Thankful for the Blues: A Small Tribute to Jason Molina

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Roll the moon over my heart
Roll my heart out with the tide

Musician Jason Molina, who died this past weekend of organ failure due to extreme alcoholism, was truly blue. Praised for his croon and his deeply affecting lyrics, Molina sang his blues and sang them well, perfecting the art of sadness.

Magnolia Electric Co. and Songs: Ohia were among the aliases under which he recorded. Both the magnolia and the ohia are plant species producing among the most brilliant display of flowers, a true testament to the aching beauty of Molina’s music. He sang songs of both attempted hope: While you were waiting for me not to call / I sent my love / I sent my love and utter gloom: I have to work hard to suffer alone / I have to work hard to be so alone.

Molina never achieved the status of say, someone like Elliott Smith. I compare them not because they are both no longer with us, but because they were both obviously battling some genuine demons, seeking solace somewhere between this world and the next. I don’t believe either Smith or Molina was out for fame of any kind, but rather, it was urgent they create music for their own self-preservation. And it just so happened they were good at it.


It is not easy to lose someone of such talent. Regardless of the fact that we did not know Molina personally, we had a glimpse into his life through his music. When I read the news of his passing, I looked at my arms and watched the hairs rise, a bodily reaction. Immediately, I thought of a good friend of mine from home who I knew would be distraught and texted him. He, of course, had already heard and confirmed he had been terribly upset. It almost sounds silly to grieve for someone you don’t know, especially a minor celebrity. But we are emotional beings and when something that means a lot to us is shaken, we are affected and we cry. It’s as simple as that.

When I hear Molina’s music, I hear an afflicted soul putting whatever light he can into a guitar and pushing it out to sea for us and for that I am grateful. Since his label, Secretly Canadian, announced his death, his music has been filling my empty San Francisco apartment as I write. It’s a strange thing, a haunting thing, to hear the words of someone who just a week ago had a heart beating on this warm Earth and now will soon be buried within it. I will probably listen to more Songs: Ohia in days to come and then I will move on to something else by a different artist. I’ll listen to some dance music on Friday evening as I get ready to go have drinks with friends and then I’ll turn the music off and head out. But there is someone, maybe in Seattle or Lisbon, who will decide to stay in, and they’ll put on a Magnolia Electric Co. record or a Songs: Ohia record. And someone else in Vancouver will do the same. And the records will keep spinning and the tides will keep rolling.