Goodnight, Rosie.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook tonight about a former student of his who passed away today. She was 26 years old.

Her name was Rosie.

I know almost nothing about Rosie. I never met her. I didn’t even know she existed prior to my friend’s mention of her tonight. She graduated from Thomas Aquinas College in 2010. My friend, Brian, was one of her professors there. In his comments, he says that “her musical knowledge was of the highest order”.

She sounds great.

On his Facebook page, Brian posted a link to the Tom Waits song “Rosie”, from his 1973 debut, Closing Time. It has served as a soundtrack for him this week while reflecting on the brief life of his friend and former student.  It’s a simple and unforgettable song about a guy up late, playing his horn by the light of the full moon, thinking of the love he feels for a girl who is gone.  I haven’t been able to forget it since I first heard it.

The first time I heard “Rosie” was in 1987.  But it wasn’t Tom Waits’ version.  The Beat Farmers had covered it on their album The Pursuit of Happiness.  It was enchanting.  I fell in love with this beautifully written song and started including it on most mix-tapes I was making.  In an embarrassing admission, I even wrote a song around this time that borrowed tune and structure quite liberally from “Rosie” (though mine was called “Heidi” – I didn’t want to be too obvious).

Tom Waits was still kind of unknown to me at that point.  I knew who he was.  I was familiar with Springsteen’s cover of “Jersey Girl”, which pointed me back to Waits’ Heart Attack and Vine album.  But the 15 year-old me wasn’t quite sure what to do with that yet.  In the early days of MTV, they often played the video for “In The Neighborhood”, which I found oddly compelling (it’s now one of my favorite Waits songs), but it wasn’t enough to win me over.

The song that won me over was “Rosie”.  After repeated listens to The Pursuit of Happiness, an album that  was hugely overlooked in 1987, I finally noticed the writing credit for “Rosie”.  Curious, I checked out Closing Time from the library (yeah, the library – it was 1987 – Spotiwhat?) and brought it home to put on my turntable (again, it was 1987).

And that was it.

From the opening count-off of “Ol’ 55” through the fading final note of the lovely instrumental title track, I was hooked.  “I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You” may be the perfect bar ballad.  “Martha” is both heartbreaking and beautifully hopeful.  “Little Trip To Heaven”, a simple profession of love, intertwines piano and trumpet in a delightfully gentle and sunny way.

Then, right in the middle of that album (kicking off side 2 on the vinyl), we find our girl.  And while I had grown accustomed to The Beat Farmers’ version of her, Waits introduced me to sides of her personality I didn’t previously know existed.  Rosie was more alive than ever.  What was lost on me when I was 15, I now got.  I don’t profess to love everything that Tom Waits has put out, but I sure look forward to checking out each new release.  My appreciation for him runs deep.  And that, I owe to “Rosie”.

Back around 1990, I spent a few months around the Holidays selling men’s active-wear at Macy’s.  A girl working in the department next to mine was named Rosie.  Everytime I saw her, The Beat Farmers’ version of the song would go through my head.   Even long after I stopped working there, I would think of her when I heard either version of the song.  Not for any personal reason, really.  She was pretty, and maybe that was all it took. But even more simply than that, she was the one Rosie I can claim to knowing in the stretch of years that the song first became relevant to me.  I thought of her, more or less, by default.

But not anymore.

Now,  “Rosie” will make me think of Rosie; a Thomas Aquinas College graduate in 2010,  who I’ve heard had strong faith, and was a sweet, kind, dear friend who had a musical knowledge of the highest order.  It’s a pleasure to have you in my mind of musical associations, Rosie.  I’m glad I got to know you a little.  Thanks for introducing me, Brian.

“And the moon’s all up, full and big
Apricot tips in an indigo sky
And I’ve  been loving you, Rosie, since the day I was born
And I’ll love you, Rosie,  till the day I die”

Goodnight, Rosie.


~ by themattmorrisshow on September 20, 2013.

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