produced in years and that I Ioved hearing him whether it was a yard party jam, at the Buzz Bar or his one-man shows. He made it. He lived the dream of making his work his love, his love his work. Though I haven't seen him in a few years, the silence of his absence — on this plane, at least — was deafening. But now, I can hear him singing the last line of his version of "Karma Police" while we jammed in Audra Kubat's back yard during one of her birthday parties: "For a minute there, I lost myself. I lost myself." Just for a minute, Blair. Now you've found it all. —James Keith La Croix
This past Sunday morning I had a most disturbing call. I have been saddened by the news of the passing of my dear friend, David Blair. A Detroit poet, musician and an amazing soul who has touched and inspired thousands of people through his art, kind spirit and overall love that showed in his encouraging and influencing of other artists. His work is truly great, not only because his songwriting and poetry were remarkable, but because his performances and the way he delivered each word was done with such power and conviction and truth. Someone once asked me why I thought Detroit artists were so great. I merely said that art comes from life. The greater the life, the greater the art. And Blair spoke his life through his words. For those of you who had the opportunity to witness this, you know exactly what I mean. I feel blessed and honored to have heard and seen his poetry and music, but to have also been inspired by him directly and call him my friend.
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