A Fine Musician, Catching Some Blackbird’s Wing. Our beloved Patrick Gabbert, of Auto, West Virginia, a self-proclaimed Seeker of Truth, Singer of Songs, and supporter of the human race, has passed away and left us grieving his loss. He was a strong presence in the Lewisburg music scene and well beyond. He was a most excellent human being.
A friend described him as “radiant”, a word not often reserved for a man, but he truly was. He was present, and authentic, and kind. He was often a contradiction: sometimes delightfully gruff, and yet playful in word and deed, both seriously grim regarding the future of the human race (both globally and locally), yet was also a mirthful teller of ridiculously silly jokes. He was complex and private, yet open and loving.
He was a lover of creativity and the willing participant in a myriad of musical gatherings, including his own annual Piney Woodstock.
The first time I met Patrick at Thursday Night Music, I’m not sure he knew my name, but looked right at me and gently sang “Oh Susanna”, and I melted. Then, looking back all these years later, and remembering the hundreds of times we sang together, side-by-side, I’m overcome with the realization of the enormity of our loss.
It seemed that he knew 1000 songs, which he could pull up after the most casual mention, and would sail through each one with a deep understanding of the harbor of its origin. He would often make me cry to hear them.
We gathered a few days ago, friends, family, dogs, and the ancestors, to say our loving farewells at the graveyard of the countryside Woodland Church. The clouds rolled in, the breeze blew up, and the thunder rolled. We laughed and cried, and we sang these words from a song Patrick had written called “Homecoming”.
“On a summer’s day we come together
And remember the times that went before …
We have come here through the seasons
To see that mountain view once more…”
His absence will be felt forever, at every musical rendezvous, in every note we play, in every gentle reminder of our having known him. He leaves behind family and friends. He leaves behind an eclectic assemblage of fellow musicians and collaborators. He leaves behind his beloved sweetheart Christina, and a darned good dog named Myra. He leaves behind a tender memory of his sweet interpretation of this song, “Gulf Coast Highway”.
“And when he dies he says he’ll catch some blackbird’s wing. Then he will fly away to Heaven, come some sweet blue bonnet spring…”
So long, buddy…
– Susanna Robinson, Hashtag Lewisburg City Paper #127. October 2020.
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