I’m writing these words on June 24. Today marks four years since the passing of Bernie Worrell. The man’s mortal body could no longer handle the physical ravages being placed upon it. Had I been told that this time last year, the thought would not have resonated quite as much. Now that I am deeply immersed in writing about the man’s life, I can’t help but feel the day and the loss ten times more.
Work has begun in earnest on The Wizard of WOO. When this project will appear before your eyes is uncertain, and probably will be for some time. Rest assured, I am doing all I can to put together a work no sane literary agent or publisher would turn his back on. Bernie’s life and music will get everything my literary body and soul has to offer, and then some. He deserves at least that much.
One thing has become clear in the early stages of my research: Bernie Worrell was ADORED by any- and everyone he came in contact with. I’ve conducted about a quarter of the interviews I have planned as part of my research. Without fail — and completely unprompted — each person I have spoken to has told me that Bernie was so much more than a musical genius. Every person I’ve talked to so far — EVERY one of them — could not say enough about what a decent human being Bernie Worrell was. Friends, relatives, musicians, fans … we are all family in the eyes of the Wizard. I never met or spoke to the man, yet I feel a deep sense of kinship even now.
It seems like everyone in music deemed a “genius” by others has a touch of what I like to call the “SOB Factor.” It comes out in both books and movies. The artist’s abilities may be unparalleled, but they come with a personality factor that makes the artist a real son of a bitch on some level. But since there is genius to be appreciated, we ignore that fundamental flaw. Here’s the thing: Bernie seems to be the exception to that rule. Thus far, there is no SOB Factor to be found. This is not to say the man was perfect. He most certainly was NOT. But his human characteristics go far beyond what anyone else in this particular stratosphere seemed to possess. It’s a joy to learn about.
It seems only fitting that a box of memorabilia arrived at my home today, courtesy of the Worrell estate. Inside this treasure trove are professional and family photos, ticket stubs, programs, and other items that will only enhance the story I’ll be writing. My words will not be enough. To truly appreciate Bernie, you must be able to see what I’m talking about from time to time. In another dimension, I would be able to help you hear it as well. That’s something I’ll have to figure out.
While I’ve never treated it otherwise, this project continues to get more “real” with every passing day. There is a great story here waiting to be told. With every passing day, with every archived article or interview I read about him, with every Honors thesis I examine (yes, they exist), with every interview I conduct, the story gets deeper and deeper. I can’t wait to share that story with you.
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