Our Own John Peel

Published 19 years, 6 months past

Until a few weeks ago, I’d never heard of John Peel.  Part of this was due to my never having visited the United Kingdom (though I’ve flown over it a few times), and also to my only glancing familiarity with the “music scene” in general.  The news coverage that followed Peel’s sudden, unexpected death made me aware of both his existence and his love of music.  I felt as though news of a hidden treasure had been exposed for all the world to hear about, just when that unique voice had been forever silenced.

Now it’s my turn to do the same for the world.

This past Friday, the staff members at WRUW recieved word that Harold “Ayche” Freshour, host of “Demolished Sanctuary”, had died unexpectedly at the age of 41.  Harold was, in a lot of ways, our own John Peel.  He possessed an encyclopediac knowledge of music from all genres and periods.  It was very nearly impossible to reference a song that Harold had not heard.  He had his favorite classic groups, but he was also on constant lookout for interesting new artists.  A familiar face on the Cleveland punk scene, one of those guys everyone knew, he wrote a vast number of articles, reviews, and other pieces for music magazines.  It was fairly obvious from the first time I met him that Harold loved music to a degree that few people I’ve ever met could even begin to understand.  As an example of his vast musical knowledge, Harold covered my show a few times, and I heard from my listeners that he’d done a fine job.  Mine is not an easy show to cover—some weeks, I fail to do a good job.

Not only did Harold have that vast store of musical trivia in his head, but he was a truly a kind and wonderful man to boot.  He was forever filling in for other station members when they needed it, helping out around the station with cleaning or organizing, doing production work, and generally contrinbuting to WRUW with a smile.  He was always willing to listen and give advice when another person had a problem.  His was an even keel.

Harold was also deeply enigmatic.  Much of his life was compartmentalized, and many of the things I’ve mentioned in this etnry I have only learned in the days since he died.  I am certain that he touched and was an influence in other arenas, in ways we haven’t yet uncovered.  Perhaps we never will.  I suppose that we never really know how much a person changes the world during their life, but in Harold’s case there is an added layer of mystery.

These things will sort themselves out over time.  For now, I mourn the loss of a truly good man, and bring—though in many ways too late—news of him to the world.  In the end, it is the least I can do for him.

Rest well, Harold.

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