City Slang: Poet and singer/songwriter David Blair passes away (updated with links, videos)

July 26, 2011
By

We are extremely saddened today to learn that David Blair has passed away. At the time of writing, no confirmed details were available but no foul play is suspected.

Blair was an award winning poet and singer/songwriter. A 2010 Callaloo Fellow and a National Poetry Slam Champion, his books of poetry included the critically acclaimed Moonwalking, an examination of Michael Jackson. Reviewing that book for the Metro Times in 2010, Norene Smith said that, “Detroit poet-musician David Blair’s vision of pop icon Michael Jackson isn’t the fedora-tipping, sequined kind. It’s more about a lonely, abused child trying to fall asleep in a strange place, trembling in fear of the snap of his father’s belt.”

Blair’s band the Boyfriends recently released its The Line album.

Watch Blair and the Boyfriends perform live here.

In addition, Blair taught poetry and music classes in Detroit Public Schools, Hannan House Senior Center and the YMCA. He also lectured at universities, colleges and high schools across the country.

He performed on bills with Stevie Wonder and Michael Moore, among others. He performed at venues as eclectic as CBGBs, Detroit’s Hart Plaza and Magic Stick and with a string section at the home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Blair will be missed by all that knew him and many that didn’t. His spirit will live on through his work, and he’ll never be forgotten. We send our love to Blair’s family and friends.

Here’s some of MT’s past coverage of Blair:

• Jonathan Cunningham’s 2006 profile of Blair just before the opening of Burying the Evidence, a one-man show combining music, theater and spoken word.

• Apparently our first coverage of Blair, a review of his 2001 disc Slaveships and Radiowaves.

• A year later, he was in our pages again as part of an article about the Detroit team competing in a national Slam competition.

• In 2004 we asked a number of performers appearing at Tastefest, Blair among them, to compose  postcards to America.

 

(Thanks to Carleton Gholz and Ralph Jones for alerting us to this clip.)

 

Blair puts Emily Dickinson’s “Farewell” to Music at Detroit’s Institute of Arts from Erik Proulx on Vimeo.

(Thanks to Toby Barlow and Terry Blackhawk for alerting us to this one.)

Update: We heard through Stirling Silver that more 40 folks showed up Monday night at the Miami to plan memorials to the much-loved Blair. Rico Africa, Silver told us, used the phrase “a rolling memorial” for various remembrances, formal and informal, being planned. One will be at Circa 1890 in midtown this Saturday night, a gig Blair was scheduled to play.

Update: Also planned, a Sunday New Orleans jazz funeral parade (bring your percussion instruments to join in) from Martin Luther King and Cass at 1 p.m., headed to First Unitarian Universalist Church for service at 2 p.m.

 

  • get_christie_love

    im so sad about this. god bless his friends family and fans. we will miss him.

  • Shawn Neal – GBS Detroit

    David was such an amazing talent. He absolutely blew the roof off TEDx Detroit last fall and captivated the audience and brought tears to the entire room, which was standing and cheering. He inspired me to push forward with my creative pursuits at a time when it seemed like the chips were down. I will never forget him. This is truly a devastating loss to the city.

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  • Frank DeBoever

    My heart is broken. He so blessed me with his talent and humility.

  • Jonathan C

    This is nuts. He was amazing. So compassionate! He was a true artist. I agree with Shawn above that this is a big loss to the city. May his soul rest in peace.

  • http://twitter.com/sparklydevil Sparkly Devil

    Completely heartbroken over this. Blair was such a beautiful soul & amazing talent. What a profound loss.

  • Dblock7

    I havent seen David since our days at Newton High, but he was an amazing talent then and well liked. He always made me laugh and would at times just belt out in a song. You just knew he would showcase his talents someday. Im sorry I havent spoken to him in 25years since I left Newton and Im even more sorry for those of you who were close to him.
    Rest In Peace David you left us way to soon, but from what I remember and what ive read  your Legacy will live on…….

  • OC

    Last time I saw Blair was at the train station in Rotterdam in 2009. He was heading to Amsterdam for a one night gig then off to Berlin the next day. He was so involved in his art, community, the next generation, and being a creative part of this world.  He learned more about the Dutch language in 2 days compared to me (at that time) being in Netherlands over 2 months. He played to small crowds in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, but wowed them. Afterwards we stayed up all night talking about Detroit, travel, hot men and ideas about the future. In Berlin (which I didn’t attend) he played to well over 300+ people. My last physical contact with Blair was a big bear hug from him in Rotterdam then he lifted that big green army tote and his guitar and was off on his life’s mission. That mission does not end here. There are too many of us who know.

  • Sistaotis

    My friend, my artistic nemesis’s, my unrequited adoration…UR honeyed voodoo voice casted emotional spells through us in elaborate pulsating tapestries of technicolored story, melody, rhythm & rhyme. Your natural talent coupled w/Detroit tenacity enabled U2 live a thousand life times in ur short 37, almost 38 years. You beat us to the big beautiful, maybe you knew, maybe now you know. Detroit, no the world has lost a beacon.

  • Julialynnp

    Thank you, MT, for such a loving tribute.  Blair’s friends can barely talk-our hearts hurt so much we can’t breathe.  Aside from his talents, we’ve lost maybe the kindest guy who lived in Detroit.

  • http://www.wlbush.com Writer L. Bush

    David performed with us at Spirit Spit. He intended to get back there. We just spoke the other day and he said he loved and belonged there. I don’t know…if I’ll be able to perform or emcee there without seeing him and his guitar, which are stiff featured on the Spirit Spit page and will remain there. He was a beautiful man and will be missed. -Writer L. Bush

  • Ekeyt

    Blair was one of the first musicians I met when I was moving to Detroit. I was so inspired by his music and touched by how welcoming he was to me and to other artists. He invited me to the Bittersweet open Mic, introduced me to Afeni, Dale Wilson, Sean Fitzgerald, and many others. He was a true artist, experiencing life’s beautiful, sweet, painful layers and he was all about community. One of our last long conversations was about Sean (who passed away a few years ago) and how Blair was carrying his guitar and asking other musicians to play it and honor Sean’s musical legacy that way. I imagine now all of the many, many people Blair touched with his soul carrying the light of his memory and inspiration forward in their hearts and in their art and in their connections with each other.

  • Ekeyt

    Blair was one of the first musicians I met when I was moving to Detroit. I was so inspired by his music and touched by how welcoming he was to me and to other artists. He invited me to the Bittersweet open Mic, introduced me to Afeni, Dale Wilson, Sean Fitzgerald, and many others. He was a true artist, experiencing life’s beautiful, sweet, painful layers and he was all about community. One of our last long conversations was about Sean (who passed away a few years ago) and how Blair was carrying his guitar and asking other musicians to play it and honor Sean’s musical legacy that way. I imagine now all of the many, many people Blair touched with his soul carrying the light of his memory and inspiration forward in their hearts and in their art and in their connections with each other.

  • Laurenlinc

    Is there going to be a funeral or memorial service?

  • scott klein

    It was my honor and privilage to know and work with Blair as a member  of the Detroit Champion 2002 National Poetry Slam team.  My heart is heavy today, and uncharacteristicly I am at a loss for words.

  • Jeph

    During the reign of Xhedos open mics, I saw him perform on many occasions. He had always encouraged me to pursue music, at the time I was unable to, but as I am now (as of the past month) it’s hard knowing I won’t be able to show him… He was one hell of a presence, when he walked in the room there was electricity and everyone became alive. He will be missed!

  • Searchingforacalm

    I was a childhood friend of Dave in Newton NJ growing up in the townhouses of
     Brookside Court he was as a friend and neighbor he could sing and dance like you would have never believed then..I was impressed by his amazing character.  I wish I could have seen him perform as he matured. I had invites to see him in his shows but never could make the performances.  My sympathy to the Blair family..Carol Goble Fedor.

  • MrC

    Yes Back In Jersey Where David Originates From….Follow On FB

  • MrC

    Hey…..My Mom Lived In The Towers At 33 Mill…..My Name Is Gary Casper..Your name Is Kinda Familiar…………Its Been A Very Very Very Long Waaay Back…Peace ..Ya Know

  • Erik Jensen

    This is horrible, shocking news. Blair was one of the most genuine, talented, supportive people I’ve ever known. The sense of loss I’m feeling is profound. So many memories that are now just that; memories. With no new memories to add. You were too young to go, Blair. We’ll all miss you.

  • Jill Jack

    heart breaking..He was like no other. I did shows with him in the past and I use to pray that I would go on first before him..because there was no following this artist..passion beyond description.  You left us too early..but God apparently wanted the front seat at your shows..Bless you and your family Blair

  • J. NADIR OMOWALE

    I’m deeply saddened by this. Blair was an amazing talent, but even more impressive as a human being and spirit.

  • mk

    That’s a beautiful tribute, but technically he was almost 44.  Still far too young.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Z5T5MD7H5LOZ32QVCD3QAS5ZAA Mickey

    I am saddened by David’s untimely death.  As a friend and publisher of his first book, “Gorgeous Monsters”, I have known him professionally and personally for many years.  I pray that we all can lift him up as an example of someone who gave everything to pursue his dreams.  

  • Mdvk

    I knew David in High School and marveled at how such talent could come from such a skinny kid. I was lucky enough to reconnect with him a few years ago and spark a friendship as adults. He was always willing to help with projects for the community within which he lived, and his humility was beyond measure. “You really liked it?, he would ask after sending me a piece to read. “WOW! that means so much to me!! Thank you!!” Many were fans..I am priviledged to have called him my friend. God Bless you Dave!!

    Maria DeVita-Krug
    NHS class ’82

  • Rethinkd

    My band was supposed to to a show with him on Saturday. We’re turning the show into a memorial of sorts. It’s at the Circa Saloon in Detroit on July 30th, starting at 9. There will be music and friends and kind words.

  • Chris Moore

    had em in ny/brooklyn  a couple times , full on , inspiring , gracious ,kind and  fun , deep artistic quests , lottsa range and   lottsa fire -  im bummed man ,
    dale – i hope yr ok , hang on ..

  • Chris Moore

    yeah  me again – ive never commented in a blog thing before –
    as i look at  it ,  it dont hold up – im just really gonna miss this guy and i hope his spirit is strong in us all -  love to his fam. and his close circle.

  • Saddened Newtonian

    Another Newtonian checking in with grade school memories dating back to the seventies: I always sat next to you in homeroom in Blair-Blake alphabetical order. On special mornings before first period of high school you honed your skills with new performances for us. Other times you perfected your acting skills with characters you had made up. Homeroom was like SNL.

    We also sat next to each other in chorus as 2 tenors until puberty turned us into 2 baritones. Your voice was smooth as honey. Compared to you I sounded like an off-key Tom Waits. Back in Mr. Lontos’ homeroom, first thing Monday morning after one of Derrick Hussey’s parties: “How was _______, Steve? No, really, how WAS she?”

    I last saw you in the late eighties, spotting you behind the counter as I walked into Country Pie Records. It was great to visit with you. Your dreams and talents were FAR too big for little Newton. I am saddened by your passing but comforted to know that -even for a little while- you found a home, and Detroit found the voice of a loving advocate!

  • Sara Zappa Card

    As like Carol I also grew up at the townhouses with David and will always remember our childhood and friendship and all the good times we had growing up and always listening to his beautiful voice

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  • Darleen Marfitt (Duvoisin)

    wow what a loss to everyone…I grew up with David in that same lil sleepy town of Newton NJ…we shared the same birthday. every year we would count down the days to our birthday vowing that this year I was sure I said it first then always laughed never really knowing who said it faster lol. I haven’t seen or heard from David in 25 yrs but I ALWAYS think of him and laugh on our birthday..and I always will…I am so happy to see he reached his dreams and has inspired so many others in the process which was always his main goal. Rest in peace my friend

  • Patti Taylor

    very simply :(

  • Xavier

    Reading Gorgeous Monsters
     

  • nia

    Blair will be missed very much by his Circa family. Blair was a regular he was always so high spirit he kept a smile on everyone face. Blair may u rest in peace and believe me when I say your soul will live on u will never be forgotten. LUV NIA AND CIRCA FAMILY

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