What J Geils meant to me

Back in 1978 I was a regular working staff member of my father’s cleaning company. During the fall of my freshmen year of high school, I would be riding in my father’s commercial van between office buildings that we had to service before morning. Being a fan of younger people’s music, my dad, who was just over 40 year’s old back then, had his van’s stereo tuned into WBCN on a regular basis. During those drives listening to ‘BCN, there was one song that was coming on the radio that would perk up my ears. “One Last Kiss” by the J. Geil’s Band had made a hell of an impression on me when it was new, and it still makes that impression on me today. It has an emotive, smoldering guitar line that is just full of the emotion expressed by the lyrics of the song. It was that guitar line that made me realize I had a capacity to feel music on a deep emotional level. There was something in J. Geil’s searing, soulful, mournful, bluesy sprawl that could move a person. That guitar line could make you understand what the song was all about as much as the Peter Wolf sung words. Although I didn’t really have a budget for buying music at that age, I did cobble together enough dollar bills to purchase the Sanctuary album that featured “One Last Kiss.” I also remember feeling the soulful longing that the title track expressed, a feeling that came together perfectly in its shout-sung chorus. I remember how much I liked to look at the album cover’s picture of a hand print. It was suggestive of something criminal. I loved that. I also remember the added excitement of knowing that this band was born out of the city of Boston by way of Worcester and was a band that had belonged to all of us in New England. They were ours, just as much as Aerosmith and Boston was ours. Last night, I, and the rest of the New England music scene, received the sad, jarring news that we had lost the guitarist who had played that soulful, longing, emotive melodic phrase on “One Last Kiss.” Because this band is so much a part of our local culture and mystique and because so many songs from their catalogue have been part of the soundtrack to our lives for so many years, it was more deeply felt than most other rock star endings. J.Geil was our main man. He was our local dude who played those memorable guitar parts on all of those radio staples and concert favorites. Losing him was like losing someone we all know because we did know him. He was ours. He was unique. He was legendary. But, most of all, he was ours. We identify personally with his music because it was born out of people who were from greater-Boston and who had all remained in greater-Boston up until the present. R.I.P. J. Geils.

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