The freak accident and tragic loss of friend & band mate Nicki Carano, when a massive wind storm caused a tree to fall on her car, as she was driving to a gig on Sunday, Jan 31st, 2016 will forever be inconceivable. Too young, beautiful, talented and kind. I try to find solace in the memories I have with her.
It was music that connected Nicki and I, not once, but twice in a lifetime.
I met Nicki Carano and her brother Joey at Marston Junior High and later attended Clairemont High with Nicki.She knew what she wanted to do. You could see the transformation in high school. She’d pull up in that white Camaro, looking like a Rock Star and by god she became one. But not your typical Rock Star though. The kind of Rock Star that Rock Stars should inspire to be. Yes, explosive, engaging and mesmerizing on stage, yet compassionate, caring, incredibly unselfish, always helping others and genuine at all times! She is in a class all by herself. She would hate that I’m using the word Rock Star to describe her right now. That was Nicki. So sweet and unassuming.
Blasting car stereos in the school parking lot. Back yard band parties.
Waiting in line to buy tickets to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy & many others, was as fulfilling as the concert themselves, because we were all hanging out overnight, working together to get closest to the front of the line, in order to get the best seats. Then we’d gather again and celebrate our efforts on the day of the big show. I got be her Senior Prom date, as an underclassman. Being around Nicki made you feel cool. The fact that we lost touch a year or so later, is as much of an unanswered question, as is the reason why it had to be Nicki who left us so soon. She went onto Mesa College. I still had another year at Clairemont High. Things change. You lose touch.
Nevertheless, it all seemed to make sense when we reconnected a few years ago, after running into her brother Joey and subsequently attending a gig he and Nicki were doing together. We caught up, we bonded again through our passion for music and it felt like we came full circle. As a band, we both returned to Clairemont High for the first time since we graduated and performed for the students. As a direct result of that, Nicki ended up donating a drum kit to a young female music student, who approached her after our set, expressing ambitions of wanting to be just like her someday. That was Nicki. Rock Star.
She was the perfect complement to everything I ever wanted to accomplish in music and so much more. Unbelievably talented and a true pleasure to work with. No ego that I could see. And she was beautiful, inside and out. She had a gift and loved making people smile and see them happy, friend or stranger. A dream come true. After all the years I had been playing music, it had suddenly become easier than ever to coordinate and execute music as a unit as long time band mate Matt Silvia would agree. Team Player. Chemistry. Another level. Harmony. I had never experienced that kind of comfort and peace playing with a band before. That was Nicki. Rock Star.
As a working musician who has to play more than a fair amount of solo gigs in order to pay the bills, Nicki and Matt both had me constantly trying to figure out a way to play with the band more consistently. That’s all I wanted. I have to thank Mike & Dee Wright for the numerous opportunities to do so via their house concerts, special events and parties. As music lovers who had supported me since the beginning, they recognized what we had as a band immediately. Man, they even hired and paid us to play other people’s parties.
As accomplished as she was (USO tours, Las Vegas residency), she was still always open to and happy to take direction, which mostly came from Matt, who at times would even feed her additional backing vocal parts, on the spot, right in the middle of performing a song at a gig. I don’t know anybody else who’d be open to that, including me. But Nicki was and she’d nail it. Rock Star. I took it for granted that we’d continue to perform and create music together, as we grew old and gray.
I’ll miss the inquisitive look on people’s faces, as they watched her set up her drums and how quickly it changed to amazement, halfway through the first song. This happened at EVERY gig and I loved how it made me smile and feel. She didn’t want the spotlight but what she did naturally, intuitively and tastefully, put her in the brightest one on the entire stage and that made me so happy and grateful to be up there with her. I’ll miss how she’d calm me down when I’d get frustrated after we’d have a kick ass, 3 hour gig in Ramona and only end up with $7 in the tip jar. My band mates deserve better than that Ramona! I’ll miss carpooling together as we shared each other’s thoughts. She was an incredible listener and always knew what to say or what not to say, in order to comfort you when you we’re having a tough time. I’ll miss teasing her about going home and eating a whole pint of ice cream after gigs. I’ll miss talking about music and have a tune come to mind and she’d say, “I love that song!”
Outside of music, she had me doing yoga. We’d occasionally meet up for breakfast in the Clairemont Square to catch up with our high school friend Mary, whose family has owned the place all these years. I love how Nicki would cook for her family on Sundays. How much she cared about them and loved being an auntie. How much she loved helping others. She was a gift to so many. Unforgettable. Irreplaceable.
My heart aches with the countless friends she left behind. The Carano Family. Her boyfriend Lonnie. Each of us will have to find a way to deal with this tragic loss, for the rest of our lives.Nicki will continue to be a source of inspiration, motivation and dedication as I continue the journey. People who never had the pleasure, will get to know her through all of us, because we’ll never stop talking about her and sharing the memories. She will continue to help others through our efforts to preserve her legacy. To me, she is the greatest Rock Star of all time. She’s at the top of my list of people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.
Thank you Nicki for showing me how it’s done. I love and miss you.