Oct. 9, 2012 — David Lane, my dear friend and guitar-playing partner for many years, is gone. David died at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno about 8 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3 surrounded by family and friends who were busy “singing him back home” when he passed. One of the singers said he even had a smile on his face when the end finally came.
Two weeks ago, David, who suffered with terminal stage-four lung cancer, wound up at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno with an infection. He responded well to treatment and was released a few days later.
Just before his release, he was his usual jovial self, bouncing the strings off the frets on his old Martin guitar for family, friends and staff who happily gathered in his hospital room for one last informal, impromptu and unscheduled toe-tapping concert. Gee, I’m sorry I missed that one.
Unfortunately, the infection returned, and David was admitted to the emergency room, put on a ventilator and then placed in a medically induced coma. His sister, Kathleen, called to give me the news — “The doctor says if you want to see David, you’d better start driving.” In less than an hour I was racing down Highway 395 from Susanville to Fresno.
With family and friends by his bedside 24 hours a day, David rallied, got off the ventilator and even asked for his guitar again, but then he began to fail. His bravery and will to live should be admired, but eventually it became obvious to everyone it was time to let him go. David knew it, too — he told me he was dying.
He and his brothers (Mitchell and Greg) and sisters (Shelley and Kathleen) inherited a great love of music from their mother, Jimmie, and at a young age David began playing songs from the 1920s on a plastic ukulele at his mother’s tea parties. The performance bug bit him hard. As a teenager, he played with the band, Dave the Wave and Undertows, before embarking on a lifelong career as a folk singer.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, David and I traveled up and down the state playing at coffee houses, taverns, saloons, nightclubs, colleges, bars and anywhere else they’d let two crazed fingerpickers pry a foot in the door.
After I quit the scene to go to college in 1980, David continued, playing bass for several years with Joe Holley (the left-handed fiddler for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys) and frequently performing with Fresno folk music royalty such as Jon Adams and Kenny Hall and his sister Kathleen.
I spent the afternoon of his death at home with the flu, rummaging through a pile of recordings we’d made — a demo for record producer Harvey Rose recorded in 1973 at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, a radio show to promote the Davis Mini Folk Festival in 1975, a concert at California State University, Stanislaus from 1976, a Traditionally Live radio program from 1984, a Fresno Folklore Society hootenanny at the Wild Blue Yonder from 1994, numerous house parties and informal home recording sessions and even rehearsals for the Lane Family Concert held just last May.
Despite the immense sorrow I feel over losing him, I also find great solace in those happy moments we shared together.
Those sounds brought many a broad smile to my face, especially when David’s infectious laughter would ring out because he was tickled by some part of his performance.
I got to know David very well over the years, and I can tell you he would not want any of us to mourn him too long or too hard — he wanted to find the joy and the fun in any situation and always looked for any excuse to play and sing, no matter the location or the hour. I’m sure there’s a new singer/songwriter workin’ it in Folk Music Heaven right now.
So long, my old friend — until we meet again in that sweet by and by.
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