Bob Rudnick and Dave

The guy with the long hair and thin face in the back left is a 20 year old version of Dave Marsh. The guy in the foreground is Bob Rudnick, my original friend and mentor from White Panther Party days.

This is Bob Rudnick, who, got Cavalier to print a music column by me filling in for the one he didn’t do that much (my first national print appearance) and gave me at least half the money (he said it was half; it might have been all of it), who took me to NYC for the first time, who showed me some radio tricks while doing his incredible Kokaine Karma show with Dennis Frawley overnight on WABX, who introduced me to the people at Creem (who’d already swiped a story I’d written for the South End, Wayne State’s newspaper). I wound up living in the room that Bob had been meant to rent at the Creem house in Detroit–he stayed in Ann Arbor to help hold things together after Sinclair went off for his 10 years for 2 joints sentence. (Rudnick and I sat together about four feet from John as sentence was pronounced by the slavering judge—read the sentencing transcript in John’s Guitar Army and you’ll see I’m not exaggerating the slavering.)

Rudnick went on to invent the poetry jam in Detroit and Chicago (New Yorkers took all the credit). He died way too young, after treating himself way too badly for way too long. He left behind a little poetry (fantastic stuff), and a legion of people whose lives he changed for the better.

I owe him a career, my sometimes brutal sense of humor; the part of my education in free jazz that isn’t owed to Sinclair; a heightened awareness that separating art into high and low is not just snobbery, it’s stupidity; a master’s class in reading poetry; a stubborn conviction that the world will change for the better if we decide to make it so; a conviction that music and politics always mix and are never not fun; and an improved sense of when you’re not doing your friend a favor by doing that friend a favor, among a host of other things. He convinced me I was worth something and that others would acknowledge it. I wish I could have done the same.

Skip Williamson, the great Chicago-bred cartoonist, sent me this picture in ’07 when he was working on a book about the Righteous One. I hope he finishes it someday. We could do a whole radio program about Rudnick, with Sinclair and some other people who know that when that dude left the planet, every righteous person on the planet stepped up a notch.

If only he’d loved himself half as much as any one of us did.