On my 8th birthday on August 15th, 1977 (the same day my friend and fellow musician Jenna Marotta was born!), my mom gave me the Chuck Mangione “Feels So Good” album that truly helped set a path for me. Call it divine intervention or whatever you want to call it. I started playing trumpet in 3rd Grade Band, and I had this incredible “rock star flugelhorn player” as a role model.
His next album “Children of Sanchez” starts with these incredible lyrics sung by Don Potter:
“Without dreams of hope and pride, a man will die/though his flesh still moves, his heart sleeps in the grave/without land, a man never dreams cause he’s not free/ all men need a place to live with dignity.”
Powerful words….I did not appreciate those words in 1978 the way I do now in 2022. And I had no idea of just how much I appreciated them until a few days ago.
On February 12, 2009, Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed in the suburbs of Buffalo New York. Two of the members of Chuck Mangione’s band, guitarist Coleman Mallett and saxophonist Gerry Niewood perished on that flight, as they were on their way to perform with Chuck in Buffalo. As I had the pleasure to have met Coleman, and Gerry was a very good friend and colleague of my professor Steve Brown at Ithaca College, this tragedy hit me very hard on a personal level, and I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and sorrow that Mr. Mangione felt and still feels to this day.
Steve told me a couple of years ago that Chuck Mangione hasn’t picked up his flugelhorn since the accident. In my selfish mind, I thought how could he not? Here’s a man who has sold out concerts around the world, and how great would it be for him to honor the memory of these two incredible musicians. Then I had my moment of clarity last week.
We all have traumatic events in our lives, and others may not understand how deeply we are wounded. I was triggered by an event last week, and it felt like somebody ripped out my emotional stitches. In the past, I’ve been told to “get over it” and “that’s how this person is” regarding this issue, and the reactions/responses I’ve received were from the perspective of how my feelings were inconvenient to others because of the pain this person caused me. I’ve had the exact same feeling about one of my musical heroes who stopped playing music, and that he should just “get over it.” I’m very ashamed to say that out loud, because I have nothing but the utmost respect for Chuck Mangione, and this was a full circle moment that has put things into a much clearer perspective for me.
Chuck Mangione has found a new path. He’s a doting father and grandfather, and he was recently seen at Ithaca College cheering on his great niece, who plays for the Ithaca Womens basketball team. He’s done what I still struggle to do – he found a way to move forward, regardless of what the people (or fans) hope or think he should do. It’s time for me to do the same – my trauma comes from being racially offended by both White people and Black people (“White wannabe”, “sellout” “you just like White women”, “Carlton”, and the list goes on and on.) There are many times when I wish I could just yell “FUCK YOU!!” at the people who ‘jokingly’ say this to me (and I’m sure behind my back)…I had one friend say that I “ran away” from Pennsylvania, because I decided to leave an emotionally abusive marriage, that I didn’t want my daughter growing up thinking was the norm. Although I’ve turned the other cheek, I still feel the pain from that comment.
I struggle in dealing with trauma. I’m thankful that I do have genuine friends that tell me not to worry about the opinions of others and to not let others control my happiness. My whole life I’ve allowed people to do that, from my dad who was very image conscious, to my ex girlfriends and ex-wife, to many of the people who I’m surrounded by now. When I see how content Chuck Mangione is with his life now, that is the goal that I continue to strive towards.
I’m not sure what my future holds….it’s time to do the things I know I need to do to feel better and be happy, even if it’s not what ANYBODY expects. (Paging Clinton Tuckerman!! 😎)
And to Chuck Mangione, I especially want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your music has been a very important part of my life, and it has always been a part of my path. I totally understand and respect why you put the horn down and found a new path. I think it’s time for me to do the same for a while, if not permanently. I can no longer worry about everyone else’s expectations over my own happiness. Period.
My flesh will continue to move, and my heart will stop sleeping in the grave.
(Insert Feels So Good pun here.)