"A Love Supreme" ...Brought a Town to Life
March 08, 2007
30 years ago Robert Busby moved to the abandoned half of Lansing to open a gallery and to get away from people.
People followed him anyway and that whole side of the city came back to life, to life bigger than it ever was.
He died last week, but just see what an indy spirit can do...
Robert wasn't even a pusher for progress, he was just helpful and friendly and put on great events.
I rented his space from him for one event of a 3-day underground literary event that a friend and I brought out of town heroes in for (Jack Saunders being one of them). It was affordable, in the center of town.
It was the same space that Wynton Marsalis played not long after, and a lot of other famous bands, too. Plus plays, movies, art openings. Everything happened there. Nonstop!
Robert was just himself, no airs, no fuss. He did have a serious air. He took you more seriously than you did. Yeah, he had gravitas. ...And he made his space available.
The newspaper tribute that I link to here mentions that Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" was a favorite album. A poem tribute to Coltrane which has that album title as its refrain is one of my favorites (Michael Harper's "Dear John, Dear Coltrane," on the great box-set "In Their Own Voices").
Around him, "Old Town" Lansing became the area's HQ for all things indy, covering the whole range.
Of course many others are key, too. But what was the anchor?
I worked with him on our event and chatted with him at a couple of his openings but beyond that I knew that his reputation was as a quiet, steady resource.
Like many indy types, he worked 2 jobs, no, make that 4. Or, one job and 3 "callings." He made models in the GM metal shop. He was an artist. He ran a gallery. He volunteered to help a city grow.
In all those areas the testimony is that Robert related to everyone, of every level.
Last week one of the troubled people of the neighborhood, who Robert employed for odd jobs, got worse and ended up killing him and taking his truck then killed himself when finally located.
Was Robert willing to do what he thought was right no matter what? Would he have chosen to play it safe, to hold back, if he could've prevented his end?
He got what he got the whole time and that was how he got it. Change one part, you change it all.
For our part, we have a new town.
(For a full tribute to Robert Busby, and more on his life, follow the provided link to the newspaper that knows the score.)
(The corporate papers in town gave Busby an honorable mention. The indy paper gave him the cover and half the issue. People come first with the indy spirit!)
[And, hey, in Robert's spirit of hooking people up to REALLY GOOD THINGS, check out: www.amazon.com/Their-Own-Voices-Century-Recorded/dp/B0000033RT. Listen to the link for Michael Harper. It's just the start of the poem, in which you'll get taken to a couple different levels of new places, much more than the coolness the clip already reveals. But what's more more more is this whole collection! I'm not a huge poetry buff, but this collection rocks my world. You owe it to yourself to know the work that's been done on your soil. In your bones. In their own voices.]
[photo by Pat Powers]