Paul Pacheco passes July 20, 2009
Obituary written by Brian Hollander and Tom Pacheco for The Woodstock Times
We all knew Paul was dying. And though he’d practically risen from the dead twice already, it seemed like he wasn’t going to make it again. But he rallied one final time, rose from his dying self once more and somehow drove himself to Woodstock to play a gig, one last one (though we didn’t admit it at the time) with his brother Tom at the Colony Café. And he was his same serene self in the two or three days he got to spend in the town he loved, giving little hint of the pain he must have been feeling; unselfconscious, though he was thin and had lost much of the luxuriant white hair he had come to sport. We sipped some whiskey at a rehearsal at Tom’s house, and played the show the next day. A beautiful night ensued, as many in the crowd had come from far flung places to see Paul as much as to hear Tom’s masterful songs, and though there was no such acknowledgement at the time, to say a farewell. He played that Memorial Day weekend night with a soaring grace, a musician’s fine touch, and then slipped quietly out of town, again driving himself back to New Jersey, to his sister’s house, where he quietly passed away on July 20, one year later, to the day, after another guitar playing brother, Artie Traum — Brian Hollander
His brother Tom writes:
Paul Pacheco was born on December 8, 1947 and raised for his first four years on a little farm on the coast of Massachusetts. Later the family moved to a house by a harbor built in 1774. He loved the sea and spent a lot of time on his motor boat, The Swan, cruising the coastlines of New England, sometimes stopping and fishing as the sun was going down, seagulls above him in the darkening tangerine sky. It was here, I think he found the most peace in his life. One of his greatest joys was sitting on a rock at a beach feeding bread to dozens of ducks and swans that could sense in his quiet calm, a friend.
He was a gifted musician, playing both the bass and guitar and in 1966 we put a band together called the Raggamuffins and moved to Greenwich Village, New York. He was 18 and I was 19. We played the Café Wha?, opening often for Jimi Hendrix and his band, then called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Sometimes Paul would play bass with Jimmy (Jimi) when Jimmy’s bass player didn’t show up, which was often — most likely recovering from a bad acid trip.
The day Chas Chandler came down to the club and talked Jimi into going to England, assuring him he would become a star, Jimi asked Paul if he would go with him, but the draft board was breathing down Paul’s neck. Viet Nam was raging and FBI agents were showing up, checking for draft dodgers at every village café, apartment and nightclub, like Pinkerton agents. Paul declined the offer because he was worried they would catch him as he boarded the plane.
Eventually they did catch up to him and he was drafted in January 1968, a month before the Tet offensive. I drove him to the army bus where young boys, soon to become cannon fodder, were lined up, headed for basic training. The last song Paul heard on my car radio as he was about to enter that forlorn line was Cream, “Sunshine of Your Love.”
An angel must have been watching over him because he never was sent to Vietnam, though he spent time at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, training as an artillery spotter. Artillery spotters in Vietnam had a life expectancy of about six hours in combat.
He was honorably discharged in December 1969 and moved to California where he married and worked for a vitamin company by day and hung out with Hell’s Angels at night. He was offered a job playing bass with John Lee Hooker in Oakland and spent some months with John.
Paul told me a funny story about John, who the younger band members called Pops. John Lee was flirting with a young sexy hippie woman after on particular gig and upon leaving the club at the end of a show, Paul said “Goodnight, Pops.” The next day John Lee saw Paul and angrily told him “When I’m chasing pussy, don’t you ever call me Pops.”
(DROP CAP) Paul moved around a lot, got divorced, married again and lived in Florida, where he hade a name for himself as a professional scuba diver, exploring old sunken wrecks, once finding a few Spanish gold Dubloons and a rare black pearl. He told me he would often swim with sharks and barracuda, but was never bothered by them.
As the years passed he lived in Utica, New York, back to Florida and then to Fall River, Massachusetts, across the street from Lizzie Borden’s old house, that he always swore was haunted. When it thundered at night, he could hear the crack of an axe, 40 times and 40 more.
During those decades, we rarely saw each other as I was moving around a lot, too, and living in Texas, Woodstock, Greenwich Village, LA, Nashville and a decade in Ireland. But we wrote or called each other frequently.
He never played on stage again except once when he surprised me at a show in Mount Tremper in 1984 and I asked if he wanted to sit in with me and my band and of course he played as thought he had never stopped playing. The crowed loved him.
(DROP CAP) In early summer, 2005, I got a phone call from my sister, Susie, that he was rushed to a hospital in Boston, near death. A diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer was given and he was in a coma. He spent three and a half weeks in that coma as doctors frantically tried to save him. I remember standing at his bedside, looking at him, his body connected to tubes and machines. I wrote a song at his bedside, called “Hang on Little Brother.”
He woke up a few days later and spent the entire summer in that hospital slowly regaining his strength, his cancer in remission.
When he was discharged, I talked him into moving to Woodstock and we began playing together again on recordings and on stage. He met a woman, Marian, and they moved to a house in Saugerties. He seemed happy. He loved Woodstock and the many friends he quickly made while he was here.
And then in the summer of 2008, the cancer returned, the pain draining him of his spirit and energy. He stayed with me for a few weeks and then moved to our sister Susie and her husband Vern’s house on a beautiful lake in New Jersey, where he would sit by the water and feed the ducks and swans just as he did as a young boy in Massachusetts. They took great care of him and the house was filled with love. When I’d come to visit, we would sit and eat together and talk or just be silent when the pain and weariness overwhelmed him, and I’d watch him fall asleep, his once strong body now so thin and frail. I think by now we had said all that could be said. We both knew what was coming and neither of us mentioned it, as if by not speaking of the inevitable, we could somehow delay or deny it.
I remember him waking up and attempting to walk, but by now the cancer had entered his bones. I waked to the side of his chair and helped him stand and he said “are you sure you can lift me?” and I looked at him, then turned my head briefly to the side so he couldn’t see the tears in my eyes, but I know he did, and I said, “Paul, you’re not heavy, you’re my brother…”
(DROP CAP) Paul leaves behind his sister Susie, his sister Donna, his sister Patty and his brother Tom; brothers-in-law Vern, Tony, John and sister-in-law Annie. Two nieces, Holly and Nicole, and a nephew Ryan.
Yes, he leaves us behind. But one day we will all catch up to him…
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