Saturday, August 09, 2008

HAZARD: Pancreatic Cancer stops Escalator of Life

He was born Robert Rimato, not Robert Hazard, was most famous for a song he didn't sing, and instead of a promising "New Wave" RCA artist he ended up an indie troubador playing C&W in small clubs. A strange, interesting life he had...and there were hints it was going to end too soon.
On Robert's "My Space" page he wrote: "A heartfelt thank you to all my fans and friends who have been so supportive to my music and the direction I have taken over the past few years. I have been truly blessed as a performer and a songwriter to have you with me on this wonderful journey. Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances beyond my control I have been forced to cancel the rest of my summer tour schedule. We will pick up again in the Fall."
He was optimistic about his chances, but he died August 5th after surgery for pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer seems to be one hell of a popular killer these days. It's fast and it's usual lethal.
I met Robert Hazard back in his new wave days, and ironically I didn't think he'd be big because he had a kind of Lyle Lovett appearance, well before Lyle made it popular. Though publicity pix made him seem fairly dangerous, he was tall, rangy, with kind of wild hair and a long nose, more an awkward Lovett than the combo of David Bowie and Joe Jackson that his label hoped he'd be (and which you can hear on his semi-hit "Escalator of Life.") That song was quirky, with its simultaneous embrace of disco, the deliberately strained vocals, and a simultaneous disdain for trendy idiot acolytes (a nice put-down of jeans-legend Gloria Vanderbilt in the midst of the echo chamber yips). But...he followed it with an indifferent album "Wings of Fire" in 1984. He disappeared, while a certain song he penned, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," became Cyndi Lauper's big hit.
“The royalties from ‘Girls’ allowed me to survive. In the ‘90s I had a band called The Hombres, but we never recorded.” Lucky in a way, Hazard had his hit in the pre-download era, so he actually did see decent royalties coming in. Even so, he and his wife had a day job, running an antiques store.
The quiet life changed around the turn of the century, when Hazard started performing as a singer-songwriter. If anything, the rural New York environment, certainly upstate in Woodstock and Saugerties, was friendly to "older" performers, from Levon Helm to Eric Anderson, and Robert found himself recording indie country albums: The Seventh Lake (2003) and Blue Mountain (2004). The latter, typical for a fairly unknown C&W artist, was made on a frugal budget: "“I made that for about $1.98. Everything was one take. The songs were written, I laid ‘em down and it was done.”
You can hear his change from New Wave Bowie to another country-tinged singer-songwriter on the road, via the two downloads, "Escalator of Life" from his first ep, and "Blood on my Hands" from his last album, last year's "Troubador."
Robert was setting up tour-dates for the Fall, anticipating a few months of recuperation, and then a return to those low-paying gigs that really test a musician's stamina and desire.
October 4, 2008 - DELMARVA FOLK FESTIVAL - Clayton, Delaware
October 24, 2008 - BURLAP AND BEAN COFFEE - Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
October 31, 2008 - TIN ANGEL - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
November 1, 2008 - HURDY GURDY FOLK MUSIC CLUB - Fairlawn, New Jersey
November, 7 2008 - BARNSTORMERS THEATRE- Ridley Park, Pennsylvania
Those dates will never happen. Somebody else will be singing in those venues on those nights. Somebody who most likely will hawk an indie CD after the show, sigh about shitty mp3 sales on eMusic, and pray that one song breaks through on the radio like "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," so that making music for a living could be less of a struggle and a little more fun.

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