Sean's good friend Dale Wilson asked some of the artist's other friends for treasured memories of their fallen mate, which are posted below. In Dale's words: "You can see from these remembrances how many people knew and respected him both as an artist and a friend and what an integral part of Detroit music he has was for 20 years."
Sean Fitzgerald was the real deal. A great guitar player and an even better songwriter. His songs -- "South of Eight Mile Blues," "Worlds Collide" and a myriad of numbered "Melissa"(s) -- are timeless. He was an integral part of the Detroit open mic and acoustic music scene. from Gotham City Cafe on Woodward (Ferndale) to Bittersweet Cafe (Detroit); from Urban Break (Hamtramck) to the Plymouth Coffee Bean and Public Library. The first time I met Sean, he ended up getting me my first paying gig in Detroit. The last time was a week before his death. He brought me the brand new Takamine acoustic he'd just bought so I could play it at my show at PJ's Lager House. He wanted me to sound good. He was always looking out for other
people in our little scene. I can't count the number of times Sean told me, "You gotta see Markita or Manton or Jablonski or whoever. He always kept things going at places like Trixie's in Roseville. He wa a community person, obsessed with creating and furthering local acoustic music. His presence will be greatly missed. Like I said, Sean Fitzgerald was the real deal. Sean, I love you and miss you deeply.
Mention the infamous phrase "Eight Mile" when referencing Detroit and you must surely be referring to Eminem. It's perfectly understandable – he was a watershed artist. However, there is a different kind of song about Eight Mile, and that song pre-dates Eminem. Eight Mile Road, as some of you may know, is the traditional dividing line between Detroit proper and the suburbs. Now, this other song I speak of is called "South Of Eight Mile Blues". It was written by my friend and a friend of a lot of people in Detroit – Sean Fitzgerald. He wrote it in 1993, which is a long time ago. Sean's simple blues ditty showcases he many ironies inherent about Detroit, and centers in on the theme of being on the dividing line of these ironies. "I'm in the middle of the track/each side is the wrong side", he sang. Sean was a true Detroiter, and it saddened him to see so much segregation and unfairness around him. He disliked a lot of the worst "isms". I mention all this as merely a drop in the bucket as to who Sean really was. We used to joke about Eminem and his 8 Mile movie when it came out because all of us knew Sean's song. You see, Sean was a part of a small group of locals who actually believe in a better world and doing, as I call it, "The Thing That Must Be Done". We play the shows that never get press, but
that's OK. We do it anyway. We do it because we have to do it. We don't hold delusions of grandeur. We want to play for a roomful of people who really care about the music rather than a room full of people who want to be seen," as Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers once described it to me.
Sean stayed true to his convictions that the world can indeed be a better place if we all just pull together and try a little. He believed that until his last day. Sean was always there, to the point of being taken for granted. I can't even begin to scratch the surface of the many kind things he said and did for other small fries on the local scene. Now he's gone, so we shall continue to do "The Thing That Must Be Done" with pride. Get a copy of Sean's record, Amber Sky (available on iTunes), and check out one of the great locals who never got mentioned. Go see a show by someone you don't know– you may be pleasantly surprised. It's exactly what Sean would have wanted people to do.
Sean Fitzgerald was an incredible artist. His songs touch a part of me that many times lays dormant in all of us. His personal style and the vulnerability that came with his honest recount of his experiences produced a feeling of kinship among his listeners. His work exemplifies the skill and drive that creates powerful music that move one to look deep and examine. The greatest thing about Sean was that he never really promoted himself. He was always the first to tell you about some great local artist that he felt you needed to see or hear. He was an integral part of the folk scene in this city and beyond. The first time I ever sang in front of an audience was at the urging of Sean. It was over 18 years ago at an open mic night. I couldn't even play guitar yet. But he told me to just get up and sing. So I did. Just my voice. Sean lives on through his words and we can keep him with us and we, his friends, must. I will be forever grateful to have shared time with this wonderful songwriter and I will be forever profoundly changed by his loss. And yet, I will play his songs and I will let go of all that Sean was and all that he still can be. I just hope I remembered to tell him all this this before he left us.
Again, a tribute to Sean will be held at PJ's Lager House this Saturday, November 29th between 8 and 10 p.m. prior to that evening's performances.
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