Thursday, November 06, 2008

Hug Your Street Musician

I must report with sadness the death of Edward McMichael. Name does not ring a bell? How about the Tuba Man?

And if you're a local sports fan or have spent time in Seattle Center, the penny drops, the mental relay closes and the sadness is shared. McMichael was that guy. The street musician. The older guy with the funny hats. And the tuba.

The tuba is an inherently a funny instrument, best in holding down the beat at the deeper registers. When carrying the melody, it is like a fat guy doing ballet - it can be brilliant, but the overwhelming whimsy of the concept overwhelms the delivery. The Tuba Man got that. His venues were often surrounded by concrete (like the narrow canyon outside the Opera House). His joyful noise resounded halfway across the Center itself. He would play very un-tuba like tunes, and like an elephant dancing, the inherent joy would come out. It was music that always made me smile.

McMichael was assaulted on 25 October by a group of toughs. He was beaten and robbed and was slowly recovering when he was found dead in his room on Monday. Two of the youths responsible for the assault are in custody, and the other three are being sought. The Seattle sports community, who know McMichael from myriad Sonics, Seahawks, and Mariner games, is taking it hard. Losing the Sonics was painful - this tragedy strikes to the heart of a community. KOMO-AM has helped establish a fund for the services and relatives at any Bank of America branch. Donations can be mailed to Edward the Tuba Man McMichael Memorial Fund, PO Box 4935, Federal Way, 98063.

Street musicians have it rough - inclement weather, walkby critics, low contributions, and yeah, possible attacks. So the next one you see, listen for a moment. Say thank you. And drop a few coins into the box.

For the Tuba Man.

More later,

Update: Janna has a remembrance and a photo.