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.
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.
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.