2001 feels like forever ago. It still sounds futuristic. But for some 16 year olds, it never happened. In 2001 I think I played Java Joe’s every Thursday night. Java Joe’s was an acoustic clubhouse one block from the beach. The scene was something out of a movie. I would sleep there after shows in a crescent-shaped booth to occasionally pick up a Friday or Saturday night slot. Or I’d stay to soak up the atmosphere of Jameson and lasagna, or the chords of other songwriters. At the time that experience was the only career I had, so there was nothing to lose – nor nothing to be lost. Every day was a day thriving in the unknown. Creating my life story as I went. It was heaven.
That same year, my childhood friend, Charlie Mingroni, affirmed he would not worry his life away in the midst of chemotherapy treatment to combat Ewing Sarcoma, a rare cancer. Charlie pulled off a miracle before everyone’s eyes. It was as if he had stopped a bullet; like he had superpowers and no fear against an evil villain in the room. He dissed disease with ease. I found myself writing about Charlie and his gift while questioning the circumstances in our lives. How did I get my life and why did he get his? Perhaps because I might not have survived and nor would Charlie have written the song. Maybe. I’ve pondered this for more than a decade now. The Universe is a creator. Does It care about the details? Or – in order to live forever – does It just want us to make waves?
Charlie was born on July 4th, a perfect day to remember to celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I was driving through Anaheim one night when Disneyland set off their sky rockets and I instantly thought of my friend. I improvised the opening verses to “The Remedy” right there on the spot. I called my voicemail and sang it again while driving and scribbled down everything I could when I got home. The next couple weeks at Java’s I would add in Charlie’s verse somewhere in the show.
Around that time I was compiling ideas and collaborating with other songwriters to strengthen my writing and my catalog for my first album. One of my first sessions was with a trio dubbed The Matrix, aka Lauren Christie, Scott Spock, and Graham Edwards. They, too, had superpowers. I shared my verse and told them about Charlie. They were moved. I shared his mantra and within minutes they had put it to melody. iiiiiiiii… won’t worry my life awaaaay was born. With a sonic boom, Charlie’s wave had now reached them too.
When we finished it – and probably because I was young, inexperienced, and thought I was in control of my destiny – I refused to like the song. Or maybe I disliked it because it sounded like it was formulated to be a hit, and I was nervous that it just might become one. I didn’t want my life to change. Java Joe’s was just fine. It was all I knew and it was going great. I thought the new song sounded like nothing I would listen to, never mind attempt to play. And on top of it all I feared I was exploiting my friend.
Up until the making of ‘Waiting For My Rocket To Come’ I fought against recording the song, fearing all of the above and that it would force an evolution on my style. I literally cried in the vocal booth while tracking the song as none of my resistance could hold back the inevitable. The song needed to be sung. That was that. A few minutes later I sat under the studio deck in the pouring rain and surrendered. The song became a potent medicine I had to drink when it felt like all my dreams were coming true but looked different than I imagined. The fruition of dreams can be frightening, and even feel like death of an old self. But it’s nothing compared to what Charlie must’ve faced. He gave me permission to proceed with the song and “I won’t worry my life away” became the first of many mantras and affirmations in my catalog, eventually inspiring other affirmative lyrics like I’m Yours, and I Won’t Give Up, and a lifetime of service through music.
Charlie caused a ripple throughout our community that turned into waves that still expand out in every direction this far into the future. Thanks to the power of music, his waves will carry on and outlive us all. I am grateful to know his strength, his patience, his humor, his grace. I am thankful he is still with us to make more.
Shine the light on all of your friends because it all amounts to nothing in the end.