This commentary is a contribution from Caroline Wright, in response to a number of comments to our previous articles about Tony Rice’s financial difficulties, which suggest that he was unworthy of such assistance.
Friends and neighbors and fellow guitar lovers, I’m Caroline Wright, Tony’s official biographer, and a friend of Tony and Pam Rice. In that capacity, and as somebody who knows them both about as well as anybody could, I’m writing this to tell you that their need is very real. If you’re on the fence about contributing, or if you think that this fundraising effort is exploitative or offensive in any way, please read on.
Tony Rice doesn’t have a bunch of fancy sports cars; he does not live in a mansion; he isn’t surrounded by luxury. Though I will not disrespect his privacy by sharing intimate details of his personal life, I will tell you that he lives in very, very humble circumstances.
Tony’s a man who has earned his living, all his life, making extraordinary, life-changing art with his hands and his voice, such fragile instruments. And because of a number of tragic events and situations in his life, any one of which would be devastating and career-halting, he is now in a place where he could really use a little help from the people whose lives have been touched by his music.
What happens to the aging typist with arthritis in his hands? It hurts to type, and it takes longer, but he can still do it, sitting at his desk in his private space.
But what happens to the aging musician, who makes his living with his body in a very public way? He begins to drop picks and drop notes, in a very public way. Audiences notice. Promoters notice. It is not something that is ignored or forgiven or forgotten. And it only gets worse with age. And that’s only the beginning.
This isn’t something a lot of people think about: the fates of aging and disabled musicians when they are unable, temporarily or permanently, to make music. Stephen Foster, Scott Joplin, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Billie Holiday, Townes van Zandt… all of them died penniless and early. Could any of us who know and appreciate their musical legacies have ignored an opportunity to help any one of them?
And I’d ask you this: Did Tony Rice’s music move you deeply? Did it inspire your own music, your own voice? Did it touch, or even save, your life?
Feel free to stop reading now, if you’ve answered these questions in the negative. This appeal will have no meaning for you. But if Tony’s music has been a big part of your life, as it has been for so many people, I’d ask you to imagine your hero – any hero, somebody you really care about — in a fairly grim, heartbreaking life situation, without the resources or physical ability to dig himself out. Again, as somebody who knows the Rices pretty well, I can assure you that their need is VERY real. If you knew them personally, if you only knew how private they are, and how proud, you’d understand how urgent their need has become, to compel them to reach out for help.
I went on the road with Tony Rice a couple of times. As he has done for years, he drove himself to all his gigs – long, punishing road trips with a few hours’ restless sleep in a motel here and there. So many intense and solitary miles, so much work and time and focus to get to that bit of spotlight before a curious and demanding audience. I saw firsthand what it cost him, physically and emotionally, to give you, and me, and all of us, that incredible, magical, unforgettable music.
As an aging artist with some very serious health and personal challenges, Tony is at a starkly critical place in his life, where his future – his so-called “golden years” – are in peril. Does that sound a little drastic? I want you to know that I intended it so. If he somehow touched your life with his music, please know that just a little bit of help will make a huge difference in the life of Tony Rice.
Thanks for listening.
P.S. Yep, Tony still has the Antique, the legendary 1935 Martin D-28 formerly owned by Clarence White. And if you think he should sell it, then I just don’t know what to say to you. It’s so much more than just wires and wood. You might as well ask him to sell his heart.
Editor’s note… anyone wishing to contribute to the Tony Rice fund can do so by clicking the button below, or by sending a check (made out to Tony Rice) to:
Tony Rice Foundation/Pinkham
PO Box 914
Odessa, FL 33556