One Track Mind: Luke Doucet, "The Day Rick Danko Died" (2008)

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I came back to this song again, as the anniversary of the Band bassist’s death on Dec. 10, 1999, loomed this week.

Seems Luke Doucet, a Canadian rocker, found himself in the American mecca of Canadian rockers, Woodstock, N.Y. It was there that the Band, a rascally group made up (all save one) of his countrymen, helped birth the Saul-then-Paul conversion from folk to rock for one Bob Dylan. More particularly, the Vancouver native hit town amidst an earlier anniversary of Danko’s untimely passing. A tribute song was there, to be sure. You could find it at any saloon around town, in any bar-stool soliloquy with any nostalgic fogey.

Doucet — perhaps best known as Sarah McLachlan’s guitar player — did just that: “Do not cry old man,” he sings over happy-hour specials, “that’s not what today is for.” Interestingly, though, “The Day Rick Danko Died” is anything but a melancholic dirge, instead finding an all-but nasty groove (not to mention this hard-edged echo) more in keeping with the sharply confessional work of John Lennon in the immediate aftermath of the Beatles’ breakup.

Likewise, you won’t find the open-hearted emotion that Danko often brought to the Band, even as they plumbed the darkest of rock music’s notions. But that’s the magic of Doucet’s tune. He’s not aping Danko, only embracing the influence.

“The Day Rick Danko Died” was originally found on Blood’s Too Rich, the seventh album from the Juno-nominated Doucet. Elsewhere, Doucet freely references the unreconstructed hippie grit of Neil Young, the offbeat twang of what they used to call alt-country, the gutsy Steve Earle-type riff, and even the sweet insight of the Eagles’ peaceful, easy early 1970s stuff. But he’s perhaps nowhere more frankly groovy and groovily frank, and that includes Doucet’s turn on the hit tune about how much Tuesdays suck, than he is right here.

Danko deserved this kind of tribute. And more than that, it was appropriate that this moment of remembrance — sad, but yet sparkling even now — had the nerve to rock a little.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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