As I write this note to share with you where we are—almost a year after Dave’s death—it occurs to me that to many, the progress to release his music must seem to crawl at a snail’s pace. Yet contrary to appearances, from the onset, we have been working passionately and steadily to bring Dave’s massive body of work to light. The gargantuan task of sifting through mounds of data has been fascinating, daunting, and admittedly much more time-consuming than we could have possibly anticipated!
Kelly Craven has been brilliantly navigating through a vast sea of information; listening to thousands of hours of recordings; cataloguing, annotating and cross-referencing hundreds of songs, performances and myriad variations. Far from finished, we continue to wade our way under Kelly’s able stewardship...
Since Dave’s passing, we have been deeply touched by many of you who expressed the desire to see the music released; and profoundly grateful to those who have magnanimously contributed financially and otherwise. Now, as we begin to shift our focus to releasing the music, we intend, as much as possible, to collaborate with Dave’s community. For those interested in working with us, please to let us know what your specific skills, talents or resources are.
Lastly, whether we have met or not, I thank each and every one of you for being in Dave’s— and now in our lives. It has been a privilege to have been counseled, supported and sustained by you—precious friends and fans of Dave!
It’s been another longer than anticipated wait between updates. We’ve been far from idle in the meantime but it’s turned out to be a rather necessarily slow process. Since the last update we’ve added another nine large hard drives full of recordings, session files, photos and video, notes and miscellany into the mix. Some of you have also continued to send us things which are very much appreciated.
As we’ve gained an even more intimate understanding of Dave’s process we’ve found that there’s significantly more overlap in songs he’d considered including on each of the ‘albums’ he worked on over the years. That’s not say that there’s a shortage of material or possibilities… quite the contrary. Excluding the many alternate versions, frequent improvisations and complete songs for which we still don’t have titles, the current song list is quickly approaching 500 named songs. The anticipated number of core records featuring more solid performances and recordings have actually expanded from the initially estimated 8 to 12 with some of those undoubtedly being double albums) and a handful of EPs. A lot of material still has yet to be added to those ‘song pools’ (one of Dave’s preferred terms for lists of songs to potentially be included) and they are already much longer than each record can contain. As such, there are a already good number which will necessarily find a home on secondary releases.
So with all of that gathered, why is it taking so long to officially release a record? Sifting through such an immense volume of work for various songs, specific versions and recordings is an unavoidably slow process. Moreover, as mentioned, none of those ever swirling ‘song pools’ fit on a record (even a double album) as is and a lot of songs carry over or drift away for a while only to reappear again later. So figuring out where each might fit best, and how those become unique, cohesive records is not a straightforward or quick endeavor. Certain recordings, including many of those he made in recent years, come with additional challenges which are going to take a while longer to square away. Our approach to everything is that, while still definitely feeling the urgency and very eager for people to hear so many of the recordings, we’d rather take the time to ensure that things are done right. To do otherwise would be to dishonor Dave and all that time, energy and passion he put into his work.
We are actively working towards releasing a couple of somewhat entwined records and hopeful that one, if not both, can be ready for release by the end of the year. The releases are primarily drawn from somewhat older recordings but those that follow will be jumping outward in both directions along the timeline.
As I’m sure many of you can attest, when it comes to Dave’s work, the concept of linear improvement over time is largely irrelevant. Dave’s older material really isn’t inferior in any way to later compositions. A lot of songs were actually written much earlier than periods when they would be more often performed and became more widely known. There are also few songs which don’t have at least one alternate version and several have multiple finished versions, each with their own beauty and merit. So if the initial version we release isn’t the one you already know and love, others will almost certainly be released elsewhere.
We plan to do both wide digital releases and physical pressings of each record. They will also always appear online in some free fashion. The objective is to carry the music forward in a way that honors Dave and maintains the spirit of his work. As such, profit is not a primary motivator or goal. We’re optimistic that the project will generate enough to at least sustain itself and, of course, it would be wonderful if some things do very well, not only spreading the music far and wide, but potentially creating a surplus which can benefit causes that Dave cared about. That said, we’re planning all of this with the intention to see it through regardless and are content to watch things grow slowly over time. As Dave sang in Mother Nature’s Song “I’m singing to the generation two beyond mine” – he was well aware that the masses might not instantly accept or understand his music. While all of us are obviously biased on that point, I think most can agree that the overarching goal should be for Dave to still be singing to anyone who does, two generations beyond any of ours.
If you’re interested in even more in-depth explanations of some of the challenges we’ve been navigating, additional info about how we’re approaching the releases, etc. make sure you’re signed up for the mailing list. You will receive a secondary wall of text which will fill in some of the gaps in this already sprawling post.
Many of you have already reached out to share remembrances, stories, photos and recordings or even just to express appreciation for Dave and his music. We’re incredibly grateful for all that you have shared, feel honored and blessed to meet and to start to get to know some of you better. A lot of friends have proposed ideas and offered assistance, much of which we weren’t better able to engage because this project was really still in its infancy. A few additional things are already starting to take shape and get underway but the hope is that, as the basic foundations are starting to firm up, we can start to work with more of Dave’s friends and fans to develop some of the other ideas or others which have yet to be dreamed up.
Going forward we’d like to ask that anyone interested to collaborate to please get in touch and hopefully we can begin to work together to see some things to fruition. Several people have proposed cover records, events, charitable projects, etc. and all of these are things we are very interested to pursue now that things are on a bit more solid footing. As we work toward officially releasing more and more of Dave’s work there is a lot of room for creative collaborations. Whether you’re a fellow musician, a visual artist, animator, videographer, dancer, writer, programmer or have other talents we are truly open to any ideas or suggestions you might have.
Ideally, we’d like to work within Dave’s community as much as possible while developing the various releases and secondary projects, both because you also knew and appreciate Dave and in support of your own work. If you are interested to get involved in any way please drop us a line.
Likewise, it is very important to us that anyone who may have performed with Dave, recorded him (live, in a studio or elsewhere), played on a recording, photographed him, etc. are properly documented, acknowledged and credited. Some of you we’ll likely be reaching out to based on what we can piece together but please don’t wait for us to do so. Dave usually remembered who took what photo, gave him a copy of a live recording, helped him shoot video, played a guitar line on a recording, etc. so it’s often not actually noted in the files.
I’m sure to some this update might be a bit disappointing…. ‘We have more songs, we need more time.’ I understand that it can feel a bit like a posthumous extension of what for some is already decades’ long wait. Rest assured, it’s not. Things have been moving surprisingly quickly all considered but, while all necessary, not much of what has been underway or overcome can be tangible just yet and doesn’t make for terribly interesting (and certainly not brief) reading. In closing, at this point we can at least guarantee more exciting news and not only an actual release but literally substantial, tangible physical results in the near future. Bear with us a little while longer… beyond our collective tears, on the way home there are rainbows…
Snap Judgment special episode 'Counted: An Oakland Story' provides intimate portraits of some of those lost to violence in Oakland during 2017 and includes a segment about Dave featuring his father, Gene.
Things have been quiet for a short while now while we’ve been busy organizing, cataloging and laying the necessary groundwork to ensure that Dave’s music is not only preserved but released in ways which honor his spirit and artistic integrity.
First, we want to extend sincere thanks to all who have reached out over the past several months. Your voices, remembrances and all which you’ve shared have provided great solace. This project wouldn’t have been possible without the support you have so graciously provided.
Dave and his music touched so many across a remarkably broad spectrum and the coming together of those who loved him, many whom are meeting for the first time, is also in its own way a large part of and extension of his legacy.
We want to reassure everyone that Dave’s music isn’t lost. On the contrary, not only is nearly all of the music accounted for but a very large amount of additional material has been found. Dave worked tirelessly on his music for over twenty years, writing and recording almost constantly. As such, much of the challenging task before us now is sorting through it all, fine tuning and ensuring that which is being released is up to Dave’s standards.
There are currently over three hundred documented songs with many of those existing in multiple, distinct variations. There are a massive number of casual recordings, demos, working recordings, live performances and studio sessions, hundreds of videos and thousands of photographs — all before counting the many more which others have been sending.
This website is just the very beginning. Plans for this year include official releases for some of the music as well as smaller releases of other material, live performances and likely a few surprises. This site will be growing and evolving over time as well, not only to accommodate the releases but also eventually to serve as a repository for a larger archive of live and other recordings.
Our goal is for Dave’s music and message to reach far, wide and long into the future to touch and inspire others. We know that it will continue to spread by the same means it always has — from hand-to-hand and by word-of-mouth. As such, the music that is released will always be available in some free, readily accessible form online and everyone is not only welcome to but encouraged to share it in any non-commercial form.
We’ll also be seeking to involve more of Dave’s friends and fans in things to come — reaching out both to the community and on a personal level for input, guidance and collaboration on future projects and releases. The first of these being a growing list of known live performance dates and information being added to the site soon. We’re asking that anyone who performed with, shared a bill with, recorded or even just saw Dave perform to reach out with any remembrances or information you can offer.
Our deepest gratitude for the extension of your love and support to this project. We should be posting semi-regular updates and announcements from here onward. They can be sent directly to your inbox by signing up for the mailing list. Whether you knew Dave or have only recently heard his music for the first time, please also feel free to reach out to us using the contact form as we do genuinely enjoy hearing from and sharing with you.
The much loved podcast and nationally syndicated radio show Snap Judgment will be airing a special episode on March 1st with intimate portraits of some of those lost to violence in Oakland during 2017. The program will feature a segment on Dave. Those familiar with the program know that it never fails to be compelling while respectful of more sensitive topics, always well crafted and oft touching and profound.
The program will air at different times depending on the schedule of your local NPR station but will also be available to stream online and through most podcast apps.