March 2008

Jon Lucien (1.8.42 – 8.18.07)

It is a poignant memory that my one opportunity to collaborate with Jon Lucien came about immediately after the death of his daughter, Dalila, in the infamous crash of TWA flight 800 in 1996. As a very strange coincidence, I knew several other people who were lost on that same airplane: a couple from my neighborhood who were traveling with their teenage daughter, and the wife of Wayne Shorter, Ana Maria, who was traveling with her niece—Jon’s daughter. Being the father of two girls myself, I could hardly begin to imagine what it must have been like for him. I’m not sure how one goes on after such a terrible loss. But the amazing thing about it was that Jon was able to direct his energy and emotion into the thing that defined him: music. His stoicism and ability to take a devastating event and turn it into positivity amazed me.

In his own words: “My daughter doesn’t want me sitting around being unhappy. I look at her and we communicate. We make music. The music is a special force.” Music certainly is a special force, and the most basic expression of music is the human voice, and boy, did Jon ever have a source of that force in his.

From the first time I heard him in the early 1970s, like so many others, I was captivated by the gentle depth of uplifting emotion he was able to express, not to mention his depth of range and timbre. He had that gift of being instantly recognizable that artists strive for, both as a singer and composer. He also had the gift of wide appeal that attracted listeners of diverse genres and age groups—another highly sought-after trait for artists and entertainers.

When we were working on the Endless Is Love CD, I remember how executive producer Danny Weiss would just sit and smile as he observed Jon’s fluid interaction, intuitive spontaneity, and gentle approach toward his collaboration with me. It was a direct reflection of Jon’s music and personality, and the songs we did just seemed to roll out effortlessly. It was a brief but great experience for me, and from the reaction I continue to get from the fans, I guess it worked out pretty well.

But what really made Jon so special was the sound of his voice … a sound that with just one phrase could transport the listener to a sunny tropical paradise like the one where Jon was born. Close your eyes and you can almost see the blue water, the palms swaying in the breeze and feel the warmth of the sun and the sand between your toes.

So, what can one say when a voice like that is silenced? A voice that reached way into our souls—both in register and feeling—to move us in a way that only beautiful music can?

We can say what he said of his daughter. He doesn’t want us sitting around being unhappy. He wants us to make and enjoy music—that “special force.” And in his case it is such a special force that it will never be gone.

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