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Published: 2017/05/11

Oteil Burbridge Writes Essay on Col. Bruce Hampton

Oteil Burbridge is the latest musician to pen a thoughtful remembrance of the late legend Col. Bruce Hampton, as the bassist and former member of Hampton’s Aquarium Rescue Unit has shared a blog post about his relationship with the much-loved and missed band leader and musician.

Introducing the post on his Facebook, Burbridge writes,“You know how there are some questions you can only ask your mother? There were so many questions only Colonel Bruce could answer for me.” The bassist also compares Hampton to Dumbledore from the Harry Potter book series, calls him “the most unlikely, craziest guru there ever was” and writes, “Everyone should be so lucky to have someone like Bruce in their life.”

In the post itself, called “The Colonel Has A Master Plan,” Burbridge starts off with a few quotes, including “It is no measure of mental health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” from Jiddu Krishnamurti and Hampton’s own “You’ve gotta get your butt outta your face,” before going into the impact Hampton’s friendship had on him when he was a young musician in Atlanta. Burbridge says that Hampton helped him see music in a different way, as “simultaneously…a religion and a science,” along with everyday life.

“Bruce showed me that WE are the instruments,” he writes. “So I allowed Bruce to retune me. And then I saw and heard things that were right under my nose but never perceived. He was constantly pointing out extra terrestrials sitting at a restaurant or bus stop. How did I not see it before? How did all these people around us not see it? Or he would laugh at something and I would look in the direction he was looking and at that exact moment witness something totally crazy happen. How did he know it was going to happen? Every time?”

Burbridge goes on to explain Hampton’s idea of the “Mirror of Embarrassment,” a way of facing your personal fears about yourself. “The first thing that I realized was that there could be no “mistakes” if I was being honest,” he writes. “Every time I scat sing with my bass solo I cringe. I never listen back to it more than once. I hate it. I don’t have control of my voice. It will be out of tune, and strained past its limit. It is indeed my Mirror Of Embarrassment. But I will always do it when asked. If your parent or child died you wouldn’t be crying “in tune.” Same for if you reconnected with a long lost friend or if someone made you laugh really hard. Scat singing was never my idea anyway. It was Bruce’s.”

The bassist also touched on the night of Hampton’s death, when he collapsed on stage during the celebration of his 70th birthday. “Make no mistake, I truly believe Bruce knew he was going to die this way,” Burbridge writes. “No one will ever convince me otherwise.” He goes on to list the many coincidences surrounding the death, including the fact Hampton went down during the encore, which was his favorite song and also the first one he ever performed live, “Turn On Your Lovelight.”

Burbridge ends the post by addressing Hampton directly: “I’m gonna miss you Colonel Bruce. I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there with you on your biggest day. The day you finally ‘gained’ on earth. I guess it might have been too much for me. I’ll know why down the road I suppose. I promise to tell the stories as best I can and muster all the magic and love light that I can when I play music so that they will believe.”

Read the full essay here.

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