Bob Davidson, 1953-1999
death of a brother
by Steve Levitt, April 1999
the photo was taken just about this time of year – the bushes are already green, but the trees move at a slower rhythm, and are at that awakening place – it’s a timeless courtyard moment – part staged, part serendipity – in the center by the pool three kids are doing the hear no evil thing for the camera and in the upper left by a brick planter a momentary meeting is captured – one of those little pauses in the flow of the day that usually pass without a trace. Five males possibly not completely unaware of the Moment. Three are sitting while two are walking up in classic greeting mode.Through the foreground trees soft focus and across the years I see the faces, or at least the unmistakable heads, of Rod Nesbitt, Bruce Hodo, Steve Meyer and myself.
The fifth guy’s face is hidden behind a tangle of trees, but if you were There Then it’s probably obvious – left side reaching out to the experience of it all, right side back a bit guarding the mysteries and the whole thing moving with the shy confidence of hidden aristocracy – it’s Bob Davidson completing that little circle, there on the inner covers of the ’71 Record.
After graduation, Bob, Rod and Steve headed off to Webster – now a substantial University but back then a Parker-sized college – just outside of St. Louis. By the time I first got down there in March of ’72 they were Legends and Wizards, and I was treated like a long lost brother by what was clearly some sort of Family/Tribal Thing flourishing in the nooks and crannies of this former Loretto finishing school.
Which I was. And it was Bob who made sure that I felt I was home – because he was home. And so we passed much of the seventies together, even after Bob and many of the Family moved to San Francisco to work on Nicotine Soup and Rod, Steve and I were already doing the Driftaway. In 1980 I went out there for Bob and Marianne’s wedding – in July I think it was – and Bob and I took a walk in the Park as we had done many times in Chicago and St. Louis.
And as always I wondered at his effect on me – some kind of attitude/perception/point of view thing that seemed to flow out of him and somehow kindle a resonance. And sitting here thinking about it right now I think I understand it a little – it was a sense of Mission, of the ancient battle between those who want things open and those who want them shut. Gentle to the point of ahimsa, Bob was a front line warrior in the struggle to Experience, to ask the questions that lead to more questions, to Choose. Against the transitory, arbitrary fragility he armed us with laughter, courage and the Moment. And on that day, filled with a sense of things just beginning, it felt like the battle was all but won.
How could the next 20 years pass with only one short visit? How could entire stages of life go by unknown, unshared? Unbelievable.
I got the call from Gyle Meyer and called Rod and Julie, then Marianne in Spring Green, Wisconsin. They’d found cancer last summer. Did the radiation/chemo but …. He was comfortable. At peace. Ready for it. No visitors, please. A matter of days …
so I wrote him to say goodbye and he died on Sunday, April 11. I’m sorry that I don’t know more than this and for taking a full page to say so. I’m seeing Rod this weekend, maybe Steve, too. I’ll let you know.
Steve Levitt ‘71