My friend Mike Lambert passed away last night. Musicians in NEPA are a pretty tight lot. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody supports everybody else. But I don’t think I’ll get an argument in saying that nobody was more supportive than Mike Lambert. And nobody had more friends.
Mike was one of those rare people who went eye-to-eye with you. If you were talking with him, you were the only person in the room. He wasn’t pretending. He genuinely gave a shit. And this is why today so many people aren’t just saying, “I knew Mike Lambert”. They’re saying “I was friends with Mike Lambert.” The difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
Because in allowing us to make that connection, he gave us a glimpse into how special he was. (He’d probably look at me over the top of his Lennon glasses like I was nuts if I told him that, which is probably why I never did.)
A monster talent it goes without saying. He could make 6 strings cry or scream, depending on his mood or the size of his amp. He could play just about anything. When most folks think about the Allman Brothers they think Greg or Duane. But cats in NEPA think “Lamdog”. He’s been gracing NEPA stages since before anybody knew who U2 or REM were….and nailing Peter Buck’s and Edge’s guitar parts the whole time. You remember The Bratz? Of course you do. Because you danced to them. And drank to them. And rolled home with their volume in your ears. And told your friends…”you’ve got to see this band…” If they weren’t the best they’ll surely do until somebody tells me who the best was.
He knew when to play, and he knew when not to play. He had taste, in other words. Of course you could learn from listening…..but for me it was even better to watch. He was, to quote the great Fairport Convention song “Come All Ye”…..the ” possessor of the magic touch…”
We talked about making a record together. He recorded a song of mine called “Old Chairs”, a performance I treasure. He’d send me text messages asking me when I was gonna write another song for him and I’d tell him…”it’s coming man…I got one coming..”
I waited too long.
A lot of us feel shitty tonight. My hands started shaking when I got the news…..and carrying on at work today was impossible. So I bailed and sat in my car for about an hour….then took an extra long way home. I played the Allman’s “Jessica” in the car to keep me company. The song seems sacred now. It made me feel better. Music always does.
Regrets? Hell yea. That’s normal. I don’t think many of us did for Mike what he did for us. And that’s not really a knock on us, but sorta lights up the fact that the rascal set the friendship bar pretty fucking high. And oh what I wouldn’t give for a do-over about now.
But to me the mark of a true friendship is being able to say…”I’m a better person for knowing Mike Lambert”. Shit, that’s easy. I sure as hell am. And I think I can speak for my fellow NEPA musician brothers and sisters in saying that you are too. Mike Lambert didn’t just say hello. He said….”How the hell are you?….and actually waited for the answer. He didn’t just shake your hand and walk away….he hugged you and told you how great it was to see you. And when he got up and played he damn near made you cry.
Cliches are cliches because they are mostly true. So when I say don’t wait until tomorrow to do what you can do today, I fucking mean it. Because there’s no guarantees. If you want to hug someone stand up and hug them. If you want to know how somebody is doing, walk over and ask them. If you’re wondering how to play that lick in “Little Martha”, ask the guy who’s up there playing it flawlessly before he packs up and leaves.
Because if you miss out, it hurts like hell.
There’s a few lines from “Old Chairs” that seem so suddenly sad now..
How many hearts come here to live
how many beggars come here to give
from what I can see
trying to separate me…from you
take me away from you
Old chairs pass through hands
making other plans
generations on the wall
high wire act for one and all
Good night Michael. Thank you for everything…