“DeeDubz, how are you doin’?” said Brian Healy over the phone. We’d communicated for years over Facebook, but this was the first time I’d heard his speaking voice. It was a lot like hearing from an old friend from across the country.
The occasion for the call was the passing of a mutual friend, Monty Stewart. Monty was a unique individual, a man of faith who never hid the fact he was also a weirdo just like us. Monty was a nexus where these extremes met, and thus I was talking on the phone to Brian.
Brian, likewise, was a magnet for musicians. His ongoing persona as Dead Artist Syndrome brought out so many different players, and in recent years DAS comprised a quasi-reunion of the band Undercover (for the Kissing Strangers album). Sean Patrick Doty from the band Veil, Michael Roe from The 77s, members of The Choir, Ping, and more jumped in as Healy’s constantly changing backing group.
And even when he wasn’t making music, he was surrounded by friends with musical benefits. That was Brian Healy, with his sometimes wicked sense of humor which infused DAS’ goth rock sound with a bit of a wink and a nod, even as he towered over an audience from the stage, dressed in black, stage up-lights casting insidious shadows on him, his band, and the walls. Even as he assumed the role of this unearthly golem, he was a genuinely sweet guy. He cared, and he took the time and effort to express that care, even with schlubs like me who he barely knew.
The Dead Artist Syndrome albums are particularly interesting in that they show a man who likes pop music, but likes it enough to subvert it and its attendant expectations. DAS albums sound dangerous. They sound authentic in the way that, no matter who was working with him, Brian’s imprimatur was undeniable.
Over the past decade, Brian’s body had been ravaged by various health issues. I’m not going to list them here. Suffice it to say that we, his friends, worried a lot about him, especially when he would put up a particularly dark Facebook message or, worse when he would go a long time without any messages at all.
I talked to him on the phone a year ago. He’d had another health setback. I expressed to him that he needed to take care of himself, we need him here too much. In retrospect, it was a silly statement because that is what he wanted as well. He certainly didn’t want the many health short-circuits cutting him down in such brutal ways.
When I found out Brian Healy had passed away, I felt such a strange combination of emotions: sadness, for certain. I was never going to hear that voice again, either in song or on the phone saying, “Eeeeeeeyy, DeeDubz!” But I know the extent to which the man suffered, and in some way, there is mercy that there are no more hospitals for him. No late-night emergencies. No more reapers always at his back, waiting to strike when things started to get good again.
He was a great artist, and more importantly, he was a great man.
Hey Brian. Speaking for myself, your weirdo buddies miss you. We’ll never forget you. Shake them bones the way you wanted to. Say hi to Monty for me when you get there.