Tonight, in Brooklyn, friends of Jerry Fuchs are gathering to share their grief, but also to share stories and celebrate the life of an extraordinary person. I count myself as a friend of Jerry’s and am both deeply saddened by his passing, as well as the fact that I cannot attend his memorial and be a physical part of the community he built in New York City. So, I’ve decided to write my thoughts and share my stories here:
Life just isn’t fair. If it were, people like Jerry Fuchs would live forever.
On Sunday afternoon, as I was being ushered to Sea-Tac Airport for a flight to San Francisco, I received shocking news that the drummer of one of my favorite bands, Maserati, was no more. Jerry perished in a freak elevator accident in a converted loft building about six blocks from my apartment. The details of his death are too uncomfortable to discuss; you can read them here. As the words informing me of what happened left my friend Joe’s mouth, and travelled the thousands of miles to my ear, my heart sank.
Jerry wasn’t just my favorite drummer, we were friends, a relationship cemented when I asked to profile him for The Village Voice two and a half years ago. A friendship with Jerry, no matter how often you saw him–and if you weren’t in a band with him, it wasn’t very frequently–was like the perfect drug. His kindness, enthusiasm and humor set your brain’s reward circuitry into overdrive. He had that addictive of a personality.
He was the type of guy who you’d plan on going to lunch with for the better part of a year, working around your schedules (mostly his). In our case, we bonded over our love of Chick-fil-a, which was founded in our shared hometown of Atlanta. I’d discovered an outpost of it at an NYU dining hall, and Jerry insisted we go. When we finally met up, ate (Jerry, a sandwich, myself, the nuggets) and caught up, I went back to work to find an email from him waiting for me: “Good seeing you for a wonderful lunch today. We’ll have to do it again in the new year. J.” Little tokens like that go a long way. And Jerry handed out tokens like a slot machine that always pays off.
Most of the reports on Jerry’s tragic death mention his prowess as a drummer. How could you not? He was powerful and propulsive; you couldn’t possibly keep your eyes off of him or be moved by his beat-keeping. Perhaps Mike Albanese, another fine drummer from Athens band Cinemechanica put it best (and most succinctly): “Greatest drummer of all time. Better dude.” Jerry must have known he was good (or at least in-demand, given the number of bands he played in), but his modesty meant that he couldn’t brook too much fawning or attention. Shortly before my article was due, I received an email from Jerry expressing heavy reservations about being featured:
“I’ve been thinking about what you’re taking on as far as this article goes. To me it seems there’s quite a bit of primping and sugar coating that needs to be done in order to make an idiot like me and my modest accomplishments seem interesting enough to read about, let alone write about. I mean, seriously, on the drummers chart of evolution, I’m the pile of shit before the monkey. I mean, I can’t think of anything remarkable to warrant any of this.”
The sheer number and magnitude of outpourings that I’ve read over the last five days proves that Jerry was wrong. (Remembrances by Jon Fine and Henry Owings, and the notes left on Jerry’s Facebook wall all show how highly he was regarded as a drummer and how much he was loved as a friend.) I hope that at some point in his unfortunately brief time with us, he figured that out. Actually, I hope he knew it all along.
As a drummer, the beats Jerry banged out all shared one significant quality: They were propulsive. They bowled ahead. They were forward-looking. Now, with Jerry gone and a community of people in mourning, is a time to look back. But, we can’t keep looking back forever. I, for one, promise to keep using his music to propel me, serving as the soundtrack of my life. I also plan to try to treat people like Jerry did.
He didn’t just provide a cadence for life; he showed us how to live it.