Monday, February 18, 2013

Play Something We Can Dance To

I met Mindy McCready when she came to St. Louis in 1996 before releasing her first single, 10,000 Angels. She was pretty much just a kid and was really nervous, but we joked around about her record company rep, and the radio business, and before long she had loosened up a little and we were getting along well.

I took the group of us to this Sinatra themed restaurant called The Summit, and we ended up staying out pretty late that night.  She hadn't turned 21 yet, so she couldn't partake of the wine we had for dinner, so I suggested we all go back to my place for a nightcap.

It ended up being just Mindy, her boyfriend (and legendary Nashville producer) David Malloy, and me, and we picked up wine and beer on the way.  I admit that at the time, Malloy was more of a thrill for me than Mindy, he had produced some of Nashville's biggest and best artists. (He was also her producer at the time.)

By midnight we were sitting on my living room floor drinking wine, rummaging through my CD collection, each of us picking off-beat songs we loved (album cuts), playing them, and lamenting how none of those songs got played on the radio.

Time did what it always does, and at about 3:30 I picked the last song of the night, Billy Dean's "Play Something We Can Dance To."  The song was important to me at the time because I had just been through a divorce which I described to them, and the song lyrics really hit home.  As we listened, the song made Mindy cry.  Every time I hear it now I think of her instead of my ex.

We finally wrapped up at around 4 am, and they headed to the airport for an early flight back to Nashville.  That morning at about 9:30 my phone rang, and it was Mindy.  She said she felt bad about waking me up but had a story she couldn't wait to tell me.  Apparently, when they got to the gate at the airport, there was a guy sitting there with a guitar case, and David recognized him as a songwriter from Nashville, Dennis Morgan - who co-wrote "Play Something We Can Dance To" with Billy Dean.  As they waited for the flight, she told him the story of our night, and how his song had been the teary nightcap, and he was very touched.  It's a small world.

It wasn't long before I saw Mindy again, as her debut concert happened in STL a few months later, opening for George Strait.  She was so nervous she threw up for 2 hours before the show, but when the lights came up, she was absolutely perfect.  What a night.

We stayed in touch and saw each other many times along the way.  We talked when she stopped seeing David, and again when Dean Cain proposed to her.  She also called me, heartbroken, when he broke up with her. After that she went off the rails a little, and ended up coming back to town to play on a much smaller stage, giving what I can only describe as a mystifying performance.

I haven't seen her in more than 9 years, but I've heard the rumors and read the headlines along the way.  And now, this news.  As I struggle to write down my thoughts, I could easily talk about how troubled she was, I could rehash her personal choices, and pick over her life with a fine toothed comb, but there's no need.  The truth is, she was one of the sweetest people I've ever met, and I feel a profound sadness tonight for her sons and family.

The photo I've chosen to include is of better days.  Goodspeed, Mindy.  I will miss you.