Rick Rosen RIP
Of all the magazine’s extended family of staff and contributors, Lonnie Brownell was closest to Rick. Lonnie offers the following memorial to his friend and colleague.—John Atkinson
My friend Rick is gone.
I must've started thousands of sentences with variants of "My pal/My friend/My buddy Rick," but I never thought I'd utter that one. I guess no one ever does, but Rick's passing was as unexpected as finding a McDonald's on the moon. He was fine one day, a young man of 42, healthy as a horse—then, just like that, gone. It's like some Twilight Zone episode where the Grim Reaper has a typo in that night's list and got Rick by mistake. As I write this, the cause of death is unknown, but they've determined one thing: It wasn’t his heart—it was in great shape.
I can confirm that it was also in the right place.
Rick may have been the quintessential New Yorker—urbane, hip, worldly wise and wary—but he was also a great, generous friend. When Rick arrived at hi-fi shows, he'd always be toting an enormous black backpack, grotesquely distended to more of a cube than the familiar oblong shape, much of it stuffed with various goodies he'd brought for the roster of friends he figured he’d bump into. Many of you have read about, or experienced first-hand, the samples of fine single-malt Scotch that Roy Hall of Music Hall would hand out to revive frazzled showgoers. It was not unusual for Rick to bring another such bottle, to share a taste with Roy.
One holiday season I was going through a particularly low point in my life. Rick flew out to San Diego to hang with me, to cheer me up. And just in case that wasn't enough to ensure that my days would be merry and bright, he brought me a present of an original pressing of Pet Sounds—a sealed copy at that. I'm listening to it right now.
Rick was a Music Guy. My day-in, day-out peers think I've got an encyclopedic knowledge of music, but compared to Rick, I'm in kindergarten. He was also an LP Guy, and, as he'd put it, the resident Monophile at Stereophile. Rick had his head, heart, and ears in the right place, music and audio-wise—audio gear was there to serve the music, to pull him through those grooves and out the other side, like Alice through the looking glass, to where the musicians were laying it down. That those toys had an undeniable cool factor was a bonus, but if it didn't swing, it wasn't his thing. We'd always cobble together a music system for the hotel room we'd share at hi-fi shows. Some parts were borrowed and some we'd bring ourselves, and we were often amazed at how musical these rigs would be—and we always looked forward to ending the day listening to "our" system, even after a full day of listening to dozens of serious setups.
Don’t y'all miss "Rick Visits . . . "? I do. It'd been a while since he’d written one for Stereophile, and I kept hoping he'd start up again. What a great concept: Visit music makers at home, listen with them to their audio playback systems, and discuss how their recreational listening affects their art. It was genius, I tell you, pure Rick, and unique. (Although some time after he’d begun the series, Rick sent me photocopies of articles from Downbeat from the late 1950s and early '60s, where the author would go hi-fi shopping with famous jazzers; Rick crossed out the titles and replaced them with "Rick Visits.") Rick and I would edit each other's stuff, so I got to read them first, lucky dog that I am.
No surprise, but it wasn't unusual for Rick to become friends with his subjects (why should they be any different?). I got the treat of having lunch with one of them, the legendary Max Roach—and, after that, of running around the 1996 Home Entertainment Show at the Waldorf=Astoria with Max, Rick, and Tommy Flanagan, whom we happened to run into. There we were, Rick, me, and half of the combo that recorded Saxophone Colossus. And now I'm listening to that. Pure magic, conjured by RJR.
Rick was my best friend. I'll bet you could throw a sizable dinner party consisting of other folks who would make the same statement. I miss him terribly, and I don’t expect that to change or diminish, but I've got a million stories like the ones above to look back on and laugh or cry, smile or sigh. They all begin with "My friend Rick."—Lonnie Brownell
In lieu of flowers, family and friends are requesting that donations be made to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Donations may be made by mail, phone or on-line.
Donation checks or money orders can be mailed to: Lance Armstrong Foundation, PO Box 130819, Houston, TX 77219-0819.
To donate by telephone, call (512) 236-8820. A Lance Armstrong Foundation staff member will assist you with the process and answer any question you may have about your contribution.
If donors wish to notify the family, they may use the following contact information: Joseph Rosen (Richard's father), 2076 Thornlea Drive, Oakville, Ontario L6L 1K6 Canada.