One of the first things I saw this morning when I checked Facebook was a notice that Robin Rogers’ new CD, Back In The Fire, is the #3 album on the Billboard Blues charts. It brought me a brief sadness, as I reflected on Robin’s current health and the cruelty of Fate that this accomplishment comes at a late date in the game. But then I realized that nothing should ever overshadow the accomplishment itself. Robin, and her husband Tony, have worked hard for this for a long, long time, and it’s well deserved. Congratulations are in order to Robin and Tony, and I very much hope to see this new album not only reach #1 on the Blues chart, but also to make its presence known on the Top 100 chart.
But I can’t help thinking about how many of the people on those Billboard charts are undeserving of the honor. Megalomaniacs, assholes and prima donnas. I’ve found myself recently with new enemies – musicians who spend too much of their time complaining about other people, directing venom at me because I expected them to challenge themselves, while never asking any more of them than I asked of myself. Shallow people such as these, with their brittle egos and fragile self-esteem, litter the landscape of the Billboard charts. These people can only thrive if their asses are being kissed and, like small children, their every need and whim are being catered to. Unfortunately, our culture seems to reward these petulent children. And when I think of these unimportant and insignificant people, I’m disgusted by the fact that it’s their petty agendas that receive so much attention, because if one thing is true in life, it’s that the squeaky wheel most often gets the grease.
Then I think of Robin Rogers. I won’t pretend to know her. She’s the wife of a friend that I played with in a band back in the early 1990’s. I only met her once, at the 2009 Tampa Bay Blues Festival. Robin’s band opened the festival. Afterward I hung out to say hello to her husband, Tony. As he was talking to someone else, Robin came out, threw her arm around my waist, and talked to me like I was an old friend, warm and welcoming as if we’d known each other for years. It was unexpected and disarming, and I liked her immediately. From what I’ve heard, nearly everyone who meets Robin Rogers feels the same way.
Sadly, at this moment, when Robin and Tony should be celebrating hard-earned success and moving ahead into the next phase of a stellar career, Robin has been diagnosed with liver cancer. Due to several factors, it can’t be treated. Hospice care has been called in. A bright, shining light will likely be lost to us soon, and the world will lose some of its sparkle.
As I write this, I’m shaking my head, thinking about how wrong it seems that this would happen to her now, at the cusp of a whole new career with her music. The vaugeries of the will of God or the cruel twists of Fate make no sense to me. In my life it’s seemed to me that good, decent people are always the ones who suffer, while the assholes and the megalomanics thrive. The only explanation I can come up with is that the undeserving are allowed to enjoy their rewards while still here on Earth, because there will be no rewards for them once they’ve passed on. The good, decent people will reap untold rewards in the Afterlife for the good work they did during their lives.
I’m meandering as I write this, and I’m making no sense. It’s not so easy to sum up what is, essentially, a perceived imbalance between good and bad. But for the moment, at least, I’m going to take some small comfort in knowing that, whatever else may have befallen her, right now Robin Rogers is receiving her due. I would invite all those petty megalomaniacs that I know to take note, and perhaps, I’d hope, learn something. You can be a mean-spirited, self-centered moron if you please, if conflict and recrimination are the only things that help you get through your day with some sense of self-importance. But as an artist, it’s what you leave behind you when you’re gone that really matters. Robin Rogers will leave behind her some great music. But more importantly, she’ll leave behind memories of a warm, kind and sassy spirit that affected every person she met. While perhaps her time here on Earth may soon be cut short, she will leave behind her the question of “What if?” What might her career have been, if only… ? What music might she have made, if only… ? How many lives might she have touched, if only… ?
You see, in the end, those are the questions that are left in the wakes of the people who matter. It’s not the heights of fame or the riches they’ve achieved that make them important. It’s the warm place they leave in people’s hearts, and the empty space that’s left behind when they’re gone, that makes them significant. Some of these petty local musicians that I know of, scheming and clawing for local significance, building themselves up only by tearing others down, would be well advised to take note of the life and presence of Robin Rogers. Many of the prima donnas on the Billboard charts should pause from their daily self-gratification and think of the legacy they will leave behind. Will it matter that their albums and singles were on the Billboard charts once they’re gone? That all depends on the life they lead, and the people they touched, while they were here. Otherwise, they’ll be swept into the dustbins of history, and they will not be remembered.
I really can’t sum up my sadness over Robin Roger’s situation. She’s been dealt a bad hand. Any fool can see that. But I have to believe, as I read the outpouring of love and support from friends and fans, that she is, and will be recognized as, an important person. It will have mattered that she was here once she is gone. And while it seems ghoulish to me to write something that sounds like a summation for a person who is still living, I suppose in some small way I would like to think that it’s more important to recognize the good, decent people while they’re still here than to write flowery epitaphs once they’re gone. That one, brief encounter that I had with Robin Rogers at the 2009 Tampa Bay Blues Festival made me feel like I had been given a gift, in that I had the unique pleasure of watching her star rise from afar. If nothing else speaks to me about the kindness of spirit, and depth of genuine warmth, that lives within this woman, the fact that one brief encounter made me her friend, at least for my part, certainly does.
I would invite all those small, unimportant people to take a long, hard look at the music and life of Robin Rogers. That’s what it looks like when an important person comes along. That’s how you know them. It’s more than success. It’s more than technique. It’s more than getting the next gig and having a few moments in the spotlight when you can feel like you’re somebody. In the end, what truly matters is the wake and memories we leave behind us when we’re gone. And so I ask you… how will you be remembered? How will any of us be remembered?
Well, I’ve certainly wandered off-topic here. For the most part, all I wanted to do was congratulate Robin and Tony Rogers on the success of Back In The Fire. It’s been a pleasure to see how many lives this music, and these people, have touched. It is an ideal that I will strive to live up to, that people will, simply, miss me when I’m gone. For that, if for nothing else, I am grateful to have met Robin Rogers. And I wish that I’d had a chance to get to know her, and her music, better. For me, at least, it will have mattered that she was here. That’s a legacy, and a promise, that I hope to be able to pass on.