For Rick on His Birthday

Written by Rick Danko's long-time publicist Carol Caffin for The Band web site, 12.29.2007.

Rick Danko would have been sixty-four years old today -- or sixty-five, depending on what you read and whom you believe. According to most "official" records, Rick was born on December 29, 1942. His oldest brother, Junior, is adamant that the birth records are wrong and that Rick was born in 1943, and his younger brother, Terry, says that, though he also is sure it was '43, "Rick made himself a year older so that he could drive and do everything else a year earlier."

According to Rick, it varied between the two -- depending on which date suited him better in a given situation. More than once, an adolescent Rick tried to convince his own mother, Leola, that he was a year older than he was. "I think I know when you were born," she reminded him. "I was there!"

Rick Danko, The Lone Star Roadhouse, NY, 1992
Photo copyright © Carol Caffin

What's funny is that Rick had to have known the real date; it was his M.O. to keep people guessing. He had an almost photographic memory -- again, when it suited him. He remembered the names -- or at least the faces, and sometimes, even the back-stories -- of people he'd met just once, in an airport, in a train station, in a hotel lobby, backstage after a show in Germany or Italy or Finland. Yet it wasn't until Rick approached fifty that he himself settled comfortably on 1943 as the year of his birth, telling everyone who wished him happy birthday in 1992 "thanks" but he was "only forty-nine."

It is hard to fathom that tousled-haired boy with the sheepish grin a senior citizen. Whatever age Rick Danko was, "senior" was always a few years off. What would he be like now? The hair would be greyer, maybe even silver, but, I'm sure, always just a bit unkempt. The wit would be just as sharp, the eyes just as sparkly, the smile just as warm, the chuckle just as hearty, the man just as endearing. And of course, there is the music. What would that have been like? That beautiful voice would be just as plaintive, but that much richer, mellower, deeper. The playing -- just as masterful, yet emotional, untethered, intuitive. His harmonies -- other-worldly, as always, in sync with melodies he heard as only he could. Today, at sixty-four -- or sixty-five, or whatever his numerical age -- Rick would be, as he always will be, forever young.