Richard "Kush" Griffith, who died this week in Kentucky at age 58, leaves behind a legacy in Denver, where he'd lived for the previous decade -- but more importantly, he put his mark on some of the best and most vital popular music made on this planet during the past half-century. Chuck Fishman, a Colorado musician who now keeps his eye on the scene from afar, took issue with the headline placed atop a Griffith obituary penned by Denver Post columnist Diane Carman, who'd previously written about him: "Trumpeting a Flawed Man's Funky Life." According to Fishman, corresponding by e-mail, "He is the bomb, and for goodness sakes led the JB's and P-Funk at different points. So jeesh -- that's a pretty near perfect man."
Musically, he's got a helluva point. Griffith did indeed put much of the brass into the JB's, James Brown's masterful group, as well as the Parliament-Funkadelic horn section that contributed to many of the acts that sprung from George Clinton's seemingly bottomless imagination, including Bootsy's Rubber Band.
Times were tougher for Griffith in Denver...
As Carman notes in her obituary, Griffith had kicked a longtime drug habit, but was afflicted by a myriad of health issues; he was blind, confined to a wheelchair and suffering from diabetes that necessitated regular dialysis treatments. But he still had music in him, as Fishman remembers.
"Towards 2000, [he] really landed with myself, and my musical partner, Neal Landauer," Fishman writes. "Neal and Kush worked on an album last year, Kush and His Blues Meet Funk Mediocre."
Two tracks available online give a sense of this material. Click here to check out "Up There and Out There (EPIC)." Click here to experience "Let's Don't Talk About It." You'll be glad you did. The tunes demonstrate that while Griffith's body was deteriorating, his innate funkiness remained intact.
A Kush tribute page that's sprung up online provides additional insight about Griffith's influence and accomplishments. The title of one post is telling: "Now Playing Third Chair Behind Miles and Gabriel..."
As Fishman concludes, "Enjoy, and remember Kush." -- Michael Roberts
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