Brothers and Sisters,
Hope this finds you well. I couldn’t possibly describe the past forty days and nights in a single letter, so it’s going to take me a few more than that. The short version is that in loving memory of Mr. Jimmy Wiedner, some friends and I are releasing a benefit single every day for 29 days in a row starting February 1st, 2015. All proceeds will go to the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago. They’re all free downloads for you to listen to, stream and enjoy, but if you wish to donate, bandcamp has made it easy for me to get the Epilepsy Foundation the money. The Foundation has been extremely helpful and positive about this idea, and so I’m looking forward to this next month. Everything will be archived at brothersandsistersbenefit.bandcamp.com
, and donations will continue to be collected after the month is through.
I remember the exact moment I realized that Jimmy Wiedner was no longer with us, but that’s also for another time. There’s a gaping cosmic hole left in his absence, and his family and friends and brothers and sisters have done admirably under such horrible circumstances. In particular, his sister, my lady Beth, is a superhuman. I haven’t seen someone handle such adversity with such dignity and grace in my entire life. Everyone is doing as well as possible, so take some comfort in that. I certainly do.
In all this grief and sorrow and anger and confusion, the one thing that has remained constant is laughter. There are almost no stories about Jimmy that don’t reflect his wicked and bizarre sense of humor, his voracious intellect, and his innate ability to treat everyone the way they wished to be treated. Jimmy was very loved and he was not alone in his life, but epilepsy was the bane of his existence. Jimmy’s most honed weapon was his brain, and for the majority of the past fifteen years, his brain turned against him. He earned a law degree and had seizures in the courtroom, he earned two masters degrees, started teaching and seized up in front of his class. He couldn’t drive a car, he couldn’t ride a bike, and more or less blacked out once a week for a decade and a half. I can’t place myself in his shoes, but it must have been awful.
Mr. Jimmy Wiedner closed his own book this past December. I don’t know how to say it with more tact than that. Jimmy was living in Austin, TX when he left, and a few weeks back, Beth and I met down there with Jimmy’s father, Paul Wiedner and Jimmy’s brother, Patrick Kneese and we packed his things. With the invaluable help of Jimmy’s friend and neighbor, Garrett, we were able to get it all done in one long and awful day. Of his possessions, the vast majority of them were books, as Jimmy was an insatiable reader.
When I visit someone’s house for the first time, I tend to gravitate to the bookshelves first. They’re a window into the mind of the occupant, a great starting point for conversation, and generally let you know whether or not your host can read, which is always nice. In the artwork included with this first single by The Book-Burners, entitled “Brothers and Sisters”, I have included photographs of the thousands of books Jimmy owned. Hope you enjoy peeking into his mind the way I did.
The first single, “Brothers and Sisters” isn’t mine, although I played on it. It’s by brother Bradley R. Weissenberger for his band, The Book-Burners. A few months back, Brad sent me the song after ‘hearing’ me singing on it. Brad and I have been friends for well over a decade, but this was the first time we had played music together, so I jumped at the chance. I naturally went a little wild and added a bunch of stuff, but I love how it turned out. It’s an alternate mix of the original version that was released on The Book-Burners’ Ghosts of Christmas Past album just this last christmas. I think it’s beautiful, and I’m proud to have been an auxiliary Book-Burner for a while. I look forward to playing with Brad again. The other side of this first single is a song called “Nothing”, which is our cover of John Cage’s “4’33””, or “Silence”. Ours clocked in at 4’22”, but we played it a bit fast.
This project is a bit self-serving, as I’m sharing what could be called “my” music, but it’s not just that. I very rarely work without a collaborator or six, and many days this month don’t feature my work at all, but instead the work of some simpatico artists I’m proud to call my brothers and sisters. They’ve rolled up their sleeves, and have offered to help. This project is my mourning and grieving process, and I thought I’d spend some time trying to do some good in this world. Thankfully, I’m not alone. Most importantly, it’s a reminder for me to live and keep going, and I hope that I can impart some of that in all of you, too.
February 1st, 2015