Honor your heroes. While they’re still here.

In the last couple of weeks, rock ’n roll lost some great members of the family. Most notably Lemmy and, today, David Bowie. A stream of condolences, memories and personal stories of what these icons meant to people filled Facebook, Twitter and other media.

It got me thinking. A few years back, I made a resolution. I wanted to tell one of my heroes of the rock ’n roll family what he meant to me. Why he, his band and his music were so important in my life. I never fulfilled my resolution. And today, while watching and reading all the messages about how loved David Bowie was (and still is), I will keep my promise. Because I want to write it while he’s still (very much) alive. And you never know when the rock gods in heaven need a new guitar player.

So. This is my (open) letter to mr. Nuno Bettencourt.

 

Dear mr. Bettencourt, dear Nuno,

It’s been a few years now that I’ve been planning to write you this letter. I just wanted to tell you what kind of role you played in my life, and thank you for it.

Let me start by recalling the day I first heard Extreme. It was an episode of Headbangers Ball (back when MTV actually played music) when they played “Get the funk out”. My mind was blown. As a Queen, Aerosmith, Van Halen fan, this was the band where, for me, it all came together. The next day, I went and bought Pornograffitti. It stayed in my CD player for at least a couple of weeks. Except for the time I played it to my parents, that is.

Since that day, I stayed ” with you”. I saw Extreme a couple of times in the early 90’s. I went to a Dweezil Zappa show, hoping for a guest appearance (didn’t happen, but great show). I went to a Washburn clinic, which turned out to be a DramaGods-show (still one of my favorite concerts); I even went to the Satellite Party show in Amsterdam. Only show in Holland I missed was the Rihanna show. Yeah, I know, big mistake, especially because it was in my hometown of Arnhem.

So far, my story will resemble a lot of other people’s experiences when they stay with a band or artist for a longer period. You grow up and the artist and his music matures as well. And, as you get older, your world changes from girls and school to love, life and, well, loss.

So here’s where my story gets personal. In 2010, our second daughter, Maria, was born. After a couple of months she was taken to a hospital and, after a few weeks, they discovered that her immune system wasn’t working. She had SCID, also known as “the boy in the bubble-syndrome”. Her only chance was a stem cell-transplant. Two years of hospitals, stress, fear and hope followed. In those two years, Maria turned out to be a strong, cheerful and most times very happy little girl with a good sense of humor and a real love for music. At times it was her who kept my wife Helen and myself going and not the other way around.

In july of 2012, Maria passed away.

One of the last thing I said to her, and certainly the last promise I made to her, was that I would play something nice for her at her funeral. Music was a major, important part of the service we held for her. At the end, we played “Peace (saudades)”. And at her grave, together with a very good friend, I played “Ordinary Day” for her.  And here comes my everlasting, undying gratitude to you. You gave me the music and the words, the song, to keep my promise. I cannot thank you enough for giving me the opportunity to do this for Maria.

So there it is. My story about why you are a true hero of mine.

I love you, man.

Keep yourself alive.

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