Michel Petrucciani est mort … et il est né

mon dessin de Michel Petrucciani

It is the opposite of Mark Twain, whose death was (at first) “greatly exaggerated.”  Michel Petrucciani is dead.  But I thought he was alive.  I only learned last Saturday that he is dead.  Indeed, he has been dead the entire time that I discovered he existed.  Only I didn’t know.  I saw no references to death, only to life.  It’s not even a lack of research.  Somehow I had learned that he began playing piano at age 4, yet I knew nothing about his passing in 1999 in New York.  He was 36, one year older than Mozart.

I felt so sad upon learning of his death, which was fresh news to me, in a strange transposition of events coming from an internet world.  I cannot recall how I first learned about his music.  Since then, however, I’ve seen him interviewed, listened to his quips in both French and English.  Recently I posted a link to a Petrucciani documentary to this blog, and that was still before I learned he was gone!

In the documentary they pull a genuine New York stunt of having Petrucciani play something on a Steinway installed atop a skyscraper.  Parts of the scene are filmed by a chopper flying overhead.  That same chopper catches some scenes of the New York panorama aloft, including one quick glance at the World Trade Center Towers.  Like any American, I felt a tug at just the sight of the towers and thought to myself, “all that was before.” 

Now I realize that Michel’s life belongs entirely to “before.”  He died without knowing that New York would be attacked,  a city he loved thinking, one supposes, that all the world loves her too.  His music has something of New York’s famous “energy” with a waft of the depths of French sophistication and classicism and nuance inside it.

Michel Petrucciani is dead, but in a cliche that could not represent a truth more aptly, his music lives on.  For me, his music was born after his passing.  Après et avant.

Je t’aime, Michel.  Et bon voyage à l’univers.