24 April 2014

A Prodigal Goes Home

Well I came into town alone
And I sang my songs for free
I was three years away from my home
And low down as a lowdown soul could be...

Most of you who care about this sort of thing will probably have heard this already, but in case you haven't, Loyd Boldman (vocals/keyboards/songwriting for the band Prodigal) passed away the evening of 22 April. He had struggled for several years with some serious health issues, but as I understand it, it was liver cancer that finally brought him to the end.

I'm not really sure how to react yet. I only found out about ten minutes before I started typing this post.

The hazard of liking music created in the '80s means that the artists who created it were generally born in the '50s or maybe the '60s. This means that unless Rick Florian or Terry Scott Taylor lives to be 150, I will probably outlive every one of my favourite musical artists. I will have to watch as they, one by one, vanish from the earth. I knew that, but I pushed the thought out of my head... This is the first loss from the era that I've experienced with this kind of immediacy. I was not yet born when Mark Heard passed away, I didn't hear of the Lost Dogs or Adam Again until long after Gene Eugene's passing (the same situation again regarding The Call and Michael Been), and it wasn't until about two years after Dana Key died that I really began to listen to DeGarmo and Key (though I'd known of the band since childhood).

Back to Mr Boldman.

I believe I've probably talked before about this man's incredible voice. He's right up there with Rick Florian as one of my favourite vocalists of all time. Loyd had a huge, soaring, booming voice that for all its strength could carry a sometimes unnerving amount of vulnerability as the lyrics required. Two of my favourite performances are Future Now (1985) and Neon (1984). The former is a truly dynamic performance, showcasing both the loud, booming, powerful Boldman as well as a strained near-whisper communicating as if from within the quiet fear and heavy unrest of the 'everyman'; the latter brings out a more ponderous, poetic, melancholy, hopeful, yearning Boldman.

I also have a deep love for the songs he wrote. He could be just sarcastic enough to make one think about why we think the way we do (I get my good times from a laugh track... I got my news from professional smiles...)*, he could cast something 'everyday' in an entirely different light (Bobby - quarter in the box... Buy another try to beat the clocks... Bobby - growing up scared... Wired to your own electric chair...)** and he could paint a vivid -- nay, full-on 3D -- picture with mere English (I quote here the entirety of the lyrics to Neon). The world always seems clearer to me when I'm listening to Prodigal's music, no matter which member wrote any given song (three of the four members of Prodigal wrote songs for the band). I am deeply grateful to Loyd for his part in it.

Perhaps the saddest thing about this is that hardly anybody knows he's gone. We have lost a great artist (I do not use the term lightly) -- and hardly anybody even knows that he's missing. This is perhaps the greatest tragedy.

But... Loyd's death is not a total tragedy. Loyd is now in the presence of God. His spirit is at home. Prodigal's final album, in 1985, was titled Just Like Real Life. The title cut was a somewhat sarcastic (though sobering) look at how we tend to watch TV and think that's how life really is: It's just like real life... just like real life... But I can't help but think that this life on earth in comparison with the presence of God is somewhat analogous to that song's point. Compared to the abundant life found in the presence of God, this life we live on earth is 'just like' real life... but not quite exactly.

But now Loyd is experiencing real life.

There's a freedom to me now has come
From giving myself away
And Jesus I know is the one who has changed it
And made it worthwhile some way...

(Song quotes (bookending): Prodigal and Prodigal (Part 2), both from the album Prodigal, 1982. * from Electric Eye, from the album of the same name, 1984. ** from Bobby, from Electric Eye, 1984.)

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