Archive for the ‘Life and death’ Category

Robin Sylvester, RIP

Sunday, October 30th, 2022

Today I am grieving the death of Robin Sylvester, one of my all-time favorite jamming partners and a damn fine fellow.

I first met him in the late ’90s when he was with Vince Welnick & Missing Man Formation. And of course, he was in Ratdog for many years. I can’t recall the first time we played together, but it was the first of many live shows and studio sessions.

Robin looms large in my discography:
Fragile Thunder: One Afternoon Long Ago
Chocolate Coffee Pot
Three songs on Drop the Bone
Two songs on You Are Here
The Town That Still Believes in Magic” w/ Scott Guberman, me, and Greg Anton (that’s a “pay what you want” download, so you can enter $0 and hear it for free if you like)

I also have several unreleased tracks from various sessions, and of course dozens of live shows we did together.

Robin had that wonderful ability to hold the groove and participate in the musical conversation at the same time. He was a wonderful musician and a very kind and gentle man.

Robin had health problems for many years. He was in dialysis several times a week, waiting for a kidney transplant that never came. Last year I passed the hat and raised $30,000 to help with his ongoing need for in-home care. The messages of love that came in with the donations were breathtaking.

We spoke on the phone a couple of weeks ago, and Robin indicated that he was likely to need another round of donations. I was gearing up to get that started when I heard that he was in the hospital again.

Last week I got a call from his caregiver, saying that Robin was asking for me, so I went up to Santa Rosa Thursday morning and visited him in the ICU.

He was asleep when I got there so I sat quietly until he woke up. He was very, very weak and it was hard to hear him in that noisy room. We watched a bit of Justin Kreutzmann’s new movie on my computer. Nurses came in to do various things and I got a look at his legs, which were nothing but bone. I started to get the idea that he might not be going home.

Robin was starting to drift off again, so I put the computer away and prepared to leave. “I love you, Robin,” I said as I left. “I love you, too, David.” I am so glad I was able to say that to him.

Honoring Stu: update

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

This is a repost of the original announcement. Our total to date is $5,419. Keep the contributions coming, please!

Also: We’re auctioning a painting by my wife, Rita Hurault. Take a look and place your bid!

Everybody should have a friend who brings you pie.

Stuart Steinhardt was that friend, to many of us. He loved to bake, and he was wise enough not to consume his entire output – so he SHARED.

Among the beneficiaries of his sweet largesse were the hosts of Stu’s favorite music programs on KPFA, Berkeley’s pioneering listener-sponsored free speech radio station. He brought pies to many of us on countless occasions.

In addition to copious carbs, Stuart also gave generously to KPFA in both time and cash. I co-host a 16-hour Grateful Dead fund-raiser every winter, and Stu was a godsend on that day, year after year. He’d hang out for all or most of the day and night, helping out by answering phones, picking up food, etc. And he invariably wrote a check before leaving the building.

A group of us who were the beneficiaries of Stu’s kindness have come up with a plan to honor his memory at the station: we’d like to raise $10,000 by February 15, the day of the 2020 KPFA Grateful Dead marathon. KPFA has agreed to put up a plaque over the door of the phone room, honoring our dear friend’s lifetime of support.

To that end, we’d like to ask you to contribute. You can make a check payable to KPFA and send it to me –

David Gans
484 Lake Park Ave #102
Oakland CA 94610-2730

Or you can contribute via PayPal to – make sure you mark it FRIENDS AND FAMILY so we don’t have to pay a fee – and include a note stating that it is a contribution to Stuart’s memorial fund.

We’re gonna “pay it forward” and give KPFA several years’ worth of the donations that Stu is no longer able to make. Nothing will replace the hours he gave to the station, nor the PIE he so generously baked for our music jocks. But this plaque will keep his memory alive at the station forever.


Stuart and I had a love of radio in common. He was a fervent supporter of public radio and especially of KPFA. I am deeply moved that a group of his favorite volunteer music jocks have arranged to name the phone room after him.

KPFA depends on our donations to survive as one of the very few truly independent listener- supported radio stations. In honor of Stuart, I hope you will join us in donating to the station. No amount is too small. Thanks in advance for your generosity.

P.S. Stuart is wearing KPFA Marathon t-shirts in both of these photos!

Art auction for KPFA/Stu Steinhardt memorial

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

SPRING, BRIONES by Rita Hurault
Acrylic, 16″ x 20″, ready to hang

We’re raising $10,000 or more for a memorial to Stuart Steinhardt at our beloved KPFA in Berkeley. Here is the announcement of the fund drive.

Rita has offered this painting for auction. Please place your bids in the comments section of this post.

Starting bid is $500.

Audio recording of Stu’s memorial

Saturday, November 9th, 2019

Here is a permanent link to the audio recording of Stu Steinhardt‘s memorial. Great thanks to Richard Selleseth for making this happen.

(Here’s a link to my eulogy, with photos.)

Jon Stewart on the South Carolina shooting

Friday, June 19th, 2015

“Brokedown Palace” for Calico

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Elisabeth Vandermei, aka Calico (Hog Farm) and Ruby (GDTS)
June 4, 1935-March 18, 2015. Photo by David Gans (circa 2000)

I was in the studio on March 19, recording “Brokedown Palace,” and when it came time to record the vocals I found myself thinking a lot about Calico, who passed away on the 18th. She was an exemplary human being and one of the greatest hippies who ever lived. Thousands and thousands of Deadheads remember her fondly for the great care she took of us all in so many ways. Here is the recording, dedicated to Calico.

Recorded by Jeremy Goody at Megasonic Sound, Piedmont CA.

Guitars by Martin and DeSio Guitars

My mistake

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

I fucked up.

In the liner notes for GarciaLive vol 5, just released, I stated that “God Save the Queen” is known Stateside as “America the Beautiful.” I am getting notes from all over the place, calling attention to this blunder.

I regret the error.

Thought for the day

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

It’s amazing how much you can get done when you’re supposed to be doing something else.

A memorial for the deportees

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

From Sue Kern at KFCF in Fresno:

Woody Guthrie’s song, “Deportees,” about the plane that caught fire over Los Gatos canyon, was actually about a crash that occurred in Coalinga, in Fresno County. The 28 Mexican nationals who died were being deported back to Mexico after working in the California fields, and the news accounts at the time reported the names of the INS agents and flight crew – but the deportees weren’t named. Hence Woody’s song.

One of our local authors, Tim Z Hernandez, discovered where the unmarked grave was located while researching another book he was writing, and he talked with Lance Canales (one of our treasured local musicians – blues guitar and native flute, of Lance Canales and the Flood). Together they came up with this project to find out the names of all the deportees, contact their families, and put up a memorial headstone to commemorate them. They’re working with the Fresno Catholic Diocese and specifically Carlos Rascon, director of their cemetery, trying to raise $10,000 for the project. The Woody Guthrie Foundation and Nora Guthrie are co-sponsoring it.

The benefit takes place at Fulton 55 (875 Divisadero Street, Fresno) this coming Thursday, April 18th, starting at 7:30 pm, and will feature Lance Canales and the Flood, Jemmy Bluestein, and Conjunto Califas, as well as Tim Hernandez reading his poetry. Lance has recorded a version of “Deportees” that includes a reading of the names of all the dead. 

Learn more about the concert and the history here.  Hear Woody’s poem sung by son Arlo Guthrie, here.  For tickets, call 1-877-987-6487, or go here.

If you can’t make it to the concert but want to contribute to the Memorial Headstone, donations can be mailed to Saint Peter’s Cemetery, 264 N. Blythe Ave., Fresno, Ca 93706. On the memo part of the check please indicate: Holy Cross Memorial. All donations are tax deductible.

Life according to Roger Ebert

Friday, April 5th, 2013

My friend Scott Underwood posted a tribute to Roger Ebert on his blog, and I love this quote so very much:

“I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”

On the question of gun control, violence in the media, etc.

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

I still think the only meaningful change is perhaps the most difficult one: a change of consciousness. We need more models of compassion, and we need to shrink the distance between the havest of the haves and the have-nottest of the have-nots. And we need to see more accountability throughout the system. Rich criminals get away with murder, literally, and the poor get away with nothing.

Years ago, when I told my therapist that I had been a thief of various things as a child, he told me: “You don’t steal from people you feel connected to.” Similarly, you don’t throw your fast-food trash out your car window in a neighborhood that feels like your own home.

And so on. Too damn many people feel unwelcome on their own planet.

Save Us from the Saved

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Jon Carroll in today’s San Francisco Chronicle:

Marco Rubio is a Tea Party Republican and a senator from Florida. He is mentioned as one of the hopes of the party for 2016. Recently he was asked an interesting question by Michael Hainey of GQ magazine: “How old do you think the Earth is?” This was his reply:

“I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians. … At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created, and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in seven days, or seven actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”


If parents would like their children to take part in the grand adventure of understanding the mysteries of the universe, they should be taught why science thinks what it thinks and how its suppositions are supported by evidence. Some religions, alas, must then resort to the “God left this so-called evidence to test our faith,” which is the end of all conversation and the beginning of fanaticism.

I wrote a song about this shit: “Save Us from the Saved

I put my faith in nature
What I hear and smell and see
Until I meet that Higher Power
I’ll do what makes sense to me

We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness…

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

The celebrated poet Jane Hirshfield, a friend and cyber-neighbor in The WELL, posted a poem by Jack Gilbert following the announcement of his passing last week. The poem is titled “A Brief for the Defense.” These lines were especially powerful and important, to my eye and heart:

We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

– Jack Gilbert

Register to vote, and then VOTE!

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

The deadlines to register to vote are coming! If you have moved since the last time you voted, or never registered, now is the time.

Just visit to complete a voter registration application online. It takes only a couple minutes!

If you need more information about ID requirements, absentee balloting, early voting or anything else, visit


Jon Carroll on religion/spirituality

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

As is so often the case, Jon Carroll speaks my mind:

I have no investment in my beliefs. They’ve changed over the years, but not much. I really don’t care whether you believe what I believe or not. If you don’t believe what I believe, you are not a bad person. “Belief system” is way down the list of criteria I use when choosing whom to hang out with.

Read the whole column here.