Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Richie Furay - a Rock N Roll Hall of Famer & Transphobe?

On  May 9, 1944, Paul Richard Furay was born in the small town of Yellow Springs, Ohio. determined to make the music business, Richie, as he would come to be known as, moved to New York City to become a folk singer. However, shortly after arrival, he realized that folks music was dying and the buzz was all about what a group called the Byrds were doing by electrifying folk. So Richie headed out to southern California, with fellow-folk-singer Stephen Stills.

One day during a traffic jam, Richie and Stephen stumbled upon a peculiar individual driving a hearse who appeared to be having car trouble. This turned out to be three young aspiring Canadian musicians. One of whom was Neil Young.  A friendship was formed and a band called Buffalo Springfield shortly there after.

Unfortunately, egos clashed and Buffalo Springfield dissolved in 1968, after just three albums; but not before Texan record producer Jim Messina and Colorado steel guitar player Norman "Rusty" Young, had gotten involved with the band.

Turns out the demise of Buffalo Springfield was not the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning. Neil and Stephen would join forces with outgoing Byrd David Crosby and songwriter Graham Nash, to launch what to this day, has been a successful rock supergroup, collectively known as CSNY!

Richie and Jimmy invited Rusty and his drummer friend George to form a band called Pogo, later changed to Poco, after hiring bass player Randy Meisner.  Their debut record "Pickin' Up The Pieces" would serve as the ultimate blueprint for what country music was going to become. Even with Messina leaving to form a duo with Kenny Loggins, and Meisner quitting to join Rick Nelson, did not damper the hopes and dreams of Poco. Paul Cotton and Timothy Schmit were brought in and by 1973, while Richie was often considered the leader of the group, and the one who wrote and sang lead vocals on more than half the tunes, the others had made a strong name for themselves too, hence, the making of what appeared to be a super group heading for stardom!

Unfortunately, someone else saw and loved this blueprint so much, they went out and created a 2.0 version, collectively know as the Eagles. As the Eagles made hit record after hit record, Poco got left in their wake, and by 1975, Richie had decided it was time to change things up, so he quit Poco to form what he hoped would be a 3.0 version supergroup, with former Byrd Chris Hillman and Eagles songwriter John David Souther.  SHF as they were collectively called, issued two albums but were met with minimal interest from fans or critics, so they disbanded.

While in the SHF band, Richie had been exposed to Christianity, something he initially resisted but eventually came to embrace. This lead him to taking his life in a new direction - one where religious faith became the backbone of his life.  Interestingly, this also opened the door for him to dabble in a music genre known as Christian Rock.

Richie would  go on to become a Pastor of a Church in his new home in Boulder, Colorado, where he still lives and practices today. Richie continued to make new music, including both religious and secular albums from 1982 - present day, with his most-recent release being in 2007.  In 1997, Richie was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, along with his Buffalo Springfield colleagues.

He also took advantage of the opportunity to reunite with other band members for the occasional guest appearance during their concerts. One of these reunions was dubbed the reunion of all Poco reunions, as Richie joined Richie, Paul, George, and new bass player Jack Sundrud from Great Plains fame, for a live show that would be recorded for a DVD, on May 20, 2004.

Having discovered Poco's music in 2003 and completely fallen in love with it, I was determined to make the drive from Toronto down to Nashville to attend this event in person. While there, not only did I get to see a great show, but I got to meet and have extensive chats with all band members, as well as several "Poconut" fans who had driven from all over North America to be at the show.

I would go on to attend more than 40 Poco or solo members' concerts, over the next 4 years and made many friendships that are still strong today.

One person in particular from this time in my life who I developed really good rapport with, was in fact, Richie!

Now the "but wait, there's more" part of the story.......

Yes, one of the first people I came out to when I realized I was transgender, was Richie. While I knew he had this religious faith, I was under the understanding that his brand of Christianity preached acceptance and love. But sadly, the communication with Richie broke down almost immediately.  It's not like we were close friends or anything like that, but he was someone up to that point, who I had immense respect for.

Getting snubbed by Richie was emotionally upsetting, and because of this, I believe I went more than 3 years without listening to any Poco songs for which he sang the lead vocals on.  Richie and I have had no communication for 6 years. He didn't even respond to the email I sent him when I sought his advice and guidance on how I could make this transition as smoothly as possible for all my friends in the music business.

Some might question why I would write all of this now, 6 years later. Well, perhaps I write this now as a reminder that as far as we have come in this continent towards accepting diversity, there's still a heck of a lot more work to be done.  Richie, if you ever actually see this blog post, the door is always open for you to reach back to the hand that continues to be outstretched and unshaken for all these years.

Ultimately, the good news is that I no longer resent Richie for this. I've learned to forgive, and  I now listen to his music on a regular basis and love it as much as I always have.  Richie turns 69 this week. A gentle reminder that life is precious and we should to resolve outstanding conflicts.

So Richie, with this, I send you happy birthday wishes, on behalf of all of your fans who happen to come from a minority group!

Depicted is me, pre-Jennifer, with Richie, May 20, 2004, at the Belcourt Theatre, Nashville, TN.

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