The holiday season is a time for friends and family. But it is also a time for giving, and the time of year when those in need are at their most vulnerable. It is with this in mind that we at the Metro Times feel compelled to turn our attention to one of our own — journalist Kevin Ransom.
At the height of his career, there were few Michigan-based writers who could author a lead as memorable and captivating as Ransom. Long after his talents allowed him to ascend to some of the crowing heights of journalistic accomplishment, he is in danger of losing everything.
Today "everything" to Ransom mostly consists of an extremely modest bungalow in Dearborn, originally built by his grandparents in 1949. He bought the property in 2002 after the death of his grandmother, and it was recently valued at less than $80,000. Disabled and with no source of income, Ransom is running out of money to meet his most basic of needs, and still far short of the fundraising goal needed to save his home. Ransom has applied for Disability, but found it can take 18 months to two years to be approved. So, he started a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/ymy3bw.
Ransom's last work appeared in the Ann Arbor News in 2013. For the last two years, he has lived with both chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and severe obstructive sleep apnea. For those with CFS, daily life is accompanied by a constant sense of exhaustion. But when Ransom finally succumbs to the impulse to sleep, he is unable to actually achieve a state of rest, before his other condition causes the supply of blood and oxygen to his brain to be disrupted and he again finds himself awake.
Caught in a tug-of-war between CFS and sleep apnea, Ransom is also in need of surgery for a hernia, and arthritis has exacerbated the chronic pain that usually accompanies CFS. Long gone are the days when Ransom would enjoy cycling or walking in the leafy enclaves of southeast Michigan. Now when he is given a ride to buy groceries from a friend or neighbor (he can no longer afford a car), he requires the use of a mobility scooter to assist him in the simple act of navigating store aisles.
Before the dramatic decline in his health, Ransom's story was one of personal and professional triumph. As a general assignment reporter who specialized in both music and auto writing, Ransom's evolution as a journalist mirrored that of the area he grew up in. When we exchanged emails with him, he described a life that many Michigan natives can relate to, during which he would go on to produce a truly meaningful body of work.
His first live music experience was seeing Bob Seger perform at Aquinas High School in the summer of 1970. Like many young people at the time, he was first introduced to the work of writers like Hunter S. Thompson and Lester Bangs in the pages of Rolling Stone and Creem. But the young Ransom would ultimately distinguish himself from his peers, by seeing his work published in the pages in both magazines, alongside that of his literary idols.
While studying at Western Michigan University, his writing first was picked up in 1977 by the Western Herald. Writing music and film reviews for the Herald and freelancing for the Kalamazoo Gazette, Ransom found himself in the midst of one of the most exciting and important times in music history. After witnessing the transcendent live experience of new wave acts like the Talking Heads and Patti Smith, as well as seeing artists like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan at the height of their powers, Ransom decided to combine his twin passions of writing and rock music.
The list of great musicians that Ransom has interviewed is extensive. His interview with Robbie Robertson of the Band appeared in the May 1995 issue of Guitar Player magazine. In 1999, he interviewed Elvis Costello (whose album This Year's Model Ransom credits with helping motivate him to become a rock critic) as part of his lengthy tenure freelancing for The Detroit News.
After contributing to national publications like Rolling Stone in the 1990s, Ransom's most prolific body of work was produced for the Ann Arbor News from 2001 to 2013. As a fixture in the local music scene, local musicians pulled together to organize a benefit for Ransom earlier this year at the Ark. Ransom still holds the venue and the acts that perform there in extremely high regard, and was touched by the way they have come together to support him.
"The way the community has responded thus far really says a lot about the generosity of spirit of the music and media communities, and the Detroit/Ann Arbor community in general, and the way they pull together to help out a fellow writer or musician or anyone who is facing hardship, due to being disabled, or losing their home, or losing their job," he says.
"I feel very grateful to be part of those communities."
But despite the overwhelming display of appreciation and solidarity by his friends and colleagues, Ransom's struggle is not over. His funding page is still short around 30 percent short of its target goal of $28,000.
This Christmas, the Metro Times encourages anyone who enjoys music journalism to show it by helping out a fellow traveler. Ransom has devoted his life to promoting great local artists, has made a lasting contribution to the scene in Michigan, and is truly deserving of your support.
Contribute to Ransom's fund, which is titled "Help Kevin, Disabled, Save His Home," at www.gofundme.com/ymy3bw.