Rowland S. Howard 1959-2009

Published on January 1st, 2010 in: Eulogy, Music |

By Julie Finley

I had recently paid my respects towards Rowland S. Howard’s latest album, Pop Crimes. . . as it was my favorite record of 2009 (and probably one of my favorite albums of the entire decade!) With reluctance I need to pay my respects in the way I wish I never had to, but. . . Rowland has unfortunately passed away.

rowland s howard by kez
Rowland S. Howard, 1999
Photo © Kez

This news has been particularly gut-wrenching for me to take, as I always perceived Rowland as a beau ideal. . . mi El Ídolo. I know there are many fans out there who are probably feeling as knifed in the heart as I do, but I’m also positive that many people out there probably cannot relate to that feeling in regards to him (I’m sure if one of their favorite musicians passed on, they might begin to understand).

At the same time, there are some people who will never comprehend the idea of feeling distraught over a passing icon. . . they would prey upon someone else’s sorrow and persecute what they saw as a weakness for fun.

In essence, when you’re an adult, you’re expected to carry on with the business at hand (but somehow its OK to gush tears for an “A-lister”. . . explain that one!) Its easier to explain idolatry when you’re younger. . . but when you get older, the world expects that you’ve gotten over shit like that. So I’ve been forced to “keep a poker face so well. . . ” on the surface.

However, that’s on the surface. Under the surface. . . Rowland’s death mortifies me like it was a death of one of my friends or family. I guess I attribute that to the fact that for more than half of my life, I’ve been a diehard fan of his. . . not a casual listener, a diehard with a vengeance! I never met him or communicated with him, nor did I ever get to see him perform live. I knew nothing of him personally, but somehow what he conveyed through his music, was unflinchingly honest, a characteristic that I find trustworthy and comforting, even if what is being said is cynical and ugly!

The truth will beat out a bullshit story any day, and I appreciate the fact that many moments of my life have been graced with his soundtrack. His approach to lyrics, along with the musical accompaniment, honestly made me feel like I did know him. He opened up and bled. . . and he bled on the page and ear! His music affected my feelings in ways that are hard to describe, but easy to feel. His style and delivery made it very easy to muster up inner emotions, and that wouldn’t have been possible without his vulnerable talents that seethed from his soul! How could I NOT fall in love with that?

I am reluctant to admit that the day I learned of his passing, I came home from work and I cried to myself in the shower. . . let the snot and tears wash down the drain, and the running water covered up my yelps and heaves. I’m not sure if that makes me weaker or stronger, but I definitely needed to, as I felt like I was going to explode! I still feel sallow. . . like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. . . this is a bitter pill to swallow! As much as this tugs at my heart-strings, I feel more empathy for his family and close friends. As a fan, I feel loss. . . but he was someone’s son, brother, lover, and best friend! They have my boundless condolences, and my infinite respect.

The night before he died, I had a dream with him in it—I don’t remember if he spoke or whatever—but I remember seeing him with a cigarette, sort of grinning through a cloud of smoke. I have heard from another diehard fan of his that he dreamt of Rowland that night, too. . . that Rowland had an acoustic guitar he played to a very select handful of fans. Maybe that was Rowland’s way of saying goodbye to his fans. . . telepathically. If so, thank you, Rowland. Thank you. . . forever!

He is now “. . . Outta the black, and into the ether. . . “

9 Responses to “Rowland S. Howard 1959-2009”


  1. Viola:
    January 1st, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Beautiful. I am trying to get into the program but I am getting a language I do not understand. Probably wrong place. Rowly was and will always be a genius. I don’t understand why only half the world got this. I don’t think he minded that much if truth be told.

    I for one appreciate this lovely eulogy. Thankyou.

    xxxx

  2. Gabriel Hart:
    January 1st, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    This is a PERFECT sentiment for a death lot’s of us are finding hard to reconcile. What Rowland did was perfect – when music is done with this caliber of emotional scope, it can almost have the ability to make the listener time travel to the moment of intensity belonging to those who actually who penned it. Then often in the other direction it can be downright prophetic. Musicians spend their whole lives trying desperately to immortalize themselves – an admittedly vain and curious gesture. But then we also seem to counteract that with this venomous masochism. As odd as it is, it’s the perfect balance, and a rational reaction to this weird world. In other words, Rowland is still here. “Teenage Sniff Film” blew such a large hole in the atmosphere for me and so many people that it’s perpetual presence is undebatable. xoxoxo gabriel hart

  3. RIP Rowland S. Howard (1959-2009):
    January 2nd, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    […] http://popshifter.com/2010-01-01/rowland-s-howard-1959-2009/ […]

  4. JR:
    January 2nd, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I had the opportunity to photograph Rowland’s final show in Melbourne. You can view photos of this performance here:
    http://visceralindustry.com/blog/2009/10/rowland-s-howard-live-the-prince-bandroom-melbourne-australia/

    My girlfriend was a huge fan of the man and wrote a touching piece on my blog here:
    http://www.dogmaticblog.com/2009/12/31/vale-rowland-s-howard/

  5. Eli:
    January 2nd, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Beautifully written, thank you.

  6. Rhobb:
    January 3rd, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Thanks Julz. You made me cry. Serious. Thanks for your thoughts and words.

  7. Guilherme Lucas:
    January 3rd, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I feel so strange but somehow happy after reading your text. Because like you I also lost my favorite guitarist ever, Rowland was the one that most influenced and inspired me to play guitar since I was a teen untl today … and I’m still in shock for knowing that hes not here anymore. But the strange part of it all is that today I dreamed about him… I cant remind myself of all the details of the dream, but I remember well that he was beside me talking amicably with me and then I could play some riffs on my Fender Jaguar (Yes, I always wanted to have a Fender Jaguar guitar because of RSH played with one at the Birthday Party) followed by a short solo, a perfect one like RSH usually do… at that moment I knew he approved it cos he smile to me and said that the solo was all right now … and I felt so excited and happy for that … and everything after it has faded and disappeared.I like to think that actually you’re right: perhaps Rowland has found it’s way to say goodbye to their fans – through musical dreams.
    What more can I say in this sad time? He and his musical legacy will forever be inside of me until the end of my days.

  8. Popshifter » We Want To Thank You:
    January 19th, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    […] The Black, a Rowland S. Howard fanpage, posted a link to our eulogy on the recently departed Mr. Howard. Blogger Matt Sutton also posted a link on his […]

  9. JD:
    February 1st, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I am the same age as RSH. My bands played with BP at their peak, on the Junkyard and Mutiny tours. While Nick was a great performer I always felt Rowland was the real spirit of BP and have always much preferred his work. He was a gentleman and a genius and the most important Oz musician and guitarist of his time. There was nothing like him and Pop Crimes is a fucking awesome way to go out. I can already hear him and Ian (Rilen) and Tracy and Kafiero playing in hell. What a fucking band.

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