Last Friday morning, I caught a flight to San Jose, California, to do a little video work for a very close friend of mine. I don’t like being away from Ana and the kids, but this was a special event, something I have been looking forward to for a long time. My friend picked me up from the airport, and we went for breakfast. It was a breath of fresh air visiting with him. For the past almost four decades, Dave has played several roles in silicon valley that have helped shape the tech world into what it is today. He is absolutely brilliant. His dad is a rocket scientist that played a vital role in the Mercury Space Program that preceded the Apollo missions in the 1960s. While Dave is quick to refute his intellectual superiority with his abundant clever humor, there is no doubt that he is a chip off the old block.
In the thirty-plus years that I have known this incredible man, it’s his heart, and his amazing artistic ability as a musician and singer, that I admire the most. And that is what put me on a jet to San Jose for the weekend.
Aside from all the tech stuff he does to put food on the table, Dave is in a rock band. He asked me to shoot some video of the band playing for a what turned out to be a courtyard full of upwardly mobile and generally agreeable drunks. He plays guitar and sings, and as it turns out, like most things Dave does, he does it exceptionally well.
I’m man enough to admit that the gospel music he sings at church has brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion. But his rendition of “Back in Black” by ACDC that he played last Friday night left me slack-jawed and stupified. It was as if Brian Johnson himself crawled into Dave’s voice box and sang the song for him. In fact, every song Dave sang that night sounded just like the original artist.
It was an emotional journey down the hallways of my past. They played the songs I grew up on, fell in and out of love with, and pulled a cork to on more than one occasion. And they performed them flawlessly.
I glanced over at the drinking yuppies as they sang and danced the night away, and for a spell we understood each other, and I yearned to join them. It was a magical night, and Dave and the band were the magicians.
I’ve always pushed Dave to focus more on music. He loves it so much. His kids are grown now, and he has managed his money well, so while he is a top executive at a burgeoning tech firm, he doesn’t need to be. The weight of responsibility has gotten lighter, and he is letting his heart lead the way now. And what a blessing it is.
Yet I’m left wondering sometimes what could have been.
Playing beside Dave on bass guitar stands another man about Dave’s age. He grew up with Prince and played on his first three albums then got tossed aside by management when Purple Rain came out because having a white dude in the band didn’t fit the image. He has a Ph.D. in physics now and is a professor at Stanford working on a classified project that will revolutionize how we study space. A part of me was glad things didn’t work out with Prince. And maybe I need to cut Dave some slack for the same reason.
He is an incredible man, father, husband, businessman, and friend. He has lived a life that he and everyone he knows is proud of. And the music has always been there for him, or him for it, it’s just the size of the crowd that’s different. He sings and plays with equal passion no matter who or how many are listening.
So maybe Dave didn’t miss out on anything better. Maybe he didn’t lack the courage to follow his heart after all. Maybe he just wanted to be a stable dad, husband, christian, businessman, and friend for the people he loves more than anything. In the Bay Area, like most cities I suppose, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a dozen musicians and singers. But you’ll have to hunt a whole lot harder to find a good man of exemplary character that is rock solid like Dave.
Maybe that’s a bigger and better dream.