I was saddened to learn yesterday that Robin Rogers has died. She was told she had a year to live, and only lived for three months, dying from liver cancer yesterday at her home in North Carolina. I won’t join the pile of people who are claiming to have been old friends with her. I only met the woman once, at Tampa Bay Blues Festival in 2009. But she threw her arm around me and treated me like an old friend, because I’d played in a band once with her husband, Tony. From what I hear, there are lots of stories like that. Everyone who ever met Robin Rogers immediately thought of her as a friend.
Like I said, I didn’t really know her, although I feel like I did. I won’t try to write a lot of flowery words trying to sum up the life of a woman who lived and breathed the Blues. Hell, her life’s story could be a Blues song. She was a the real deal. Everyone who ever heard her perform could tell you that. As a gentleman told me in 2009 at that festival, who said that he had heard her perform five or six times, “I never heard her hit a wrong note”.
All I know is that news of her death has been received as significant by a lot of people. Blues societies and organizations all over the country are taking note. NPR made a statement about it. But in the end, the one person I keep thinking about is Tony Rogers. To the rest of us, Robin represented a lot of great music and unfulfilled potential. To the rest of us, she was an idea and an ideal, a performer who made us feel happy when she sang the Blues. But to Tony Rogers, Robin was a woman. She was his wife. His friend. He will not bury the up and coming Blues singer with the inspirational story that was featured on NPR just last week. Tony will bury the love of his life.
When all the accolades are being bandied about and people are talking about what might have been, I will simply think about that warm, genuine woman who hugged me at the 2009 Tampa Bay Blues Festival because I was a friend of her husband’s, and immediately become, for my part, a friend. I will always remember her smiling face and instant acceptance. And though the loss of the music she might have made in the years to come is, indeed, a great loss, in my book the greatest loss of all is the loss of her smile and presence. Anyone who ever met her knows exactly what I mean. It’s sad that the world has lost a great Blues singer. But the true tragedy is that the world has lost Robin Rogers.
My thoughts and heart are with Tony in this difficult time.