On a rain drenched Saturday, a large group of friends and family gathered at Memorial Park Funeral Home to say goodbye to 29-year-old Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr., best known by his infamous punk rock stage name, Jay Reatard.
"My son was a legend in his own time," said Lindsey's mother, Devonna May, standing below one of Lindsey's trademark Flying V guitars, which had been hung high on the back wall like a rock-and-roll crucifix. Her comments capped an evening of heartfelt testimony about the too-brief life and astonishing creative output of one of Memphis' most unique and prolific musicians.
For those who could not attend, here's a transcript of the eulogy delivered by Lindsey's friend and fellow musician, Goner Records founder Eric Friedl. I've also included a funny story shared by band mate Stephen Pope about the day Lindsey finalized his recording deal with New York indie Matador Records.
I met Jay when he was 15. He sent me a letter saying “send me something.” Written in pencil, signed “JayX.” I think I sent him a sticker from my record label. He was impressed. Later I received a cassette with something like 15 songs he'd done at home with a hand-drawn cover. I was amazed. I'd been playing with the Oblivians. We were making some kind of mutant, angry, punk-rock, blues thing. Listening to Jay's tape, I knew that at 15 years old he'd already absorbed what we were doing and adapted it to his own chaotic teenage lifestyle. The fact that he used buckets in the bedroom instead of drums just seemed fitting. It was truly 'trash' rock.
We took four songs off of his tape and that was his first record. I loved it. Jay loved it. I think at that time he realized he could do it and that it would be all he ever wanted to do. Then came so many bands: Reatards, Lost Sounds, Angry Angles, Nervous Patterns, Terror Visions, Final Solutions, Bad Times. 22 full albums, over 100 releases. Over 1000 shows, 20 countries. All from a kid from a crappy part of Memphis, all by himself. He was fearless, relentless, and awe inspiring. He was a force of nature. He could be a pain in the ass. He was my friend.
People asked me if there were any signs that his death was coming and I had to think. Jimmy renamed himself Jay Reatard. I run a label called Goner. Most of his lyrics are filled with death, disaster, and anger. But to me Goner isn't a prediction, it's a condition. Reatard, for Jay, is how he was branded by his schoolmates from acting out in class. We work against these words, fight for our success, despite the situation. Jay never meant for this to happen. He was always moving forward, always looking forward. One of our last conversations was about plans for his 30th birthday, May 1st. He wanted to fly in one of his favorite bands, The Verlaines from New Zealand. After making music for so long, he was still a music fan. Touring allowed him to meet some of the people he admired. He went to New Zealand to meet with Chris Knox, and took punk legend TV Smith of the Adverts on tour.
He'd just bought a house and was building his own studio. He was looking forward to his next record and working on his website. He was full of life. Full of plans. He was so full of life. This is impossible. Of course it's not impossible. Hard as it seems to believe right now, Jay will not be walking around the neighborhood negotiating deals on his cell phone, wearing ridiculous designer T-shirts and tennis shoes from New York. He won't release any more singles, albums, downloads, skateboards. He will not be attacking out-of town-bands with wads of money or disco balls. There will be no more internet feuds and no more ridiculous fights.
At the last Gonerfest, Jay punched someone in the nose for trying to pull off his shoes while he was attacking Thee Oh Sees while they played. I had to get Jay out of there. As he let me push him toward the door he said, “You can't kick me out of Gonerfest; that's like kicking Jimi Hendrix out of Woodstock.” He promised to cause no more problems. And he didn't.
We are shattered. We are enormously proud of what Jay Reatard achieved in his too short time on Earth. We are enormously proud of him
Friend and band mate Stephen Pope:
When he signed with Matador he called me and said, 'Stephen, let's go celebrate.' So we went to Checkers first and got a few Big Bufords. We got a $4-bottle of champagne. Two or three. Then we went to Men's Warehouse. He bought a purple and black suit and he forced me to get a purple velvet blazer. Then we went to a spa Downtown, where we decided to get the most expensive couple's massage. We drank more champagne, got an hour-long massage right next to each other, then we got in a hot tub filled with rose petals and drank more champagne. Then we got a manicure. A gourmet lunch was supposed to be included, but in true Jay Reatard fashion, he said, “Screw that. Go get me a bacon cheeseburger.” So we ate bacon cheeseburgers while getting a pedicure. And I just remember sitting there getting a pedicure with bacon and grease and cheese and champagne all over me, and looking over at him on his cell phone, telling the story of what we were doing right then.