For whatever reason, it's been a busy couple of weeks in the obituary department of the newspaper. We've gone through quite a run of people who have passed away - some at least a little expected, others not so much.
It's difficult to think of Marvin Miller, Larry Hagman, "Macho" Camacho and Bob Swados in the same breath, but that's who we lost. I interviewed Camacho once when he fought a boxing match in Buffalo, and he was hilarious. Camacho was like an elf, floating around town in anticipation of the fight. Swados was one of the central figures in the history of the Sabres, so I worked for him when I was with the team. Anyone connected with the team has a supply of stories about Swados, an unforgettable personality by any definition.
But oddly, it was someone else that caught me off guard -- someone most people haven't heard of.
I wrote about the progressive rock band Renaissance a little more than a year ago. The group had some success in the 1970's, and put out some fondly remembered albums by fans of the genre. Disco and punk weren't kind to a classical sound late in the decade, and the band split up. Various combinations of the band tried reforming over the next 25 years or so, but nothing ever lasted.
Then Michael Dunford and Annie Haslam decided to give it one last try. They found some other musicians to round out a band, did some rehearsing, and took to the road. One of their stops was in Buffalo, where I saw them. The music still worked, and the crowd seemed enthusiastic. Renaissance even put out a DVD/CD of their performance.
Their next step was an unusual one. Renaissance needed money to produce a new album (or whatever you call it in this digital age), so it went to Kickstarter. That's a web site designed to raise money for a variety of projects. The target was somewhere in the $44,000 range, with a variety of premiums offered depending on the donations. Needless to say, U2 doesn't have to do that when it wants to put out some music, but at least the idea worked. Renaissance raised more than twice the money it needed - $92,000.
The band headed to the recording studio, and finished the album. The band tuned up with a few more live shows, although some physical problems kept Haslam off the road at times and thus some performances were postponed. Still, Dunford was autographing sheet music for backers as of a couple of weeks ago.
Then on November 20, Dunford was eating with his family in England and suffered a massive Instantaneous Cerebral Hemorrhage. He never regained consciousness and died that night.
There's never anything fair about such things. But in Dunford's case, leaving behind a wife and two children ages 13 and 10, and missing the opportunity to play new music in a style that he loved, this story seems particular cruel.
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