CLEVELAND, Ohio – Nearly 50 years ago, on his self-titled first solo album of the same name, Michael Stanley offered a complaining view of mortality:
Here’s a song about a friend that soon disappeared
A friend whose life and my life are intertwined
Leaving soon for life / Leaving a part of yourself
Stanley, who died Friday of lung cancer at the age of 72, leaves more than a small part of himself in his hometown of Cleveland ̵
To say that Stanley was part of Cleveland’s fabric is anything but a cliché; It was the home he never left, and a place the man, called the Messiah of Cuiahoga by Last Call Cleveland, carried with him every time he traveled the country to play rock hits from the heart like “He Can’t.” to love you. ” “Lover”, “Falling in love again” and “My city”.
“I had three pretty good, separate careers with music, television, radio,” Stanley told The Plain Dealer in 2019, before receiving the Cleveland Art Award Lifetime Achievement Award. “Did we achieve everything we wanted? No. But we have achieved things we never thought of. I make a living doing something I love. That’s what I dreamed of as a teenager, and I eventually did. “
Stanley’s family issued a statement on Saturday through its social media pages. “Michael has been battling lung cancer for seven months with the same strength and dignity he has carried throughout his life. He will always be remembered as a loving father, brother, husband, loyal friend and leader of one of the most successful rock bands in Cleveland. “
An Ohio rock colleague and longtime friend Joe Walsh, who played on Stanley’s second solo album and featured his song “Rosewood Bitters,” said: “Michael was the King of Cleveland, and of course, Michael Stanley Band became a powerful headquarters for The Midwest. Michael has always been a master of songwriting. His songs have a way to get into your head and have become songs that you end up singing over and over again … His music will always be a part of me ”
Holly Gleason, a well-known music critic and author, followed Stanley’s career as a fan and journalist and later became his friend. “If you were a child who came of age in Cleveland in the ’70s or’ 80s, he’s our hand on the brass ring,” she said. “It was the promise of rock’n’roll. He believed in rock’n’roll. He believed in sports. He believed in Cleveland.
“He was so iconic for this raging heart that he didn’t care to lose – he would still leave everything on the field. And when he wrote these songs, those children in a city where the river caught fire and the lake died, they felt that their lives mattered. “
Michael Belkin of Live Nation, whose father ruled Stanley for more than 40 years, recalled that the attachment was part of a unique two-way relationship between the artist and his fans.
“In my entire career, I’ve never seen another artist as patient and polite as Michael was with the fans,” Belkin said. “Behind the scenes, meetings and greetings before and after the show, dinners and benefits, I saw how he interacted with thousands of supporters over the years and he was always nice and kind. Always. Every time.”
Born Michael Stanley G (his father, Francis Stanley G, was a local radio personality), Stanley began playing in bands at Rocky River High School – where he also played baseball and basketball. Skeptors gave way to restaurants and tree stumps at Hiram College, which Stanley attended on a baseball scholarship. He majored in sociology and comparative religion, but music was where his heart was. Production engineer Bill Shimchik signed the tree stumps on ABC Records, although he proposed a name change that became Silk for the 1969 edition of Smooth As Raw Silk.
“Basically, I signed the band for him,” said Shimchik, who continued his relationship with Stanley, which includes his latest album, Tough Room, which he brought to Cleveland to play for Stanley in late February. “I liked his songs and I liked his vocal quality. To me, he’s always been a really, really good writer, and he’s just improved over the years. “
After Silk Szymczyk’s death, he led Stanley to the Colorado-based label Tumbleweed Records, producing his solo album and Friends and Legends, both in 1973 and the latter featuring Walsh and a corps of Colorado stars that added varnish and bites. A year later, Stanley formed the Michael Stanley Band, a muscular blue-collar suit whose dynamic performances are mentioned in the same breath as populist rock colleagues such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger and John Melenkamp.
“For the people in our area, music meant a lot – it’s part of the Midwest,” said original drummer Tommy Dobeck, who had Stanley as his best man at his wedding and made him his son’s godfather. “They were always baseball caps and tennis shoes more than glamor. I came from another group (Circus), which was large in satin; I said to Michael, “Will I have to wear something?” He said, “I don’t give *** what you wear. Just play! “
David Spero, who was introduced to Stanley through Joe Walsh, ran Stanley in the 1970s, including a major deal with the label with Epic Records. “I think he’s probably one of the most underrated writers in our country in this way, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen’s storytelling school,” said Spero, who had lunch with Stanley almost every other Friday.
Stanley, of course, has never achieved the same kind of multi-platinum success as these artists; His best-selling album, 1983, “You Can’t Fight Fashion,” reached number 64 on the Billboard 200 – although he had some national fame through television appearances with Dick Cavet, Merv Griffin and the Rock Concert of Don Kirchner. “
“Throughout my career, I never managed to bring him a monstrous record – it always made me angry,” said Shimchik, noting that other famous producers – including Mut Lang, Don Geman and Eddie Kramer – could not help but spend Stanley over the hump. “I was like, ‘Damn it, Bob (Seger) certainly got away.’ How can we not take Michael. It was huge in the Midwest – Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh. We just couldn’t get him out of there. “
In Cleveland, of course, it was a different story. He plays at several night stands at the Richfield Coliseum and Blossom Music Center. Mellencamp, Billy Joel, Foreigner and others opened up to him early in his career. The band plays at the World Rock Series at the municipal stadium. “They sold out more shows in Ohio than everyone else,” Walsh said.
Stanley and company rarely allow anything to interfere with a good show. Drummer Dobeck remembered a wrench left inadvertently by a crew member who fell from a lighting farm during a show at the Coliseum in Richfield and hit Stanley in the head. Michael thought someone had thrown something at him and said, “Who the hell did that ?! – which was so different from Michael. But that only lasted about 10 seconds and we went back to the song. “
When a stage light exploded outside Detroit and pieces cut off Stanley’s face, Dobeck recalled, “He just kept playing, blood running down his cheek. I was just like “Wow, what a showman.”
Michael Stanley’s band ended in 1986, but Stanley continued to record and play live with his bands Resonators and Midlife Chrysler. His musical range expanded, and his lyrics became richer, more experienced and even more cinematic, infusing his songs into the experience and perspective of his years. And he never gave up an intelligent phrase or a high-class word; Shimchik laughed when he remembered that Stanley’s songs had made him take out the dictionary more than once.
“If you look back at any writer’s work, you usually find a common theme or two that they’re trying to refine,” said Stanley, who suffered a heart attack in 1991 and also battled subsequent prostate cancer. and a quadruple bypass, he told The Plain Dealer in 2012.
“I realized it was mine: You just never know. This whole idea of never knowing what tomorrow will bring and being open to it. I would almost always think of it in a very positive way: “Hey! Tomorrow! Tomorrow is the day when something good happens! “
As it turned out, Stanley began a bonus career that few could expect – despite his father’s legacy. He won 11 local Emmy Awards as co-host of PM Magazine on WJW Channel 8 from 1987 to 1990, and then spent another year at the station’s Cleveland Tonight. He played himself in an episode of The Drew Carrie Show.
On the radio, Stanley spent more than 30 years at WNCX, weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings, ending last month alone. He once said that “I’ve told every story 107 times already,” but being part of the city’s daily routine only knitted it harder in that matter.
“There’s no one to take his place,” said Bill Lewis of WNCX, who has worked with Stanley since 1995. “Hundreds of thousands of Clevelanders have loved him on concert stage, then PM magazine, and coming home with him for the past 30 years.” at home in your car every weekday on WNCX. This work will be unmatched.
“Michael was a very bright light locally, which we could call ours.”
Former manager Spero added that “(Stanley) was so accessible. He was involved with all (sports) teams at one time or another. He was the only person who, if there had ever been a fundraiser, I knew I could always call him and say, “Can you just pass,” and he would never say no. When you sell Blossom (four) consecutive nights, you don’t have to be so affordable, but it was.
“So this is a huge loss. I really haven’t come to terms with living without Michael. “
There will be reminders, of course – the section of Avenue Huron, renamed Michael Stanley Way in 2019, for one. And there is the forthcoming “Difficult Room”, which Shimchik said has been decisively accelerated, despite Stanley’s deteriorating health. “It’s quite shaky. There are always … rusers and mourners. I’ve always been attracted to roofers … and this one has more roofers than crying ones. “
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame issued a statement on Saturday, recalling Stanley as “the most beloved musician, songwriter and rocker in our city.”
“His music resonates with legions of listeners in his heart, and his concerts set attendance records and acquire mythical proportions. More importantly, Michael’s songs spoke to our hearts. As fans, we adored and revered him, and in return he loved us immediately. The energy of his music and his ability to unite people helped make Cleveland the rock and roll capital of the world and stimulated the community to come together and make our city home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We will miss Michael very much. “
Stanley is survived by his daughters Anna Sari (Christian) and Sarah Sharp (Aaron); his sister Nancy Osterhud and niece Claire Kloss; his wife Ilsa Glanzberg and adopted son Cole Sweeney; and his five grandchildren, Mallory Sidoti (Mike), Aidan Kraus, Brody Kraus, Ren Sari and Phoebe Sari. He was preceded by his mother Martha Fitzpatrick; his father, Stanley Guy; and his late wife Denise Skinner.
Stanley will be buried in a private ceremony at Lake View Cemetery. The family is asking for contributions in his memory to the Cleveland Foodbank (www.greaterclevelandfoodbank.org) and / or the Cleveland Animal Welfare League (www.clevelandapl.org).