R.I.P. Andrew Youssef: In Appreciation of a Life Well Lived

Categories: Last Shot

Courtesy Andrew Youssef
Youssef with Page Hamilton of Helmet.

From the moment he delivered his first column, I knew we had something. Sure, it was often a depressing subject when juxtaposed next to heavy-metal listicles, scandalous local music news and essays about twerking. But from the outset, I knew if we could strike a serious emotional chord with people once a week by getting Youssef's story out there, it could have a real impact on our readers. Sure enough, I was right.

His messages in each column were bold, his writing was clear, and his knack for describing the clinical side of his disease with wit and wisdom was always on point. And most importantly, you couldn't read these columns without feeling connected to him in some way. You picked up the column once and all of a sudden you just had to follow it. The readership spread much further than people who knew him personally. Every week, we'd get comments from readers around the country, even the world, who stumbled onto Youssef's work and wrote genuine thank-you notes to him for what he was doing, begging him to keep it up. His audience included some other very bands he'd written about and photographed -- artists like Meshuggah, Helmet, Juliana Hatfield, and of course, Nine Inch Nails.

Most Youssef supporters reveled in the news that NIN's demigod frontman Trent Reznor had not only learned about Youssef and his story, but was inspired enough to reach out to the photographer directly in the last months of his life. Even if you weren't as huge of a fan of the band as Youssef was, it was marvelous to see the compassion and the special treatment they bestowed on such a kind, deserving soul. Both Youssef and his brother met them in person, were given the best seats in the house for NIN's Troubadour show and granted back stage VIP access to their rehearsals.

At his home, along with the mind-boggling amount of souvenirs, instruments and equipment he'd acquired from his favorite bands, Youssef basically had the holy grail of NIN fandom -- everything from signed drumsticks, to a signed Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12 synthesizer they used onstage, to the analog tape of early backing tracks used on several of their records.

As he took me through his house, showing me all these things during our interview for the cover story, it was like his years of silent dedication to his craft had materialized into room full of one-of-a-kind stuff offered up to a one-of-a-kind person. And that was only a slice of the appreciation when you add it to the support from guys like Page Hamilton of Helmet, who befriended Youssef in 2007 and stuck by him after his diagnosis and almost always gave him a shout out from the stage when he knew Youssef was in the audience. There's the love and support of Meshuggah, who also granted him VIP access to any of their head banging gigs. And we can't discount the glorious gesture from the Offspring's Dexter Holland -- who took Youssef up in his private plane as he piloted the skies over Long Beach back in October. As always, Youssef had his camera in tow.

Continue to page three for more.

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Judee Renner Sliment
Judee Renner Sliment

I've been following this story for months...wrecked by this news. Such a cool and talented dude. No more pain.

Ellyn Hloben
Ellyn Hloben

Aww how sad. Been following his voyage. Hoped he'd be around longer.

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