William J. Murphy Celebration of Life

February 16, 2019
Augsburg Chapel, Minneapolis
Willie Murphy photo by John Botkin, 2018
Photo by John Botkin

Giving Dirtball Some Love

By Steve Mayer · February 16, 2019

[Presented at the Celebration of Life for William J. Murphy at Augsburg University’s Hoversten Chapel, Minneapolis.]

I don’t usually listen to lyrics, don’t even hear them. When I try to sing along, the lyrics are all the same. Babadabadabum… Maybe with better melody – maybe, on a good day.

But with Willie’s songs I do hear the lyrics. I’m talking about his own songs, not the covers, but his own, which I confess I didn’t used to like so much, because what I really wanted was to move and groove to his covers.

With the fantastic sophisticated charts he wrote for his fantastic sophisticated bandmates, the Angel-Headed Hipsters, or The Bees, I liked those covers better than the originals!

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"Fairytales" Musical Tribute

February 17, 2019
The Cabooze, Minneapolis

The Fairytales tribute at the Cabooze was an amazing night of love and music, more than seven hours of acts Willie would have loved. The Cabooze was packed. At the height of the evening emcee Bobby Vandell read the following tribute from Willie's friend Bonnie Raitt:

"Hello from Tulsa, here out on tour. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there with you to celebrate Willie in person, but I’m there with you in spirit. What an incredible lineup and how perfect that you’re right there at the Cabooze.

I still can’t believe he’s gone. Willie really changed my life in so many ways. Producing my first album back in ’71, he taught me how to make records, work with a band and most importantly, how to stay absolutely true to what I knew sounded right for me alone. It’s how he lived and played his music all his life.

I also shared with him, along with John, Dave and Tony—an aversion to bending any part of myself to fit the norms of what the music business might think would sell. It’s that same fierce maverick streak that kept him criminally under-appreciated outside the Twin Cities. But his influence and appreciation by those who really know will be his lasting legacy. He was a musical genius— a virtuoso trailblazer as a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, horn arranger and producer—and truly one of the most badass singers any of us will ever be lucky to hear.

Some of my favorite memories will always be of Willie and the Bees gigs right there at the Cabooze and the Joint—with my brother Steve at the sound board and hanging with some of the best musicians, many of you there tonight. Still one of the finest, funkiest music scenes in America.

I’m so grateful to have known Willie. May we continue to celebrate him in the music we play, the shit we don’t take, and the promise to keep the music as funky as it is real.

We’ll miss you, Will. Have a great party today in his honor and play one for me. I send my love to you all. ~ Bonnie Raitt"