Monday, June 29, 2009

Jimmy Dewar - Stumbledown Racer

You know Jimmy Dewar for his vocals on Robin Trower's first seven studio albums (plus "Robin Trower Live"). From 1973 to 1980 he was able to match the disoriented and spaced ruminations of Robin's guitar, with pained yet numbed vocals ("I Can't Wait Much Longer" being typical). He was also able to lead the charge on the galloping upbeat numbers that displayed real "Trower power."
On his extremely obscure solo disc, "Stumbledown Racer," you'll find him pursuing mainstream pop, personal and religious lyrics, and things lighter than heavy metal. If the title track sounds more suited to a Matthew Fisher solo album, it's because the disc was indeed produced by Mr. Fisher. While Fisher was able to work with Trower's style (they were in Procol Harum together, Fisher producing the "A Salty Dog" album) and was behind Robin's most successful records, he was also able to show the great versatility in Jimmy Dewar. The title track's notable for somber colors, regretful lyrics and pretty keyboard work. It's an original Fisher/Dewar tune, as is "Nature Child."
"Hosanna," a ballad with Biblical references to the newborn king, is also a serious departure from the world of Trower, and sounds more like a track from a Gary Brooker solo album...Brooker having dabbled so often in religious themes.
If you thought Dewar couldn't get farther away from Trower than that, hold on for "Bright Lights," with a chorus right out of the Elton John play book. Jimmy's pretty successful even though his voice is nowhere near an Elton John, or a Sedaka or Nick Gilder...the type of bright voice a pop tune usually requires. Another pop oddity is the rock chestnut "(Baby baby, you're) Out of Time," opening with some bright Farfisa-styled accents. "Heartbeat" is a croon with a Tex-Mex flavor, the kind of thing that Roy Orbison could've recorded during his MGM days. If you enjoy this, buying the CD itself would be a nice tribute to Jimmy, and you'll also be getting the liner notes, full musician credits and composer credits.
Yes, sometimes this rare find seems dated, but it's an interesting audio document. Fans of Trower may be disappointed, but those who admire the solo work of Procol's vocalists (Brooker and Fisher) will find this one sometimes in that league, and often similar in style to the era's Elton, Hall & Oates, Paul Rodgers and John Farnham albums.
Some facts about Dewar (October 12, 1942-May 16,2002) remain shrouded in mystery. Just why he left the Trower band hasn't been fully explained, nor the "progressive illness" (sometimes reported as brain damage) that began in 1987 and caused him to require constant medical care. Before his own death, his son passed away. And after Jimmy died, his wife soon followed. The grave marker is one of the many images you'll find at the bearing Jimmy Dewar's name.


Anonymous said...

In the early 1980s Jimmy checked into a Glasgow hospital for minor surgery to have a cyst removed from his skin. A botched job by the anesthesiologist caused Jimmy to begin having what can best be described as mini strokes while in surgery and for years to follow. His ongoing condition as a result of this hospital debacle was degenerative and left Jimmy unable to resume work with Robin Trower. Jimmy recommended long-time buddy Davey Pattison to take over his role in RTB and parted company with Robin on otherwise good terms. Eventually Jimmy's condition required full-time care residing at Dykebar hospital in Glasgow where he passed away in 2002. Allegedly he listening to the song "Long Misty Days" as he departed. Jimmy was an immense talent and a class act. He was remembered very fondly by those lucky enough to know and/or work with him. His family has suffered great loss with his passing as well as the passing of his wife Mattie and son Jim with in the span of only a few years. JD is survived by daughters Lisa, Laura and Wendy and a magnificent catalog of music.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It's long past time to put all the rumours and inaccuracies to rest concerning James Dewar.
James Dewar died from CADASIL, a rare genetic disease.

This is a quote from the site: maintained by Carl Kennedy.

While the diagnosis was not entirely clear, Jimmy’s symptoms seemed to most closely resemble those of a stroke victim. He continued to suffer many such small strokes over the years following his 1986 surgery.

Initially, the Dewar family and others close to Jimmy, suspected that (during his surgery), the anesthesiologist may have made an error causing injury to Jimmy's brain. The hospital’s conduct was a bit secretive and that only fueled suspicions of malpractice. With nothing of substance in hand, the family had no grounds to bring suit. Fans, pundits and others (not close to the matter) often took the liberty of filling in the informational void with their own fiction. It was sometimes said that surely he abused drugs or drank himself to death. Most seemed to conclude that the life of a rockstar is short by nature and that hard living shortened his lifespan. The truth was nothing of the sort and only discovered some forty years after after the onset.

In 2013 Jimmy’s middle daughter (Wendy) needed medical treatment requiring that she undergo general anesthesia. Alarmingly, Wendy emerged from her surgery exhibiting some of the same symptoms as her dad some 37 years prior. Fortunately for Wendy, all these years of medical advancement (since the onset of her dad's illness) have allowed doctors to diagnose her condition.

A little-known genetic disorder called Cadasil ("Cerebral Autosomal-Dominant Arteriopathy with Subcortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy”) causes precisely these stroke events in those carrying a mutated gene referred to as "Notch 3". Cadasil causes the small to medium sized arteries in the brain to suffer a thickening of the walls that eventually starves blood flow to the brain causing strokes and dementia. The average age of those exhibiting symptoms is 46. Jimmy was 42 and Wendy was 45. It was not until 2000 that a test was developed to identify the disease thus Jimmy’s condition was destined to go many years undiagnosed. The suspicion that general anesthesia may contribute to the onset of these symptoms is unsubstantiated at this point as there is much to learn about the rare but devastating disease. It does seem noteworthy that the strokes and subsequent symptoms appeared immediately upon undergoing general anesthesia in both Jimmy's case and Wendy's case. Sadly, in 2014, Cadasil is both incurable and untreatable. The medical community is beginning to show some interest in researching Cadasil, it's treatment and cure. While this is good news, one should not get their hopes too high (just yet). Cadasil is extremely rare. Funding and mobilization to treat any disease is prioritized largely by global occurrence and it's impact upon the masses. Rare diseases such as this one fall low on the scale of urgency when compared to the many diseases that afflict large parts of the world’s population. Wendy’s condition is reported to be more promising than her dad’s however there is a degree of “wait and see” associated with the progression of Cadasil. Of course we wish her and the entire Dewar family the very best in health and well-being.

So, what does this all mean to us looking back upon the life and death of James "Jimmy" Dewar? It means that nature took its course. To date, nothing could have been done to change the outcome. With or without an accurate diagnosis of Cadasil in 1986 (or today) Jimmy’s fate was sealed. I suppose we can put to rest our fears of medical malpractice being to blame. The truth is freeing if only to this extent.