Rumor Has It

Remembering Lucas Hicks

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I’m going to go ahead and say that Lucas Hicks was the best musician to ever call Bellingham home. From his early days in Pacer and Jill Brazil to his later years with the Gallus Brothers, the Shadies, Deakin Hicks, and the massive amount of music he played during and in between, the sheer depth and breadth of his talent and skill were always on display. He was eternally musically curious, which led him to learn the conventions of the various genres that interested him—only so that he could disregard them to create something that was entirely his own, even when he was playing music written by other people. If the song in his head required an instrument he didn’t know, he would learn it, showing a command of everything from saxophone to accordion to banjo to ukulele to whatever else might happen to be lying around needing to be played. And he made it all look effortless—more than that, he made it all look fun—even when he was sick and playing a show took more energy than he really had.

Because Lucas had cancer, and that’s the other piece of his story. He had it for a long time—14 years, give or take. He never wanted his life to be about that though, and so even as he was forced to cede more and more of his body to the disease, he refused to give it a second more of his time or a fraction more of his existence than he had to. It was why, immediately after one or another of his surgeries, or when he’d finished a round of increasingly intense treatment, he returned to playing music as soon as he was able, often while he was still in the hospital. Nothing, it seemed, could stop him from trying to fill the world with as much music as possible. It’s probably why we thought he’d beat cancer and outlive us all.

Sometimes it doesn’t work that way. Lucas lost his fight with cancer. He died last week, at home, surrounded by friends and family.

As news trickled out about his death, tributes began to appear on social media, written by friends, acquaintances and those who did not know Lucas but had long admired him. It became clear immediately that his ability to forge meaningful connections to people was not limited to his music. He gave freely of himself, as much as he was able and often more, and the result is an astonishing number of people who now have a piece of Lucas to remember him by.

I have my own piece of Lucas. He was my friend and I loved him. He was a good friend to have, wicked funny, always interesting and interested, ready to engage in meaningful discourse or utter nonsense depending on the situation—and he was also tough as hell. To be frank, I’m having a hard time coming to terms with losing him. What happened to Lucas was so brutally unfair that I am unable to take its measure or to reckon with it just yet.

In lieu of acceptance, the feeling I am left with, other than grief, is profound gratitude. I am grateful that, after his initial diagnosis, Lucas opted to move back here, to call this place and this community home. I am grateful that he was driven to push so much of his music out into the world and to share so much of his skill and creativity and sheer joy with us. To have his music now and to know its impact will continue to reverberate is a wondrous gift. I am grateful that, as a community, we showed up for him, and that we tried to make performing for us worth the increasing effort he put into it. When cancer had taken so much from him physically, he still played with skill and focus, and I am grateful for those times we filled rooms and honored not just the music itself, but also the remarkable level of musicianship he was able to maintain until the end.

Mostly, though, I am enormously grateful to those people in Lucas’ life he was closest to, the ones who helped make it possible for him to find his way through this on his own terms as much as he could, the ones who gave generously and unreservedly of themselves to him so that he could give so much to us. They surrounded him with friendship and fellowship, gave him a soft place to land, supported him and never left his side. And then when there was nothing more to be done and his time was waning, they gathered at the home Lucas had made with longtime partner Jenny Rose and filled it with love and music and let him go.

I don’t know how to reconcile the loss of someone like Lucas. I don’t have those words or possess that wisdom. But I am going to take my piece of him and hold it close. And I will be grateful.

Before his death, Lucas was working on bringing Brazilian family band Choro das 3 to Bellingham for a concert. In the interest of making certain the show will go on, Jenny would like to invite everyone to see Choro das 3 at 6:30pm Sun., Oct. 15 at the YWCA Ballroom, 1026 N. Forest St. Tickets are $15 and available at the door.

—Carey Ross

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