Thoughts on Chris Whitley…

If Chet Baker represented all that could go wrong with the beautiful mind of a tortured artist, and the vices which can bring him down, it took Chris Whitley to give torment, cigarettes, and heroin a good name — I guess. Today it has been 5 years since Chris Whitley died of lung cancer.  Beautiful.  Gaunt.  Tortured.  Raw.  Pure.  Poetic. Rough.  Artist.  Smoke.  Trance. Bony.  Genius.  Compelling.  Torment.  Expressive.  Sweet.   Hypnotic.  Historic.  Impish.  Gracious.  These are only some of the words that I see when I think of, and when I listen to Whitley.  He was infinitely beautiful, always testing his reach, and profoundly allowing in his process and presentation.  His lyrics reflect the world within him, every bit as much as the world about him. He could tune a guitar oddly, and play it smoothly and sweetly.  Or, he could tune one roughly, and still play it sweetly.  Obscure tunings, and radical adjustments in process were his platform.  Purity was draw. Not only could he bend a guitar string round enough to throw a chair through a note, but he could bend his voice in equal portion, and that was his secret weapon.  Chris Whitley’s voice was an instrument unto itself — like no other I have heard. This has absolutely nothing to do with exercise, fitness, or mindful eating – but that between the years 2001-2003, I listened to no other artist – none.  Cardio, weightroom, running, driving, working, playing, paddling — anything, his interpretations of historic blues, and incarnations of modern blues were the soundtrack of my life. If you had lived a healthier life Mr. Whitley, and not been a smoker, you might still be around today, and I think your gift would have come through just as clear, and reached more people.  If you are reading this, and you don’t know Christ Whitley, seek him out on i-tunes or on — you will not be disappointed.  A fan named rc.

4 responses

  1. I hadn’t heard him before, but Chris Whitley is everything that you so aptly described, so thank you for that!

    I play guitar, the bad boys instrument of my younger days. I’m not that good, but good enough to enjoy it, and be grateful that I put the time into learning to play.

    A couple of years ago, I lost a very good friend to lung cancer. Mercifully, he went very quickly…I think about him most every day.

  2. Roy, I did NOT mind you “plugging” this post on my site. We need to make people aware!!! This was a great post.

    As you read, my mother-in-law died from small cell lung cancer and it was NOT fast & it was horrible.

    I will have another post Sunday on this too if you care to read it… about the toxic ingredients in cigs.

    Thx for this post!

  3. Dr J: Thank you, and I will encourage (the guitar player in)you do dig more deeply into Whitley’s whole body of work — it is vast, eclectic, and poetic. Watching a friend die of lung cancer is not a sight for kids — or even for adults. Sorry for the loss of your friend a couple years ago, but you honor him ever time you think of him.

    Jody: I too have seen someone die slowly from cancer, and I referred to her as “gramma”. No loss is a good loss, but watching a loved one die slow changes you — it did me.

    Will check out your Sunday post right now!

  4. Pingback: Thoughts On Gratitude… « Roy Cohen's Contemplative Fitness

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