Big George

“BIG RICH!” is how George would greet me, in a great booming voice that was the loudest kindness I’ve heard, and then we’d hug, like a kid trying to hug an oak tree, or a bear, and we’d set up and play music.

The best way I know how to describe George’s kindness was when he talked about some one or thing he didn’t agree with. His face would scrunch up, and get quite serious, and he’d put his meaty forefinger in the air and say, “well, you see, Rich…” and then show how carefully he thought about it before he decided not to like something.

George was a blues musician, in the deepest traditions and respect although he loved when his friends would step out of the box and explore the places outside those guides. He was the real deal in that world, something people have said because he was a black man playing Black American music now maintained by middle-aged white musicians, but he was the real deal because he lived that live of hard work and respect and celebration and he put it into words and music that lived that life as well.

A year or so ago I began work on a project to feature musicians I wanted more of the world to celebrate with me. George and I made plans to record him performing a spoken-word piece he wanted to do for years; I was thrilled to help him create it and share it to the world, saying, “this is my friend, Big George Jackson, he is a life worth living and listening to.” Covid derailed that project like so many other things.

At the end of every night he’d say, “You be careful on the way home tonight! You’ve seen the Wiz? I’m Evillene. I better not hear no bad news!” And I was always careful. I’ll miss you George.