Tribute to “Doc” West – As Long As The River Flows Free

When my dad died a few years back, I inherited a whole stack of sheet music – songs he’d played in bands growing up, songs he’d written, even a love song for mom.

But buried deep at the bottom, were a dozen or so songs written by dad’s friend, “Doc” West, most of which were never published or even set to music, as far as I know. I have the originals, yellowed a bit with time, hammered out on a typewriter.

This song I have recorded (written in 1975) is about a young man growing up under the burden of violence and racial tension. I can only imagine that the author (Dean was his real name) struggled with the same questions of identity, depression, or possibly mental illness that Johnny Ray Eagle did.

Doc was the first person I ever knew who committed suicide. He was my next-door-neighbor at the time, and ended his own life a couple years after writing these songs. I spoke with his widow a couple years ago and asked if it would be okay to write some music to go along with them. She gave me her blessing to put some of these songs out there. So I did.

I hope you enjoy it. But even moreso, if you or someone you know has had suicidal thoughts or concerns please seek help. A great place to start is the NAMI website (National Alliance on Mental Illness) right here:

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