Sunday, April 26, 2009

John Vincent is dead. He can't be.

My family told me the news, casually, when I was back in Adelaide two weeks ago.

I felt a jolt. Some of me vanished. "No!" I wanted to shout - an eternal source of love, fun and optimism had vanished.

My feelings were mirrored everywhere.

Here's fellow blogger Lee Hopkins:

"John Vincent is dead.

As I type this the tears are rolling down my face. I hurt, I hurt so bad. I want to cry, to shout, to punch, to kick, to belittle my stepchildren, to pick a fight with my wife, to scream at the top of my lungs, to howl from the rooftops in psychic pain.

The man who was an integral part of my youth, who helped me define who I was and who I wanted to be, is dead. The man who would live forever in my mind is dead."

Probably neither of us have met John Vincent, though I went to see him at a fanstastic free scratch concert he put on by the beach at Glenelg when the scheduled band couldn't turn up, though he made me laugh and I felt I knew him, though I played his "Monday's collection day" song on The World Today to illustrate a story about garbage, and tried to look up his phone number in Adelaide to tell it was on (and indirectly that I loved him), though I happened to be listening to him at 9.05 on the morning my mother died as I drove into the hospice for our last hour together, and that his optimism and love of life and the sun on that day made me know the world had a good heart.

"Radio announcer" may have been his job description, but what he put out was some of himself, with the message: take this, I am yours. It was usually "hello listener" - he was in communion with you.

This MP3 is a tiny fragment that has survived recorded. I would love to know of others.

Everyone felt they knew him, but no-one felt the need to intrude. What we got was what there was, over and over and over again.

'To be honest, he was just a big kid who didn't take life so seriously and told us never to grow up," recalled his daughter Heidi Vincent in her eulogy. '

'Comedian and former SAFM colleague
Adam Hills visited Vincent in hospital when he was here to perform at the Adelaide Fringe last weekend and had his audience yell a greeting to Vincent's comic pseudonym, "Ken Oath".

"I was telling him that he was the person who taught me that you can be funny and be positive at the same time," Hills said.'

John Vincent taught me a lot about radio, and doubtless inspired me to get into it. I could make a lot of people happy in a way that would never be measured or even more broadly acknowledged. My good works would be hidden in plain view, just as his were.

And he wrote brilliant songs...

The Garbo song - "Monday's collection day" is one of my favourites. Couldn't find it on the web, but the lyrics are etched in my brain:

"Keep Australia beautiful
Up goes the cry
If we're not more neat and tidy
we'll have garbage eight feet high
It'll stretch all the way from Perth
across to Syd-en-eye
So when you dispose of rubbish
don't pass your garbos by"

"Cos Monday's collection day,
crash go the bins,
all the city's garbos
cart away our sins..."

And Take Me Back To Innamincka, The Ten Days of Christmas, How ya going Santa Claus, Rosie, The Watermelon song.

Sort of cultural.

Culture lovers have put up O.S. and Junk Mail on youtube. Thanks. I love the interviews at the beginning of each:

And here's his big hit - Tuneless flaming Jungle Music:

As clever and fun-filled as the songs were, it was his humanity that mattered.

He never let us down, unlike his contempories with humanity Leon Byner and Bob Frances.

I can't believe he isn't still here. I am reminded of the remark about Peter Allen - "Why did he have to die? It was so unlike him."

Adam Hills of Spicks and Specks fame will host a rock and roll radio quiz night in his honour at the Arkaba on Tuesday May 19.

Here's a video of his final performance:

To know him was to love him. We all knew him.