Remembering Brent Grulke

I can’t say that Brent Grulke and I were ever friends, but we were friendly, for the short time our lives intersected. We both wrote reviews, articles, etc. for the entertainment section of the Daily Texan, student newspaper at the University of Texas. He was a couple of months older than me, and when I arrived he had already been at the Texan for a while. At that time, he might already have been writing for the Austin Chronicle. The Chronicle was started around that time, by people who had worked at the Texan (and met in UT’s film department, if I’m remembering correctly). I got bored with writing about music, and for several years post-college I stopped going out to hear live music. The last time I would have seen him was, at the latest, 1983.

Brent died on Monday, August 13, from a heart attack during oral surgery. Here’s a good tribute.

I’m recalling fragments of conversations with him, one when he talked about wanting to do some record producing. Which he later did. From reading about him now, it’s clear that he was one of the few who really got to do what he most wanted to do. Music was his life. I wasn’t surprised when I heard that he was the director of the South by Southwest music festival.

The one time we ever hung out was when X came through town in 1982, touring for their album Under the Big Black Sun. I was planning to interview them, but he talked me into letting him do it. We went to dinner with the band before the show and stayed up all night in the entertainment section office at the Texan. He wrote up his interview/article, which ran in two parts. I was supposed to write a review of the show, but didn’t.

Nostalgia and regret appear to be the inseparable companions of aging. I look back at that time, a period in which I thought I could do anything. I discovered great music reading about it in the student paper, and then I got to be one of the people writing about it, influencing others (I hoped) the way I had been influenced. Austin is the mythical land that never was, the cool place where I never got to be one of the cool people. I still crave to be recognized there, written about, interviewed, lauded. But my books have never been printed in editions of more than a few hundred copies. Without adequate distribution, I’ve never felt that it would be worth setting up a reading there. I did try, unsuccessfully, to get In Springdale Town reviewed in the Chronicle, but never attempted with subsequent books.

But thoughts about the past aren’t only about my perceived lack of recognition. Brent was just a bit older than me, and according to what I’ve read, he has a six-year-old son. I have an almost-five-year-old daughter. So we both became parents at a somewhat later than usual age. I can’t help feeling my mortality from his death. I would like to stick around till my daughter is considerably older.

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