Paul Barrere wanted to make it to 75. He said things like this to me during our conversations in recent years. He was 71 when he passed away on October 26th at a UCLA hospital in Los Angeles, California.
In November of 2014, Paul and I went together to hear the Southern Soul Assembly at L.A.’s Regent Theatre. On the drive into town, plagued with the perpetually clichéd traffic of Southern California, we had plenty of time to cover a lot of proverbial ground.
Of course, we talked about music, particularly about newer artists he enjoyed—Lake Street Dive, Tedeschi Trucks Band. We both loved a good chili relleno. And, we both loved baseball—Paul, an avid Giants fan.
We talked about our ancestors that served in World War Two. We talked politics and history. Paul grew up in Los Angeles, playing explorer in the hills above Hollywood Boulevard as a child, a stone’s throw from where I had my first apartment.
We talked about marriage, and fatherhood, and the challenges of raising teenagers. Paul was as grateful as any husband could be for his wife, and as proud of his three children as any parent would be; equally as humbled and enthusiastic about the adults they had become. His advice to me as my own child approached her teen years: Learn the value of counting to ten.
And, as much as anything else, we talked about The Simpsons. We riffed on lines and scenes in detail drawn from that animated family from Springfield as we walked the few blocks from the parking lot to the Regent. Our laughter rippled uncontained and childlike through the cavernous streets of downtown L.A.
On the return home, Paul offered his glowing appraisals of the SSA—Anders Osborne, Marc Broussard, JJ Grey, and Luther Dickinson- and their special guest that night, Duane Betts. He was pleasantly surprised and encouraged to see aging movie palaces converted to vibrant live music venues. Without prompting, he shifted back to earlier in the evening, before he picked me up, when he noticed neighborhoods in Venice Beach once infested with drug dens now gentrified with multi-million dollar properties.
Paul Barrere made no secret of the origins of his contraction of Hepatitis C; saying in one of our interviews he was “pretty sure” it was from drug use in his younger years. Publicly, he was exceptionally candid about his health issues- describing his treatments and progress, imploring others to get tested- and when his Hep C evolved into liver complications, he remained as forthcoming as ever. He made no excuses for his present circumstance, nor lost his sense of optimism or humor.
He was on tour, celebrating 50 years of Little Feat as well as continuing to perform as a duo with Feat bandmate Fred Tackett or Feat off-shoot, Funky Feat, until his hospitalization several weeks ago. He often said that he played the shows for free; he got paid for the travel, the time away from home, the busses and late nights, the bad food, bad beds, bad flights.
Once, he sent me a CD to review. It was his Riding the Nova Train, a collaborative album he’d recorded with Roger Cole for their Better Daze Music label. Enclosed was a short note with this parting line: For best results, play it loud!!!
I will always listen to Paul Barrere’s music- so inventive and influential- and when I do I will play it loud. I’ll also never forget the quieter parts of knowing Paul, the conversations and advice, the laughs and the friendship. He didn’t make it to 75, but there is no question he gave me, and all those that appreciated his life, the best results he had to give.