Sunday, December 2, 2018

Remembering Jimi Zhivago

Longtime East Village resident Jimi Zhivago, a musician, producer and composer, died on Nov. 8. He was 67. (This link has more on Zhivago, born James Daley in Brooklyn.)

There is a musical remembrance and celebration of his life tomorrow night at Drom, 85 Avenue A near Sixth Street, from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Ahead of that, his friend and collaborator Chris Riffle, a local singer-songwriter who recorded and toured with Zhivago over the past nine years, shared this remembrance...

"I wanna stay in those moments"

How could I have known when I first met you nine years ago with a guitar on your back and a coffee in your hand that we were about to embark on a musical journey together that would stretch to Hawaii, Alaska, Germany, Belgium and both U.S. coasts... that would include three full-length albums and two EPs... and that I would write you a song today and not be able to play it for you... which is too bad because I think you’d love the chords and I’m not sure if it’s done and I never really was until you gave me a sign...

I remember being asked in an interview quite a while back what exactly a producer was and I remember thinking I wasn't really sure... Someone who was there to support the creation of an album? To make sure the songs felt complete and to help along the journey of putting it out? I remember being so sure of myself and headstrong and thinking who else could possibly know what these songs needed. Well, I just walked out of the studio yesterday and I kept looking for you to give me that sign... bring the cymbals in later... change the intro... it's too cluttered... guitars too muffled... or leave it, it's perfect.

I really just listened to the track and I felt so deeply unsure of myself. I realized that the differences we had are what I think I miss the most now. I could so easily be the optimist with you looking out for me. I listened to so much lo-fi music growing up and loved the homemade sound of a 4-track demo. The click of the microphone. But you tirelessly pushed me to make albums that sounded like they were made with all the best gear and musicians money could buy. We passionately disagreed on many things along the way because we both were so deeply part of the work we did together. It was the compromise, the space in the middle, where we found this magic.

At your hospital bedside you asked me to finish the album. Implied in that timeless moment was that you wouldn't be there to do it with me. You told me how you so believed in me and that you knew so many good things were ahead and then you had this deep look of sadness... knowing you wouldn't be there for this next journey with me.

After the album was always the best part really. The reactions... the way something sounds when you step back from it and it feels like something complete, able to exist in the world on its own. And the touring... the way a song sounded after 20 shows, after you both inhabited it completely. I wanna stay in those moments... in all those songs we made together. In that intimate space of creation, I think you find a connection to life itself. It's such a deep way to inspire someone. You gave that so freely to so many. You always loved to give.

You were so much larger than life. To me, you always were, and you always will be. I told you that that last day. I told you you were my best friend. I told you I didn't know what I could have possibly done to deserve your deep unending belief in me and my music and that it meant the whole world to me. I told you that you'd always be there pushing me to be better than I was. And that I wouldn't always agree with you but sometimes I would listen.


Anonymous said...

I didn't know either of these men, and this brought me to tears. That's love right there. What a beautiful friendship. I can hardly wait to hear the album. RIP.

Scuba Diva said...

The memorial tonight was very moving; I never even knew Jimi either, except by face. I never even knew he was a musician, much less such a talented, respected one.

Life is fleeting, kids; go easy on each other.

Mick G said...

it's quite amazing to me how many people he touched
tho' his outward nature was magnanimous & social, he seemed at once solitary and monastic
I had my bumps with him as well (years ago, wouldn't speak to me for weeks because I defended radiohead (ha!) - finally came around to loving them)
thanks for this
- mick g