By Adam Waldman
When I woke up on September 13th, my plan was to watch the long-awaited episode of Real Money where Eddie Money revealed his cancer diagnosis. I had seen a clip, but as an avid fan of his (and the show), I wanted to experience the episode in its entirety. Before I got the chance to watch it, I checked Facebook and saw that Eddie Money passed away. I was devastated.
My journey with this rock and roll icon goes back to my childhood. I knew how much he meant to me, but didn’t realize the impact that he had on an entire generation of people. The world is so fragmented now, and there are so many choices, that you forget that there was a time when we all congregated in the same place before social media…MTV.
Eddie Money touched the lives of so many with his music, and just as importantly, his fun-loving personality. As I scrolled through Facebook on the day of his passing, I saw countless people sharing their thoughts and sadness over the loss of one of the good ones. Not just fans, but other artists as well. I had planned on doing a tribute to him right away, but a few days later, Ric Ocasek passed away and stole the headlines. I didn’t want this tribute to get lost in the mix, so I waited a bit.
A few hours after learning of his passing, I watched that fateful episode of Real Money. It would have been sad on its own, but knowing that Eddie Money had passed away just hours before I watched it made it that much more emotional. Yes, I lost another piece of my childhood, a musical hero whose music was very much a part of the soundtrack of my youth. But that’s not why tears streamed down my face while watching Eddie and his wife, Laurie, break the news about his cancer. Well, not the only reason.
I wasn’t much older than Eddie’s children when I lost my dad to a tragic accident. It’s been nearly two decades, but I can recall the day of his passing with absolute clarity. Losses like that leave a wound that never really heals, although the pain dulls with the passage of time. A dozen years later, I lost my mom unexpectedly due to a heart issue that required emergency surgery. She never woke up, remaining unconscious for nearly a week before her passing. My siblings and I spent her 70th birthday at her bedside, praying for a miracle, but preparing for the worst. Looking back at what the Money family has endured since the diagnosis, it seems like there is a parallel there as well.
Before the diagnosis, or his eventual passing, I considered myself to be one of the lucky ones to celebrate Eddie Money’s 70th birthday with him at his show on Long Island. Though he eventually ended up in California, he was always a New Yorker at heart. It’s one of the things that I loved about him. In my youth, we were both New Yorkers, but I never gave much thought to what that meant. It’s just who we were, a part of us like the genetics that we were each born with.
My love of Eddie Money’s music began on Long Island when I bought the Rock Album (a compilation of a number of great artists) on cassette. It was the first time that I heard “Two Tickets to Paradise.” It was always one of my favorites. There was a mystique to it that separated it from everything else. It moved me in ways that I can’t really explain.
From that moment on, Eddie Money’s music was woven into the fabric of my youth. I finally got the chance to see him perform live at my college in the late ‘80s. I saw a number of shows there, but this was the only one that left a lasting impression. It felt like being invited to a party hosted by the “moneyman.” The sweet smell of marijuana filled the gymnasium walls, and it wasn’t just coming from the audience. At one point during the show, Money took a big hit off of a joint, and coughed his way through the verse of a song.
In recent years, I learned that he was a perfectionist when it came to his music. It’s ironic that one of my greatest concert memories (and there have been many) was that moment of imperfection. It was so real, just like Money himself. The name of the show on AXS TV is not just a play on words. It’s an accurate description of this rock and roll icon and the genuine loving relationship that he shared with his wife and children. As a father and husband in a house that has its fair share of insane moments, I’ve felt a kinship in recent years with Eddie Money that went well beyond my love of his music.
As I sat in the audience of his 70th birthday show at the NYCB Theater at Westbury (formerly Westbury Music Fair), I found myself a bit envious. Not because of the rock and roll dreams that he achieved. He was a unique talent with a one-of-a-kind voice; I was a marginal singer who never got beyond playing in a garage. My rock and roll aspirations were nothing more than a pipedream. I envied the sheer joy on his face, and the faces of his children as they joined together to bring his songs to life on stage.
Though I did my best to raise my kids on rock and roll, and still do to this day, they found their own path. My son gravitated towards rap and hip-hop; my daughter towards pop. Not to sound like a “get off my lawn” type of guy, but I just don’t get their musical taste. And like most kids, they roll their eyes with every dad joke that I tell.
Eddie Money, on the other hand, built his family around his music. Even though his kids write their own material, there is a clear adulation for the music that their dad made. You can’t fake that kind of enthusiasm in concert. Though they may have found him to be goofy, his kids seem to genuinely appreciate his brand of dad humor.
My father wasn’t a rock star, or even a fan of rock music for that matter, but he was passionate about the music that he loved. And he was every bit the lovable goofball that Eddie Money was. I didn’t always appreciate having to listen to Doo Wop in the back seat of the car, but I find it nostalgic now.
Eddie Money brought my rock world and my dad’s Doo Wop world together with “Take Me Home Tonight.” I never thought about it at the time, but through the lens of both losses, the song has an even deeper meaning to me now. In some ways, all of Money’s music does since his passing. I suppose it’s because the final chapter has now been written in a book that was wildly entertaining for many years.
Since his passing, I’ve found myself singing Eddie Money songs in my head, hearing them in my dreams, and waking up and playing them almost on autopilot.
One morning this week, with the sleep still in my eyes, I didn’t turn the television on, or instinctively begin scanning social media and email. The first thing that I did was watch “I Wanna Go Back” with no distractions. The song was playing in my head when I woke up. The lyrics hit me hard, and made me feel the pain of his loss, but the uplifting melody, and soul-stirring saxophone brought a smile to my face. That’s the thing about Eddie Money’s music. It touched us all so deeply that the loss feels more personal than most other rock star deaths. I’ve come to realize that the reason is because his fun-loving personality is infused into every note played, every lyric sung.
When I published the review of his 70th birthday show, I had no idea that it would be the last one that he celebrated. Even though his family knew of his battle, they never showed it on stage. I sent the review via direct message on Twitter, but didn’t hear back right away. That’s not unusual, especially for artists of his caliber. I was just honored to have him as a follower.
A few months later, I received a message from Laurie Money telling me how much they loved the review. Much of what gets done on Hard Rock Daddy happens in a vacuum with little to no feedback. Seeing her message brought me great joy on what was a particularly trying day. This was before the cancer diagnosis was revealed. It took me a while to get back to her with my thanks, but I did so a few days before I had any idea that he was battling cancer. She responded right away. Another great moment, one that would be put into perspective just days later.
Through my years in the music business, I’ve had the good fortune to meet/interview a number of my rock and roll heroes. I never got the chance to do either with Eddie Money, but I felt like I knew him through Real Money. And though the response came from Laurie, it felt like it was from the whole family. This interaction, brief as it was, made the pain of his loss even greater. Yet, when I listen to his music now, it somehow still brings me as much joy as it always did. That’s the real legacy of Eddie Money…
He was more than just a regular New Yorker who became a rock and roll icon. He was more than a great songwriter or singer. Listening to his music is a walk down memory lane to a time in life when things were pure, simple, carefree, and joyous. His songs not only capture moments in time, but a piece of his personality that will live on well beyond his years. I don’t know if he knew it when he was alive, but he touched many lives in a profound way.
There’s a sign in my house that hangs above the doorway to the kitchen. It reads…
“Enjoy the journey. Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away.”
We all wish that Eddie Money had been given more breaths, but there is no doubt that he squeezed every ounce of life out of the ones that he was given.
Thanks for the memories and the inspiration, Eddie. Rest in peace moneyman!
Tim Constantine says
Really, really well written. Amen Adam.
Really captured what I think a lot of us out here have felt about his passing, and are still feeling, especially every time we hear that unmistakable voice.