A heart attack landed Gregory in the hospital in March 2006, just as his debut recording Passages was about to be released. He never made it out of the hospital and died five months later at the age of 49. It's ironic that Gregory's physical heart should have given out because it's his heart, that metaphorical center of magnanimity, is the thing that people close to him most remember. That, and his one-in-billion voice.
The feature condenses the story quite a bit in the interest of time, but I hope that it gives a sense of the person that Gregory was, his talent and what he went through.
If you want to hear more (and you happen to be in Kansas City) there will be a tribute to Gregory at Jardine's Jazz Club this Sunday night with live performances by many of the musicians who played on Passages, including Stan Kessler, Pamela Baskin-Watson, and Gerald Spaits. Millie Edwards and David Basse will also sing some of the songs that Gregory planned to sing on future albums. I'll be making the trip to KC for the event and plan to play selections from some of the interviews I've done.
The tribute also serves as a kind of re-release for Passages, the album that Gregory and Jon Bauer spent more than a year producing, but which was largely set aside. Jon has recently hired a promoter for the disc, so it may yet reach a wider audience.
Note: As mentioned previously in this space, I've been working for just over a year now on an increasingly lengthy radio documentary about Gregory. The Pitch's Charles Ferruzza was kind enough to mention the doc in his preview of Sunday's tribute, saying that it asks the question "Why wasn't this man famous?"
Actually, that question originally came from our pal over at Plasticsax and the answer turns out to be fairly disappointing. Fame, as it turns out, is fickle and performers do well to spend more time thinking about their craft.
Among the more profitable questions I hope the doc will ask are:
- Who can tell the singer from the song?
- What is this thing called love?
- Good morning, heartache. What's new?