Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)
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I feel like an asshole writing you this letter, especially since Robert Hunter wrote you one 19 years ago and he was your partner in creating the entire soundscape of our past, present and future lives. Nobody comes close to Mr. Hunter when it comes to writing and besides that, the two of you were really tight. Me, I’m just another nobody out there that was having my life transformed by a movement that didn’t know I existed. I guess you knew we existed… Shit, we followed you everywhere. When you played, you looked at us like we mattered and an instant like that with you lasts a lifetime for people like us…
Time goes pretty fast down here on earth except for when it goes kinda slow. My kids seem to grow up pretty fast except it only feels that way when we’re blowing out candles. Every birthday makes ya think, “Time sure flies.” Strange how the days and weeks that make up those years seem to go really slow most of the time. I’ve felt that way when I reflect on your life. The days we had with you felt like they would last forever until we abruptly realized they wouldn’t. We all remember exactly where we were when we heard the news… It’s impossible to forget… I know my Dad passed away in April but I still have a hard time with the date… August 9th I could never forget… I imagine if folks are allowed to have human emotions like being pissed off up there, My dad is still probably a little pissed off about that. Hope you two have had a chance to play together by now, he’s an amazing Sax Player. Grandpa was a professional piano player but, Lord knows you don’t have any shortage of them up there… I’ve often thought of what God’s singing voice might be like. I’m sure it’s fantastic but I still bet you can carry a tune much better. It takes surviving some sin to sing a song like you can sing em.
When I think of the things I’d like to say, it’s such a mixture of Thank You and I’m sorry. I don’t know which to start with and I’m sure the Thank You list is most of the same shit you heard a million times during your life. You always seemed to be the type to take a compliment as awkwardly as possible. I think we all like hearing nice things about ourselves but I also understand how awkward admiration can feel for some. It would feel strange to endlessly thank you for what came as natural to you as walking down the street does for me. I could only imagine taking a walk around the neighborhood and having all the folks that live around me come outside and say shit like, “Awesome Walking Dean!!!” or “Your walking changed my life!!!”, “I’ve been watching you walk since 78!”. I’m sure I’d attempt to be as cordial as possible but I’d feel a little strange about it all.
When I think of all the ways I could apologize, I imagine I was as tiny of a part of my apologies as any… I’m sorry that we never wanted to give you a fuckin break… I’m sorry that the sound of your song became as much of a drug to me as any of the drugs I had to kick in the past. I’m sorry that we made it really hard for you to have any peace or anonymity. I guess that comes with the gift though. I’ve said before that size of the bucket that holds your gifts usually comes with a bucket of the same size that holds your burdens. If not burdens, certainly temptations. It seems like the individual that holds those buckets in life is typically more acquainted with the burdens than they are the gifts and when they look at themselves, would be much quicker to dismiss the size of the gifts based on intimately knowing their own trials and tribulations. You came across that way and I think it caused everyone to love you more. There’s something charming about an individual that possesses such a unique gift that presents themselves as if it’s not that big of a deal at all. More shit you’ve probably heard a million times before…
There’s a bunch of guys down here that try to do what you did all those years. Most folks like them much better than I do. I’ve yet to hear anything close. They play your stuff and try to act the part but Mickey said he’d rather drink 5 gallons of Clorox than play with them and I tend to agree with him. My 3 year old sometimes acts like he’s Spiderman and while he’s really adorable and committed to the role, he’s not even close to being Spiderman. That reminds me of most of the guys that think they can play your role. Folks talk about taking the music further but I’m not sure how that’s possible when there hasn’t been a single tune that’s been played without you that has sounded better or gone further than a single one with you. I think it’s more appropriate to have a desire to be sure the songs live forever and I admire the musicians that are doing that but I’ve yet to hear a song be taken “further”. The music is being carried on to the next generation and that’s important.
We had some crazy parties down here for the 50th! It’s funny that I tell you that like you don’t know. Your daughters are beautiful and they have that same spark within them that you had. They don’t require anything flashy to stand out. There’s the same kind of vibration about them as you had. I can’t help but look at Trixie’s face and see the picture in my mind of her sitting on your lap at New Years when she was close to my daughter’s age. Carolyn was a wise choice as Matriarch. She’s strong and wise and obviously did a fantastic job raising and guiding them. She sent me a message once and told me I sounded like I was drinking Fool Aid. While she wasn’t paying me a compliment, I couldn’t help but to laugh at her choice of words. It reminded me of the night I met you in the bar at The Desmond in Albany and you refused my request for an autograph. At least when you did it, you looked me straight in the eyes and were as nice as someone could be when saying “No”. You didn’t ignore me or pretend like I wasn’t there. It meant nothing to you but everything to me… It means more to be denied by a Garcia for trying than to be accepted by a thousand others for nothing. You gave me a minute of your time and that was worth more than signing something that I probably would’ve lost.
I couldn’t help but to wonder what your face would’ve been like while Phil was singing Eyes. I imagined it may have been similar to mine when my son is being Spiderman. We all had a great time and the feeling of the best years of our lives came back to us so strongly that most of us have had trouble going back to the lives we created in the 20 years since you split. You were honored for sure and I know you enjoyed the experience. As much as folks talked about you being there in Spirit, we all wished you were there in molecules and matter instead. Looking at a stage without you on it is like looking at your hand. It’s so obvious to see that something is missing. Crazy how that accident ended up creating an image that would always be a symbol of your legacy.
We miss you every bit as much now as we did 20 years ago. That doesn’t happen for many folks. When folks pass, one of the things that brings me comfort is thinking they’re listening to you play again. Free from all the bullshit. Free from fanfare and everything else. Free from expectation. Free from folks endlessly calling your name… Free from everything… I’m glad you’re free… I hope one day I get to talk with you like 2 people that love music. I’ll be free from all the fanfare and everything else… I’ll be from all the bullshit and intimidation… I’ll be listening to you play once again… I’ll be glad I’m free… I hope that place exists and we’re both part of it…
Dead To The Core,
Dean Sottile (pronounced So Tilly)