Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Another Passing, almost passed by

William Paul Borsey Jr., aka Willy DeVille passed away almost two weeks ago. I saw an all too brief obit in Rolling Stone. He was 58 and died from pancreatic cancer. His passing should not go by unnoticed. I was a fan of his first album and really like his last. There's a lot in between...

Since learning of his passing, I have done a bit of reading about Willy and a lot of listening to his music. He was an awesome talent-- committed, tormented and creative as all hell. He was a junkie for about twenty years. I don't know whether or not the HepC was a direct or indirect result. Doctors discovered the pancreatic cancer while treating him for the hepatitis. There is a thorough bio on him on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willy_DeVille).

Willy and his band, Mink Deville, was the house band at CBGB as punk was coming into its own. But Willy was no punk. He passed himself off, with almost frightening conviction, as a Puerto Rican style greaser, like a nastier lead in West Side Story. In the beginning, he had a pompadour and pencil thin moustache. His voice sounded like Ronnie Spector's brother–Southside Johnny with with an almost frightening conviction. There is an infusion of Brill Building melodrama blended with Lou Reed uptown storytelling. (Listen to "Mixed Up Shook Up Girl" from Cabretta). His collaborations with artists, writers and producers reads like a seminal history of rock 'n roll, from Doc Pomus to Jack Nietzsche, Dr. John to Mark Knopfler. In the course of his career he went through a bunch of changes, but throughout, he stayed true to himself and his talent, both as a singer and songwriter. He could be tough macho, Crow Jane roots or tender as, well... listen to the theme from Princess Bride. That tender.

Willy DeVille/Mandy Patinkin


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