Most sensible persons under the age of a thousand don’t wanna hear about how awesome things were in downtown NYC in the late ’80’s / early ’90’s. For one thing, not everything was awesome. For another, there’s actual real-life-shit happening right now all over the place that’s also worth obsessing over. But if you’ll allow me a brief bit of looking-back-indulgence, I consider myself crazy fortunate to have known so many amazing people from that era. And it never ceases to amaze me how many of those same persons have made colossal artistic strides (in more than one medium) in the decades since.
Letha Rodman Melchior was one such person. I got to know her back in the days when my not-entirely competent band was fortunate to play several times with her far more accomplished Ruby Falls ; she without question had the kind of soul + creative mind combo that made everyone in her orbit incredibly happy to share her company.
Years later, after I’d left New York and before she’d relocated to North Carolina, Letha did the virtual elbow-in-the-ribs thing on me concerning the musical output of husband/collaborator Dan, whom at the time I was barely familiar with. People love to throw words like “prolific” or “adventurous” around (ok, maybe they don’t actually love the throwing of “adventurous” but they do it anyway) but none of that is ample warning for the dizzying amount of musical terrain he’s covered. I’ve got a shelf full of Dan’s recordings and there’s awesome surprises on every one of them.
Later still, Letha’s own works as a visual and sound artist began to emerge and no diss to Ruby Falls (whom I loved) is intended when I say she’d honed her respective crafts to a staggering degree.
Letha passed away yesterday after a cancer fight she chronicled with incredible courage, grace and wit. For those familiar with her work, the loss is big. For her family and friends, it’s incalculable. My thoughts today are with everyone who knew her and cared about her.
(donations to Letha’s health care expenses can be made here)
(addendum : though the fundraiser linked to above appears to be down at the moment —- and I’ll post a new link when or if one’s available — there’s a November 9 benefit at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade featuring a host of Letha’s New York friends and former bandmates including Versus, Antietam, the Thalia Zedek Band, the Rogers Sisters and Cynthia Nelson)