Friday, May 31, 2019

Celebrating the life of Dave Bookman

Thursday would have been Dave Bookman’s 59th birthday. While he passed on nine days before that, the Horseshoe Tavern hosted a celebration of his life that the singer, songwriter, longtime radio personality and part-time club booker who many knew as “Bookie” would have loved.

It was a night of music, recollections, hugs, laughs, tears, friendships renewed and started … and a Toronto Raptors victory over the Golden State Warriors in the first game of the National Basketball Association championship final.

While several people quickly banded together to organize the event to pay tribute to a lost friend, everything about the evening had Bookie’s fingerprints all over it.

Things started with Horseshoe co-owner Jeff Cohen talking about how much of his career he owed to Bookie, and then he played a recording of The Bookmen (Bookie’s ‘80s band with guitarist Tim Mech) covering Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding.”
Other speakers came to the podium throughout the evening to speak of the impact Bookie had on them, including: 

  • representatives of the Bookman family;
  • broadcaster and former Air Canada Centre public address announcer Andy Frost;
  • The Pursuit of Happiness founder Moe Berg, who emphasized how important it is to tell people how much they mean to you now before it’s too late;
  • CARAS president and CEO Allan Reid, who said that a May 29 Indie88 12-hour radiothon in honour of Bookie had raised a remarkable $68,000 (a figure that’s still rising) for music education charity MusiCounts, smashing through the initial goal of $10,000;
  • Phoenix Concert Theatre partner and booker Zeke Myers; music executive Ryan Shepard;
  • Bookie’s former 102.1 The Edge and Indie88 colleagues John Davies, Maie Pauts, Josie Dye and Mike Religa;
  • and Horseshoe institution Willie McDonald.

And then there was the music. Event emcee Dave Hodge said it was the greatest collection of musicians to ever take the stage of the legendary 72-year-old venue in one night. And who am I to argue with a man who’s gained legendary status of his own through his long sports broadcasting career.

All of the musicians who took part in the celebration had a close connection to Bookie, and they reflected on that while also performing songs.

Blue Rodeo with Andy Maize, Andrew Cash, Chris Murphy and Kate Boothman.

When your opening act is Blue Rodeo, you know you’re doing something right. Jim Cuddy, Greg Keelor and Bazil Donovan took the stage for two songs before inviting Andy Maize, Andrew Cash, Chris Murphy and Kate Boothman on stage to join them in a moving rendition of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” that caused the first tears of the night to roll down my cheeks.

Skydiggers frontman Maize and singer, songwriter, musician and former (and hopefully future) politician Cash included a cover of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back In Anger” in their two-song set.

That duo was followed by The Beaches, the female quartet that won this year’s Juno Award for breakthrough group of the year, who turned up the rock during their two songs.


Sloan’s three-song set was highlighted by “The Good in Everyone,” which I believe was something Bookie always saw.

Billy Talent frontman Ben Kowalewicz and former Death Cab For Cutie member Chris Walla just met before they walked on stage to perform Death Cab’s “I Will Follow You Into The Dark.” You wouldn’t have known.

Bookie’s former Bookmen bandmate Mech performed a song solo, while Sarah Harmer’s solo two-song set opened with a cover of The Replacements’ “I Will Dare.”

Former Lowest of the Low member and now longtime solo artist Stephen Stanley performed a song before he was joined by The Rheostatics’ Dave Bidini on drums, Bazil Donovan on bass and UIC’s Dave Robinson on backing vocals to do “The First Saturday In May” by Midi Ogres, a short-lived mid-‘90s band comprised of Stanley, Bidini, bassist John DesLauriers and Bookie on lead vocals.

I’m sure Damhnait’s Doyle a cappella version of Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” had eyes of all colours crying with its beauty and power.

Chris Murphy played tambourine and sang backing vocals on the first of The Inbreds’ two songs, the second of which was a fine “Any Sense of Time.”

The Rheostatics with Stephen Stanley and Tim Mech.

The Rheostatics were joined by Stanley and Mech for two more Midi Ogres songs written by Bookie: “Little Mushroom” and “Huggin’ At My Pillow.”

Hayden played a song on his own before being joined by Billy Talent for a rousing rendition of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger.”

Danny Greaves, lead singer for The Watchmen, performed a solo a cappella version of Billy Bragg’s “Tender Comrade.”

Matt Mays joined July Talk to cover Wilco’s “I’m The Man Who Loves You.”

Broken Social Scene

A smaller than usual version of Broken Social Scene ripped through versions of Dinosaur Jr.’s “Feel the Pain” and “The Wagon” that had me thinking there’s a future as a cover band there if the group ever tires of writing and recording its own songs.

Hayden and Billy Talent joined up again to play Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.” and the night’s second performance of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back In Anger” (with Maize supplying backing vocals) before they delivered the song that helped launch Billy Talent to stardom, “Try Honesty.”

Hollerado was up next and the band invited members of The Beaches and July Talk on stage to join in singing Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.” Mays picked up his guitar and joined them for Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

The night closed off with an electrifying four-song performance from UIC that opened with “Our Garage” and closed with “It’s Alright.”

It was five hours of great music and memories, and some of us would have been happy if it had continued even further into the next day. There was a special vibe in the bar that I didn’t want to leave behind.

But I also know that as long as the people who organized, took part in and attended Bookie’s celebration — and countless others who would have loved to have been there — are sill among us, we’ll forge on with the kind spirit of the evening.

There’s nothing funny about peace, love and understanding. They’re beautiful things. Carry them with you and spread them.