Remembering Bob Reuter: St. Louis Speaks [Multiple Updates]
Ellen Herget, St. Louis musician, the Skekses:
I knew a man, he grew up on the north side in a house full of women, couldn't even keep a dog to his name, loved music more than he loved himself, lived on the road and a thousand places. He fell down an elevator shaft, and that's all she wrote.
Who would love that story more than Bob?
Bob Reuter was the walking gestalt of our city: all of its odd bits and sharp edges, all of its warped love and hard times -- Bob was the embodiment of it, and he was a good man.
When I met him he was so hard that I wondered if he had any tenderness. But I realized the stuff in his brain was worth listening to. And in the last few years I saw a definitive change in him.
He used to hate playing during the day, and he used to be miserable around children. Both of those things changed at the same time. His oft-recalled meeting with a little boy named Dresden completely changed his life, and suddenly he accepted kids as primal little honesty-spouters, and rather interesting. Daytime shows became fun for Bob, because kids could attend. They gave him joy, because they really listened to him, and they really danced.
In the same period, the man who was glad he'd never had children found himself with caring, surrogate sons -- nephews, at least -- in the boys in his band: Maysam, the Barecevics, DoorMat, Dan-O and, more recently, Adam Hesed. During the last Alley Ghost recording, they helped him draw up his will. His band was his family, the family of men he never had.
He had never toured until the last few years. He documented it extensively in his unique words and pictures.
On a personal level, Bob was a fine friend. Other people will talk of the moments when he was difficult, but he was always kind to me. At the last Alley Ghost show I attended, two or three weeks ago at CBGB, he called me up to sing with him. I am so glad I did -- I am so glad I did. Livin' at the bottom of the top of the Dirty South.
When the news was delivered to me by his editor Erin Wiles, she was so shaken up I found myself immediately looking to the comforting words we tell ourselves and our friends when someone has passed. "It was a quick passing. He was so happy with his life. He was doing everything he wanted to do." On one level, these things sounded hollow; on another, I realized that they were utterly true.
Bob came over for a tarot reading about a month ago. We chatted for two or three hours. His voice was full of love. His heart was full of love. He was thrilled with every inch of his life, and he had built that life entirely for himself. While he accepted his roots of sorrow and struggle, he was just beginning to feel that he needn't make himself suffer any more to get the most out of this life.
He was happy.
Bob Reuter, icky boy, talking dog, self-described loser, was totally happy, in the last few years, perhaps for the first time in his life.
This is because of the beautiful work he was doing. This is also because of all of you.
He lived and breathed St. Louis, and he knew you did too. If you snap pictures, if you sing songs, if you write words, you add to the power of St. Louis. That is a power Bob worked his entire life to be a part of, and he could see what felt like a lone mission for six decades blossom into an entire community in the last few years.
I believe, for the first time in his life, Bob Reuter did not feel alone. I believe he was proud of this place, and excited to grow even prouder.
He does not want your tears -- well, not more than a few. We can't ignore that he's gone, it would certainly hurt his feelings, and you know how Bob gets when he has hurt feelings!
But he does want your songs, your words and your pictures.
It is our job now to attempt to do 1/1000th of the work he did here. It is now our job to document this place and time. He showed us how to do all of it, how to observe and document every unique moment, in the midst of violence, poverty, and the staggering sense of futility that dogs every artist in low times. He showed us how to do this.
To Bob Reuter: friend, contrarian, artist, man.