In the early 1980s, I worked in Santa Monica, and frequently walked home from work, taking the beach front route. One afternoon, as I was approaching Windward, I saw a crowd of people, gathered in a circle. I could hear singing — but what singing. It was one of the richest, purest, most powerful voices I’d ever heard. When I got close, I saw a rather dignified looking gentleman sitting in a folding chair, playing a guitar. He was singing a cover of some rather mundane pop tune, but in his hands, it was pure magic. They say “there wasn’t a dry eye in the house” — well, it was true. People were openly and unashamedly weeping. It was that powerful, that deep. The guy’s name, I later found out, was Ted Hawkins.
I don’t need to give a bio on Hawkins, it’ s on the Net. The main thing I want to do is encourage people to track down some of this guy’s recordings and hear him. You won’t get the full experience — sounds from a speaker can’t replicate what he could produce in person, but it’ll give you a hint.
He was around the boardwalk for several years, and became a fixture on the scene. To me, he always typified the best of Venice art and music. He gave himself freely to the public (though at the end of the day, his guitar case on the ground in front of him was far from empty). He performed for the high and mighty, and the lowly and poor. He broke hearts and illuminated minds. I miss him.