Jeff Hanson singing "This Time It Will" in Los Angeles in 2007

As you've no doubt already heard or read, 31-year-old songwriter Jeff Hanson's parents

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A Eulogy for Jeff Hanson

Jeff Hanson singing "This Time It Will" in Los Angeles in 2007

As you've no doubt already heard or read, 31-year-old songwriter Jeff Hanson's parents found Hanson dead at his St. Paul home on Friday night, most likely of an accident involving the concrete floor of his new apartment. But that statement doesn't begin to encompass how much he meant to his friends and family, nor does it touch upon how much his music meant to me and all of his other fans.

The worst part is, I was planning on going to see his last show in Seattle. But then I got lazy and decided to stay home because I was tired from the weekend and the show was on a Monday. We've all done it. But that's a decision I'm going to regret for the rest of my life. The whole tragic incident brings back memories of the untimely death of another Kill Rock Stars songwriter-- one whose music not only helped me survive high school without slashing myself to pieces, but later, as a music journalist, makes me feel like it's always worth sifting through 10,000 crappy singer/songwriters if I'm ever able to find just one like him.

As you've probably already surmised, that person was Elliott Smith, and Jeff Hanson was, in my estimation, one of the few who matched Smith's skill and made my heart swell the same way it did the first time I ever heard Either/Or. When Smith died, I was 18 years old, and I'd been planning to see his most recent show in Portland before I found out that-- big shocker, right?-- it was 21 and over. Not long after that, I found out he was dead. I will never forget where I was or what I was doing on that night: sitting on my shitty little college porch with my friend Eric, chain-smoking cigarettes and crying for him, for everyone who knew him, and for the art the world had lost. That I felt like I had lost. It was the first time I ever shed tears over the death of a person I'd never met. It didn't happen again until David Foster Wallace committed suicide, six years later. I never got to see him in person, either.

Therefore, I beseech all of you: if you love an artist's music, go see them live, and go see them often. Even if they come to town what seems like every two weeks, or live in Seattle and play a show every other week. Because while you think there might be a next time...there may not be. Accidents happen. Horrible, senseless tragedies happen. While I am mostly sad for Jeff Hanson's family and friends-- for the people who knew him well-- I am also selfishly, and yet undeniably, sad for myself and for every other Jeff Hanson fan who's been denied the pleasure of seeing him sing his beautiful songs in person. We'll miss you, Jeff. The world was a better place when you-- and your music-- were in it.

 
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