From Our Readers - An imprint of greatness
Remembering local musician Jimmy Strader.
I love to write about greatness, the kind that transcends achievement. It’s the greatness that lives in the heart, a phenomenon that requires only a cooperative spirit to reveal itself. In music, it’s the element that puts the singer or musician inside the note, where one becomes the love.
Jimmy Strader lived his life from that place.
Strader got my attention at first sight and sound of his effortless way of devouring a bass guitar to compel a song into orbit. We performed together at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame when it was located at the Greenwood Cultural Center in the mid ’90s. We gigged and collaborated on occasions after that during my musical stint in Tulsa and tried to stay in touch in the years that followed. We played together in life as well, like good friends do.
Sharing notes with Strader was definitely an adventure, the kind of embrace I find irresistible. It was a ride that a player or singer or audience would likely never forget. You didn’t just “play the gig.” Performing with Strader was an invitation to dance somewhere else. His musical authority required that you go there with him. Truly a blast, there was no room for small thinking. His resonance expanded whatever space he was kicking a tune in. All who came to hear would listen and be altered by his sound. If you were collaborating with him, something remarkable always stirred up the exchange. On his Washburn bass, in his soul-spun voice, Jimmy Strader became legend.
For me, he rendered legend in my life as we got to know each other personally. He’d come over to my house often and we’d talk about the deepest things and the most challenging topics. Subjects that others avoid became our nourishment. Strader was an articulate and insightful thinker, always jousting, ever compassionate. I discovered the insides of this larger-than-life man to be tender, caring and ever present in the moment with whomever he encountered.
For me, those times were accompanied by a regular serving of breakfast meetings at Route 66 Café, always on a moment’s notice, usually at my nudging. Like a song he owned by singing it goes, “Expectin’ nothin’ in return,” Strader extended himself — “I will hold you up” was the promise of his friendship. Women adored him.
As kind as Strader was to the unspoken music inside each person he touched, is as unfriendly as his body seemed to be toward him. With a beautiful, almost angelic face, this strikingly handsome man lived in a container that could not contain him. Following spurts of failed attempts to restore his health from a burden of physical issues, cancer survival, heart-related trouble and pervasive infection, he left his body on a Monday morning. He was 54 years old.
Without distraction, in spite of suffering, in plain view of a tough road of insurmountable daily conditions and hardship, equal to his muse, Strader always showed up for a friend. And I am among the luckiest people in the world to be one of them. More than notes, Jimmy Strader is among the few I’ve ever met who lived this life directly from love.
And for those who hunger to see him again, he is right here, very much alive, sharing notes in the muse of all our hearts. “’Cause for us there is no end,” he sings. I love you, Jimmy. Play on.
Susan Gabriel Bunn began in Tulsa as a broadcast journalist (KRMG/KOTV) and has become a writer, singer and songwriter. She founded ARISE, an award-winning grassroots global music arts communication initiative. She lives in New York.