Once in a great while, in life, someone walks into it that leaves such a large footprint you are forever touched. And so it was with Richard J. Dobson (aka Don Ricardo).
Roxy Gordon was an American Indian activist, a poet, and storyteller. And, he was a friend and spirit brother to Rick and myself. It was he and his wife, Judy, who introduced Rick and myself to Ricardo in December 1999. He and his bride-to-be, Edith, had come to Coleman to visit Roxy and Judy and to get married in the Coleman County Courthouse. I didn’t get to attend the actual wedding ceremony because I had to work, but this picture was taken in our music room the night before.
The first song I heard Ricardo play and sing in our home, was “Piece of Wood and Steel.”
There was a little controversy that arose when David Alan Coe released it on an album and listed himself as the writer. That eventually got straightened out.
“Richard is a huge, gentle bear of a man with a rollicking, roll-with-the-punches attitude toward show business success or lack of same,” Robert Oermann wrote in The Tennessean in 1983. He added, “He’s a man-child who has retained the wide-eyed wonder of youth as he has become a godfather to the new generation of struggling pickers.”
That description fits the man perfectly. He made more than twenty albums and had songs recorded by artists such as Johnny Cash and Guy Clark. He is mentioned in Rodney Crowell’s song “Nashville 1972” as a poet. Another apt description.
But on a deeply personal level, Ricardo’s music touched me in a way that only “truth” and “real” can do.
Anytime life gets tough for me, I have one go-to as far as soothing music for my soul. It is none other than “Rockin’ To The Rhythm of the World.” It always puts me back in sync.
And there is another that I carry the lyrics to in my wallet and have for well over fifteen years called “Useful Girl.” I was that useful girl and it spoke to me in ways I can’t explain. The song was written from a true story (as many of Richard’s songs were). He loved history and loved, even more, expressing it in the poetry of song.
When the news came that Richard J. Dobson had passed away, my heart broke into a million pieces. I know that death is as much a part of life as is birth, but it doesn’t lessen the blow or the grief. I want everyone to know what an amazing artist and person Richard J. Dobson was. He was a true friend to Rick and myself and continued to be to me, after Rick’s passing.
This picture was taken at our music store a year or so before Rick passed away.
Ricardo wrote a song telling Rick’s story, “The Old Rhythm Rebel.” I am happy that he wrote and recorded it while Rick was still alive to hear it and be able to appreciate and acknowledge the honor he felt.
This post is longer than I normally make, but there isn’t any way to make it shorter and express what’s in my heart. I loved Ricardo like a brother. I was thrilled for him when I received his email telling me that his work was being archived in the Woodson Research Center at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Well, there simply isn’t enough room in this post to list all of his accomplishments including a film debut in “Heartworn Highways.”
To say there is a gaping hole in my heart is putting it mildly. I just know Rick, Roxy, and Ricardo are having a reunion in the other world. I can only imagine the conversations.
RIP Richard J. Dobson 3-11-42 to 12-16-17.
A life well-lived – a story well-told…