Saturday 09/08/2012 by Icculus

RIP GREG STARKS

The Phish Companion. Please consider making a donation in any amount to The Mockingbird Foundation in Greg's honor, as such donations will be matched up to a total of $250.

John Ferguson eloquently wrote these words about Greg:

I am saddened this morning after discovering the loss of my great friend, Greg Starks. Greg was an awesome guy. He was intellectually brilliant. He was wise beyond his years. Greg had a passion and an exquisite taste for music, excellent music, musicians and bands that he helped others discover. I loved hanging out with Greg on Phish tour, at festivals, in Lansing, and even on phone calls, because when it came to Greg, geographical distance was simply a minor inconvenience. He could reach across the continent in a phone call or an email or chatting via IM, and you felt like he was right there with you all the time.

A friendship with Greg was not simply a loosely-bonded acquaintance; a friendship with Greg was a lifetime connection deeply rooted in fundamental and commingling ways. It is always so tragic to lose those whose time on earth has not extended into the golden years when the aches, and pains, and sheer will that it takes to rise each day brings almost a sense of blessing to their passing. No, for people like Greg, there is still so much of life to be lived and so much more they had to offer. There is nothing blessed about their passing, nothing to show for it but the large void they leave behind.

For those of us who knew Greg, you know exactly what I’m saying; for those of you who didn’t, you really, really missed out. Greg was unique in the most wonderfully invigorating ways. Greg was supportive of his friends. He was loyal, he was cool, he was brilliant, he was wise, sophisticated, fun to be around. Greg was an incandescent presence who illuminated the world for all of us who knew him. I will miss you, Greg Starks, and I will look to the sky and say your name and cry the next time I find myself in the crowd at a Phish show.

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Comments

, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown Death don't have no mercy. This I know.

My wife and I spent 8/2/97 at the Gorge with Greg. He was a compulsive sharer, whether it was recorded music or water on the hot, dry floor of that venue.

We were right underneath the light board during Hood when Trey looked our way and said "Chris..." That's my name, and both my wife and I did a double take before realizing Trey had meant "the other Chris." Greg witnessed this momentary lapse of reason and doubled over laughing as the lights went out and a billion stars came into view.

I lost touch with Greg over the years, but I never forgot him. He was a sweet and gentle man, and that's more than enough.

Goodbye Greg.
, comment by elephant
elephant I don't post often, actually this might be a first, i can't remember, but the reason i am posting now, is because I do remember Greg, i think from the r.m.p. days and for the good spirit that he shared with me and all of us back then, i just wanted to chime in here and say to his family and those who knew him better than I did, I am sorry for your loss.
, comment by forbin1
forbin1 Sounds like hell of a guy who will be sorely missed...

RIP brother
, comment by spencur6
spencur6 I didnt know him but he sounds awesome. RIP greg. Boogie on.
, comment by RadicalDogJohn
RadicalDogJohn I wanted to say just a bit more about Greg. I met Greg as we were both members of the Phish Women's group we like to call "The PBz". Greg and I were approximately the same age, both outspoken, music lovin', activist drivin' guys. We emailed and chatted often about topics ranging from kids, music, politics, you name it. Greg had this uncanny ability to comfortably communicate with and bond to people with the most modest of goals for their lives, and he could turn right around and intelligently deliver and articulate presentations to politicians on important issues to society.

The first time I met Greg was at the first Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tenn. I recall he was quasi overdressed in a "business casual" dress shirt and slacks, wearing a dapper looking hat, and had a glass of whiskey on the rocks if I recall the drink selection correctly. All weekend Greg seemed to always have a whiskey on the rocks, and I at the time I remember wondering how the guy kept ice in a frozen state in 100+-degree-in-the-shade temperatures?

When Greg and I first spoke within about two sentences I knew this was a HIGHLY intellectual person, brilliant actually, who managed to skillfully keep his IQ under wraps to not overwhelm those around him. If you met Greg and you just drank beer and talked music, outside of his quite extensive knowledge of bands and musicians, you might not have tapped into impressive analytical skills. If you did happen to venture into topics of substance, then I'm sure I can stop right here, because Greg was not only educated, informed, and intelligent, he was damned good at making his point of view seem like the right one. I loved that about him.

Greg was a huge Frank Zappa fan, and through his sister, Melanie, whom I believe is Dweezil Zappa's tour manager or performs some function like that, Greg had a direct line to the Zappa family. Now I may have the sequence wrong, because maybe it was through Greg that Melanie got involved with the Zappas, so forgive me if have that wrong, but what I can tell you is that when ZPZ came to Kansas City Greg arranged for me to receive two backstage, aftershow passes. I took a guitar playing friend, Mike, with me who was a Steve Vai "lemming" but didn't know Zappa's music beyond "Dancin' Fool". Well, of course Mike loved Vai's playing, but he discovered that Zappa's music was a LOT more sophisticated and brilliant than he'd known. Mike became a ZPZ and Zappa fan directly from that concert.

You see, that's classic Greg Stark's. Greg turned more people on to great music, music they'd never heard of, music that was so much more enriching and fulfilling than they'd realized. Amidst the very active benevolent political lobbying activities Greg seemingly had in perpetual motion, he would find ways and make time to facilitate peoples' discovery of all this great music out there. I'd love to see a headcount of the number of people who now love Phish solely because of Greg's introduction of them to Phish's music.

The last time I saw Greg was when my wife, Mary, and I dropped by Lansing during an impromptu trip to Michigan. Greg gave me directions to his place where we hung out and drank and chatted for a bit before making our way over to a local pub Greg liked to frequent. We listened to the band there, and during breaks we talked about kids and family, music and tour and Phish, topics of sociological importance with which Greg was currently engaged. I loved the way Greg would talk not only about the issues, but also his perspective into the personalities of the politicians with whom he dealt. If someone was an ahole or a saint, he'd tell you candidly explaining the particulars of why.

I spoke with Greg on the phone more than I had the chance to hang out with him, but in spite of the limitations of phone conversations, ours was a heartfelt friendship. A couple of years ago we talked about me coming up there for the Rothsbury Fest to work on the stage crews, my second passion. Greg had a connection, but the next year the festival was moved or cancelled or something, whatever happened it aborted my trip up there. Last year or the year before, can't remember, I had extra tickets for Alpine that I offered to give Greg, but he couldn't come because of commitments. There was a chance he was going to come to KC for the Phish show this August, but he wasn't able to do so, and though unknown to me at the time, now I understand why.

I hope you don't mind my lengthy write-up of Greg Starks. I know you probably have better things to do than read a long tribute about someone you don't know. It's just that for me Greg was special, unique in ways that are irreplaceable, and I felt compelled to tell you about this man as best I could. He was brilliant; he was funny; he was witty; he was wise; and most importantly to me, he was my friend.

RIP Greg, and please send some dirty love to Zappa for me.

- john ferguson
, comment by WindowWendy
WindowWendy RIP Mr Starks
, comment by phtreehuggr
phtreehuggr Although I knew well of Greg’s struggle, I was under the impression that he was on the mend. Last I spoke with him he had finished treatments and kicked it. As John mentioned, his plan was to attend KC with us, though that didn’t come to fruition because he was still feeling quite under the weather. It wasn’t until Saturday that I learned of his passing, and how it came to be.

I’m devastated. I have known Greg for about 11 years now. We met via an online IRC chat put on by the Phunky Bitches. John mentioned geography and proximity never being an issue for Greg; it certainly wasn’t for us, and our friendship.

Over recent years Greg and I spoke daily (sometimes more than once) on the phone. He was a constant, stable rock in my life. When everything seemed to be falling to the wayside, Greg was always there to lend an ear, despite what was going on in his life. I’m embarrassed to say that these moments of weakness and heartache were frequent for me, especially whilst trucking my way through a divorce. He never sugarcoated anything, and would quickly put me in my place if he thought I was being too dramatic over an issue. He had very little tolerance for bullshit, but somehow it never came across in any other way but lovingkindness.

Like John, Greg secured a couple of all-access passes to Rothbury for us, via his sister Melanie. It was quite last minute that I found myself hopping in the car from Chicago and heading to Rothbury to meet up with Greg. I got there late when everyone was already parked, and Greg came strolling up to the front gate with tickets in hand, all smiles. We spent that time seeing great music, and bonding some more face-to-face, as opposed to our usual phone conversations. At some point we realized that the tickets were in fact ALL-ACCESS passes; which allowed us access behind the stages, drinks, lounges and clean bathrooms. We really wish we would have realized that sooner! Josh & Sam, when you get a little older, you’ll have to get in touch with me so I can tell you a funny story from this weekend! :)

Greg loved music. All kinds. Though he had favorite genres, a specific genre was not a requirement for Greg to find the talent within. Within the past year he spoke of going to see a concert with one of his sons (maybe Josh, maybe Sam, maybe both?) and he was SO excited to chat my ear off about his experience there; being turned onto a band by his children. And that’s the thing: he was ALWAYS like that, with everything! If he found something remarkable, he HAD to share it; and when he did, he could barely contain himself as it spewed out of him.

With music so readily available via the internet these days, there really isn’t much of a need to go out and buy albums. Though, every now and then someone puts out an album that can be listened to all the way through, without skipping through the mediocre songs. I probably bought one of these a year, ALL recommended by Greg. He did not disappoint.

The most recent album he recommended was Paul Simon’s ‘So Beautiful or So What’, which Greg declared Simon’s capstone – outshining all other albums. I recall him being particularly enthralled by the fact that the songs that were lyrically “happy,” were “sad” in melody, and vice versa. I LOVED this album immediately (and encourage you to go out and buy it!), as Greg knew I would. I burned copies for everyone I know!

Coincidentally, one of my favorite songs on the album, ‘The Afterlife’ is quite fitting now, and I find myself listening to it over-and-over, thinking of Greg. The song is upbeat and perky. It is about the afterlife, and at points is quite beautiful and a little goofy, too. I’m going to go ahead and cut and paste the lyrics…

"After I died, and the make up had dried, I went back to my place
No moon that night, but a heavenly light shone on my face
Still I thought it was odd, there was no sign of God just to usher me in
Then a voice from above, sugar coated with Love, said, "Let us begin"

You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.
You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.

OK, new kid in school, got to follow the rule, you got to learn the routine
Woah, there's a girl over there, with the sunshiny hair, like a homecomin' queen
I said, "Hey, what you say? It's a glorious day, by the way how long you been dead?"
Maybe you, maybe me, maybe baby makes three, but she just shook her head...

You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.
You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.

Buddha and Moses and all the noses from narrow to flat
Had to stand in the line, just to glimpse the divine, what you think about that?
Well it seems like our fate to suffer and wait for the knowledge we seek
It's all his design, no one cuts in the line, no one here likes a sneak

You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.
You got to fill out a form first, and then you wait in the line.

After you climb, up the ladder of time, the Lord God is near
Face to face, in the vastness of space, your words disappear
And you feel like swimming in an ocean of love, and the current is strong
But all that remains when you try to explain is a fragment of song...

Lord is it, Be Bop A Lu La or Ooh Poppa Do
Lord, Be Bop A Lu La or Ooh Poppa Do
Be Bop A Lu La"

Listening to this song and thinking about Greg, makes me happy. I’ve been crying a lot of the past couple of days, and I’m happy to say that not all of it has been tears of sadness. I’ve found comfort in music Greg turned me on to. I can’t help but listen to this song, this album and others and reflect on how MUCH he INSISTED I get them into my rotation. So passionate!

I’m rambling.

I feel selfish, but I’m so sad that I’ll never hear his voice again. I can hear him in my head, clear as day, though. And his laugh…I don’t imagine I’ll forget that. His crass comments peppered throughout a conversation (or at the very least, closing out a conversation), never made for a dull moment, and ALWAYS had me laughing regardless of what was going on in our lives. I will miss our conversations. I will miss his insight. Wisdom. Oh and the goofy stuff he’d stay at the most ridiculous and inappropriate times – the stuff I wanted to slap him for saying – I’ll miss that most of all.

Greg is the first REAL friend that I’ve lost over the years. The first person that I’ve shared a lifelong bond with. I’ve lost family members and acquaintences in the past, but it’s so – obviously – not the same. It’s a really special thing when two people can connect and share this kind of awe-inspiring bond mostly via phone calls and the internet. To have someone you’ve spent a handful of days with, but still, the both of you regularly go out of your way for the other…that’s somethin’ else. And believe me, I wasn’t the only one that shared this with him - from out East, to down in Texas, to California and all points in between.

I’m not feeling incredibly articulate right now. I guess I’m still in the place where I’m quite sad and angry. I’m sad I never got to say goodbye. I’m just sad.

The world lost a really special individual…and too soon.

I love you, Greg. xoxox
, comment by safetymeeting
safetymeeting Sorry everyone to hear of your loss of a great friend. RIP, bizarro world "Antelope Greg".
, comment by RadicalDogJohn
RadicalDogJohn Just to be accurate, Greg Starks and Gregory "Antelope Greg" Phelps are two entirely different people.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown @phtreehugger -- you might not have felt eloquent while writing that, but please be assured that you were.

Thanks.
, comment by turtledb
turtledb I never met the man; but he sounds like someone we should all aspire to be like.
, comment by phtreehuggr
phtreehuggr Man, just seeing this again. What a guy! Not a day goes by that I still don't think of Greg. He was one-of-a-kind!

After Greg died his sister Melanie and I exchanged information at his memorial service. I drove from Chicago to Lansing > Lansing to Chicago in one day, which was probably equal to the total time I spent with Greg in real life. That's the kind of impact he had on me (and others). People made the trek regardless of the fact that the bulk of their relationship was spent online or over the phone. We got up on the stage, told stories, bawled in front of strangers and his family, shared together afterwards etc. All while Phish was playing MSG! Man, I'm not sure if he was rolling over in his grave due to the fact that his family planned his memorial during a Phish run, and the majority of his buddies couldn't attend, or if he was dancing up above! Thinking it was the latter!

Anyway, flashback to before Greg died. He told me that he'd always find a way to share the most worthy album with me, no matter what. After he died I corresponded with Melanine via e-mail. She told me that Greg spent his last days listening to Van Morrisson's Astral Weeks. And so with that, another amazing album was handed to me by Greg! Greg, found a way to deliver another incredible album to me. One that could be listened to all the way through, without skipping a song. It remains one of - EASILY - my top 3 albums of all time.

A year after that I stumbled across some VERY old Fleetwood Mac live recordings that Greg sent me. Before Fleetwood Mac was the Fleetwood most people know and love. I never listened to them when he sent them. BnPs! I listened to them that year. Loved them. Duh. Greg managed to deliver two albums, in two years, after his death! My mom died two years after Greg died. She loved Fleetwood, so these blues, Fleetwood recordings were beyond special to me.

Don't want to be too lengthy, but I want to add that somehow Greg has provided another album in 2015. Still waiting on the album for 2016! I have a feeling they're going to keep on keepin' on!
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