Matthew Sperry Departs

The world has lost a shooting star. Matthew Sperry was hit by a car while on his bicycle this morning, and left this earth shortly after. In addition to being a wonderful father to two-year-old Lila Simone and husband to our good friend (and doula) Stacia, Matthew was an incredible bass player, a rising star who appeared on Tom Waits’ last two albums (and an accompanying David Letterman show), the last Anthony Braxton record, David Byrne’s “Feelings,” a fantastic Black Cat Orchestra recording called “Mysteries Explained,” and on and on. His resume tells the story.

Matthew also played bass / chorus member for half a year in the San Francisco production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, not because it paid well, but because he loved the story, loved the outrageousness of it all. Even if it meant having black fingernails and traces of eyeliner by daylight for months on end (check his fingernails in the play-dough image below).

I’ve got one of Matthew’s older avante garde recordings with an outfit called “Impossible Underpants” (his comment denying that Impossible Underpants ever existed is here), and Matthew’s bent for comical strangetude is all over it. Matthew was also the mastermind behind Los Platanos Machos Quattros, the four-piece guitar outfit we put together for Roger’s 40th birthday, just to create and sing one song. Matthew was a trip, relentlessly creative.

I also have a CD by “The Matthew Sperry Trio,” only Matthew isn’t on it — it’s a quartet comprised of musician friends of his, who just wanted to name themselves “The Matthew Sperry Trio.” Inside, the liner notes are plastered with pictures of him as teen idol, pinup boy, clean-shaven, short hair. The centerfold pictures him naked, holding a stuffed frog. This is how Matthew affected the people around him – his sweet, slightly surrealistic sense of humor was inspiring and contagious.

As Amy said, when he saw you, he hugged you, and he hugged you good, like he was really really happy to see YOU. He called me once while sick, flat on his back, just to chat, reaching out toward friendship even at his lowest. He worked so hard to feed his family, was always so full of good cheer and crazy ideas. I can’t believe he’s gone. Nothing anyone can say or do can rewind the moment, change the fact that a shining star has blinked out for good.

Seeing his giant standup bass cases around Stacia and Lila’s house today was hard. Larger than life, they stood in corners like proxies for Matthew, just hanging out with us, maybe laughing, maybe plucking, slapping, sawing at their own strings. I don’t have any good pictures of Matthew playing, but here’s a good one (playing with Dan Plonsey — a Bay Area composer and improvisor with whom Matthew played often — they shared a strong aesthetic).

Our hearts go to Stacia and Lila, who have the hardest road of grieving in front of them. I hope that Lila is old enough to one day have a glimmer of memory of her wonderful father.

Dazed, I picked up a book of Chuang Tzu’s writings off the top of a packing stack tonight, and opened up to this line:

How do I know that the dead do not wonder why they ever longed for life?

We pray that Matthew is at peace, happy, making amazing music somewhere.

Updates: The Oakland Tribune ran a brief memorial piece on Matthew. The SF Chronicle had another.

If you would like to leave flowers or memoria at the accident site, this map will get you there. Stacia’s friend Erika (who is being a rock through all of this, valiantly holding things together) asks any camera-oriented folk to please photograph whatever gets placed at the site.

Bassist Mike Watt dedicated the encore of the final show of his “the cord that spun its own top” tour to Matthew.

A memorial concert for Matthew will be held June 19 and all are invited. This information has gone out on the newswire.

Matthew’s memorial took place Monday, June 9 at 1:00 in Oakland. A summary of the memorial service is here. The program guide can be downloaded in PDF format.

If you are in the New York City area, a memorial will take place Saturday, June 14, at 4pm in in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Sheri Cohen plans to go to Volunteer Park in Seattle at 9:30 PM on Tuesday, June 10 to remember Matt. She invites all who would like to join her to meet at the ‘donut’ and all can go off to a quiet place together.

LeapFrog, Matthew’s last employer, is setting up a college fund for Lila through Bank of America. Details are still pending and will be posted here as soon as they are available.

In the following days, Shiva will continue at Stacia and Matthew’s home. Please feel free to visit during the day. Stacia would love to see you. Shiva will end on Father’s Day, with a memorial walk leaving from Stacia and Matthew’s home at 4:00 p.m.

The memorial service for Matthew Sperry was held at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland California on Monday June 9th from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM.

The Chapel of the Chimes
at the Entrance to the the Mountain View Cemetery
4499 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611-4218

The family is declining flowers and would like any donations sent to a fund for Lila’s education. More information will be available regarding the fund on Monday. There will be an opportunity to make statements at the service if you would like to prepare anything ahead of time. For those of you traveling via a bereavement flight, the funeral director is Edward Bell (510) 654-0123. Those of you in the New York Area should contact Marna Schoen to coordinate a New York area memorial.

Matthew’s memorial concert will be on June 19th. Details here.

320 thoughts on “Matthew Sperry Departs

  1. I was searching the internet in hopes of finding my old friend and neighbor from my junior high and high school days and this is what I found. I am so saddened at the news of Matthew’s death, I can’t even describe it. I remember the days when I was 14 and 15, playing air drums in Matt’s room and watching him and other friends jam in Matt’s living room, playing Van Halen. A talented and wonderful soul even back then. I wish I would have stayed in touch and had the chance to see him and meet his wife and daughter, and have him meet my husband and son. Matt, you will truly be missed.

  2. i never met matthew. i never heard his name breathed. a new friend, an old family friend, sheila, from florida, a gal who touched my parents in a deep way, came by the other day to pay respect to my father and remember his words, and deeds, and to honor his spirit, and share in these memories with us, sitting shiva. she wrote me about matthew. i visited this site dedicated to his memory, and i was touched… my father played double bass in the israeli philharmonic and for over forty five years in the pittsburgh symphony. i have a strong connection to the instrument and those who lean over its wooden unwieldy largesse to play it. i felt a deep connection to matthew and his music as i perused this site. thank you… may you continue to feel his spirit alive and vibrant in the vanishing notes…

  3. I had just returned from my first trip back to Seattle in many years. And having stopped in Portland as well to visit one of …Kagel…’s bandmates brought back many fond memories of the wild days gone by when I hosted the ‘Outer Limits” on KCMU and formed …kagel… .
    I remember Matt’s excitement when hearing the original trio and so graciously excepting my request that he work with us. And the day he said he considered himself a permanent member of the ensemble.
    How exciting for us to have such a GREAT! Bassist join our ensemble! I was remembering some of our studio and live gigs in deferent contexts. At the Hotel on the sound it was just Matt and Marc Collins on basses and myself playing the piano interior during one of the Seattle Improvised Music Festivals. That was a great trio!
    Anyway, last night I listened to our studio release with Matt on the first three tracks. Of course these are my favorite Matt Spearry recordings and not just because it was my ensemble. But because of how well it reflects both what is now a trend in Free Improvision, a more textured or concrete approach, and what Seattle was best known for, Grunge.
    I still feel honored to this day to have known and worked with Matt. He was certainly on his way, if he had not already achieved it, to becoming a true American Treasure! Of which we have so few of these days.
    In fond memory to my friend and colleague,
    Philip James Woodruff
    January, 31, 2008

  4. Matthew, we played together informally when I was in Seattle in the early 90s. I left town, ventured on my own journey, we never kept in touch, but I always thought about you, what you were up to, your goofy sense of humor and zany ideas. I recall meeting your wife and daughter when she was wee teeny. For some reason today I decided to google your name hoping to find out what you were up to and came across this memorial. I’m happy to know that you were loved immensely. I know the warmth of your soul will continue to embrace your wife and daughter. Peace, Christian

  5. Dear Matthew,
    Your grandmother died on Tuesday, January 13th.
    Please welcome her to Heaven and take good care of her. She loved you very much…


  6. What a coincidence that I was carried back to this website by Facebook today. Just yesterday Barry and I were in the car and the Who song “Getting in Tune” came on and I said to Barry, “The very first time I ever really listened to this song was with Matt Sperry.” He is still very much missed at our house.

  7. Hey baby brother, I seem to have you in my head alot lately…I am so totally missing you and there is noone who can ever fill that hole in my life, since you have left it. I cannot believe that 6 years have gone by…some days it feels like an eternity and some days it feels like I just want to pick up the phone and hear you on the other end. I just saw what MOM recently wrote and the funny thing is that is how I picture you now…somewhere talking about recipes and the rest of us , someplace w/grandma and her purse! I miss you both cause the both of you were people who I could easily talk to you…and you always told me you loved me….so did Grandma.
    OK…well…I miss you and I totally love love love you and Lila looks just like you ( I see the photos, I havent seen her for awhile..but I hope to) and I still have the Kharma perfume you bought me the last time I was with you…and believe it or not, it still smells good…I just want to keep it forever…that smell now reminds me of you.
    xxxxxx, est

  8. I recently found a note regarding a friend of my mother (passed away years ago) reflecting what a dear friend a harriet sperry was. lived in the same apartment building in santa monica, ca. so did a search, founf this site, and decided to say how sorry i am, (and my mother would have been). My mothers name was Marlene Shapiro.
    I hope someone from the family sees this and it brings a good feeling to my mothers friend!


  9. lila turned around in the doorway and smiled this sheepish grin and it was you, mijo, your face on our child and just for that fleeting moment i had you. the way you moved, the way you laughed…so fleeting…

  10. Happy Birthday Matthew! Give a big hug and kiss to Grandma for me. I miss you both so much. I remember the last time I saw you. It feels like it was yesterday. We were all having dinner in Delray Beach. When we left you came over and gave me a big bear hug. You went to your car, returned and gave me another hug. I was just like when Grandma died. She gave me a big hug and I said” I love you Mom and she replied and I love you too!”

    Love Sheila

  11. While I did not know Matthew, I have been researching the death of an old friend whose name appeared in this site. I only feel entitled to encroach upon this tenderest of exchanges becaus eI feel that someone here may feel a common bind….the losing of a close and talented friend. My name is Christopher Kennedy, I am a musician living in SF and have known Brian Platt for well over twenty years. He in fact was my first wifes’ high school sweetheart. We got along great and even collaborated on some music projects in Houston, Brians’ home town. I only know, from looking at the UBZUB site that Brian passed away ebout 6 yrs. ago. I would deeply appreciate any one who may feel comfortable responding to me. I would like some closure. For all I know Brian took his Dadaist leanings to the extreme and invented his own demise in am effort to distance himself from his worldly contacts…this would not surprise me. If Brian Platt is alive or if any one knows of his demise please contact Thank you and I am sorry to hear of Mattews passing, he must have been a wonderful person to have touched so many…. Christopher Kennedy

  12. it’s humbling to scroll through all these rich outpourings, and to reconnect with some my own variously retained memories. stacia, i believe i ony met you once in seattle, years back, but i’m happy to read of lila’s growing and radiating. grateful for this dip into the continuing thread…

  13. oh matthew……I cant stand the pain inside me sometimes when I think of you not being here….I know I am so f-ing selfish!!!!! I just miss you so much its the hardest thing ever to not be able to call you and talk to you and have you fill my ear with advice or nonsense or both….I need to hear you…I need to feel your hug so much…I miss you so much…everyone says it gets easier and thats just not true…its not…its not easier without you…it just isnt. Im sorry Im so selfish and venting and I should just be writing a sweet little birthday something, but I cant…Im pissed off and I want you in my ear telling me something…anything…I miss you Matthew….I try to think, what you might say to me right now…Im trying hard….give me a sign…please…anything…just give me a sign please. I love you. Im being so stupid right now. I know it…only you would get it…I know u would…maybe writing here is helping me remember what you would say to me….I love you. Im sorry…I am so sorry.

  14. Matthew,
    Now your loving, beautiful Estee has joined you. Please take tender care of her. She never got over you leaving us so soon. She loved you so much.

  15. mijo
    i know estee is with you now. she saw you and i know you were there to greet you. you are our guardian angel. i still need you and love you so much.
    tomorrow is our anniversary. it would have been 12 years. i can’t believe it. our baby is getting big. she’s a performer like you. i know you are so proud of her. i can’t stand it that she didn’t get to know you.
    with you in heart forever,

  16. Happy Birthday to my beautiful son. I can almost picture
    you and Estee dancing in Heaven. You are missed but you live on in your daughter Lila. She looks like you and she even expresses herself the way you did.
    I love you so much sweet Matthew. R.I.P.

  17. Going through all my old letters today. Just read the letters Matt wrote right after moving from Tallahassee to Evergreen then Seattle. Letters full of life and love and excitement. It’s been several decades – wow – I couldn’t remember his last name but after a bit of searching I found him… in memorium… 🙁 …We danced around one another in world music ensembles at FSU, until a few nights before he left when he said hey, stop for a moment. Have coffee with me. Oh, Matt. You touched my heart and I’m deeply grateful to have known you. I’m so very sad that you are gone… Thank you for holding him here and giving all of us a chance to let you know how Matt touched our lives. much love, dawn

  18. Another birthday passed without you but you are here. I see you in your daughter, Lila. You look out at the world through her eyes. She has your sense of humor and your aesthetic. She has so much of you in her and yet you’ve been gone for 11 years. I miss you so much. I hope that you are together with your sister who loved you so much.

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