Canadians will wake up this morning to hear the sad news that one of our nations finest musical talents, guitar great Jeff Healey, passed away yesterday at the young age of 41. The hour is late and this won’t be the definitive post on his career but I have a “Jeff Healey story” to tell that will rival my Avril story.
Back in high school (the late 80’s) his song ‘Angel Eyes’ was a huge international hit. It was around this same time that Jeff made his acting debut playing a wise (and blind) blues man in the otherwise forgettable movie ‘Roadhouse’ with Patrick Swayze. I took a young lass, my first real girlfriend, to see the movie and the song ‘Angel Eyes’ quickly became “our song”. We danced to it at a couple high school dances, listened to it in the car, and I lost my virginity with that song in the background. Ah young love, I went away to work for the summer and returned home to find she had been sleeping with the guy down the road, needless to say we weren’t an item anymore.
Fast forward to the end of high school, I meet and fall in love with the woman destined to be my ex-wife. What song do we first here on our first date together, yup, ‘Angel Eyes’, which of course becomes “our song”. A year later we are going to college in Peterborough and we got tickets to see The Jeff Healey Band live at The Pines in Bridgenorth. The Pines was a great seedy place to see a guy like Jeff Healey, 300 young and drunk good ol’ Ontario kids in a small venue. The show was incredible and I’m telling you he pulled out all the stops. The closing number of course was ‘Angel Eyes’. The future sole occupant of my house gets teary eyed and says “our song, remember the first time we heard our song together”*. I stuttered something in reply but I’m sure you can all guess as to which ‘first time’ I was really remembering.
Whether it be his at his bar in Toronto (where he gave a pre-teen Jimmy Bowskill his first break), on his radio show, or live in concert Jeff Healey was always the consummate gentleman. In recent years he would take his Jazz Wizards band on the road and play with high school jazz\blues bands to help develop students and spread the good word called The Blues. We will never see his like again.
If you never had the pleasure of seeing Jeff play guitar then this clip will give you a glimpse of what you missed:
*we were on our way to Belleville on a date and I was driving my dad’s ‘72 Chrysler Newport, the song was playing on AM800 CJBQ.