Egon Remembers Monty Stark

Egon | Dec. 2, 2009 | News |

The last time I spoke with Monty, I knew something was wrong. It was the summer of 2008 and I called him to explain that the license I’d brokered for the reissue of the Stark Reality’s music had expired and I wanted to renew. Though he picked up the phone when I called, he could barely offer a hoarse whisper. I asked him if email was better and he responded in the affirmative. I said goodbye, I’ll email you later. He hung up without reply.

We completed updated licensing agreements; it took some time as he’d run out of ink for his printer and had to go to the store to get some. At one point, he sent an email that said “As always, I trust you to handle things as fairly as possible, and very much appreciate all you’ve done for me.” My heart broke. Monty always spoke with great efficiency. He never said more than he had to. I knew that this was some sort of sign, but I couldn’t figure how to pry. What could I say? He hadn’t offered anything. He was a very private man, a man I considered a friend, but one who made it clear that there were boundaries that existed, questions that, even asked, would go unanswered.

I left him alone, emailing him when something of interest came up, and he often responded, though with increasing brevity.

When I received an email from an unknown address with the subject “Monty Stark” today, I knew he had passed away. And my heart broke again.

Monty Stark loved music. He loved his wife, Mamie Lee. He loved his son Monty, Jr. He preferred dark sunglasses when he was outside of his often-darkened apartment but he had lovely, lively eyes that shone with a youthful exuberance that belied his years. He once blamed marijuana for “leaving him in a constant state of being eighteen years old.” That made me laugh.

When I contacted him in 2001 to discuss reissuing his masterpiece, The Stark Reality Discovers Hoagy Carmichael’s Music Shop, he was amused – perplexed, even – but not defensive or confrontational or worried in the way that many musicians are when I first explain to them my intentions to repackage and attempt to renew interest in recordings from a bygone era. He welcomed me to his apartment in Phoenix and entertained me and two friends as we prodded around his past for answers to that most confounding, beautiful music.

He was supportive and conciliatory when I bickered with my partners about the way to present his music and his band’s history. When I was in Brasil in the fall of 2002, wondering why I was so attached to this music, why I was so willing to fight for – what I thought was – the best way to present it, emails we shared showed me why. He was a kind, giving, gentle man who wanted – more than seeing his music released again, I felt – me to feel good about the process that I was personally undertaking as I grew more and more attached to The Stark Reality.

He visited LA when we finally issued our anthology, Now, after he cleared the use of his band’s music for interludes on a Madvillain release (for no charge other than a “Thanks Monty” inscribed in the dead wax of the vinyl), after he realized that there were leagues of new fans interested in not only The Stark Reality, but Monty Stark the man. I’ll never forget our record release party, at the now-defunct Star Shoes on Hollywood and Cosmo, as I stood next to Monty on the club’s small dance floor (he, as always, behind those dark shades), as J.Rocc plugged his headphones into the microphone jack on the mixer and exhorted the crowd to give props to the man who had created the fuzz-soaked “Dreams” he was playing; I felt overwhelmed with pride, intoxicated by music, and so happy to be in the presence of that shy, quiet, giant of a man, Monty Stark.

The Black Eyed Peas soon sampled a Stark Reality song and forgot to clear it. Though Stones Throw, on the band’s behalf, retroactively cleared the song for pennies on the dollar, that clearance helped keep the lights on for two years. Those were difficult years that lead up to the death of J.Dilla in 2006. Monty wrote me an email shortly after Dilla passed:

“aware of what the Stones Throw crew is going through, (i count myself a member), let me tell you: Geordie Hormel, age 77, passed away on the 12th, and my father, age 96, on the 13th.

no need to send regrets. i know you care.”

I write this in Brooklyn, a few thousand miles away from my copy of the Stark Reality album, a hundred miles from where Monty’s music first melted my brain some fifteen years ago, and, in a state of sadness and inability to convey the magnitude of the loss we’ve all suffered.

Link: More information, photos and music with Monty Stark and information on the Now Anthology at Stones Throw, click here.

16 Responses to “Egon Remembers Monty Stark”

  1. [...] Read Egon’s remembrances of his friend by clicking here. [...]

  2. Phil Clarkson says:

    Thanks Egon – that’s a beautiful and very moving tribute to a remarkable musician. Thanks for caring & for introducing his music to me & many others.

  3. Cool C says:

    Thanks for enriching his life and ours too. Lovely tribute, C (IRELAND )

  4. Ben Webster says:

    Egon/ST thank you guys so much for sharing his music and the memories of him. In looking for all things original in creativity, the Stark Reality is a big brick in that wall. Very Beautiful and Very Moving to say the least.

  5. Kate Livingston says:

    Monty made music that sounds like how I feel on the inside. His vision is rare and full of life’s complexity. He will be missed.

  6. announ says:

    he joined last.fm last year to see whos listening to stark reality. http://www.last.fm/user/MontyLeeStark he really mustve felt inside that hes moving on the the next one soon. love monty & thanks egon for sharing

  7. Didier says:

    Sending a big Thank you to you Monty for all the magical moments i’ve experienced from listening your records. Has been most inspiring ! It lives on! Thank you also Eothen for without the work i wouldnt have heard this great music i had not before.

  8. Mark says:

    Very sad to hear of Monty’s passing. A great musician who will not be forgotten thanks to his great music.

  9. Magu says:

    We’ll always remeber You and your Rocket Ship thanks RIP!!!!!! M (Poland)

  10. [...] This post was Twitted by editaurus [...]

  11. ml stark jr. says:

    Thanks for the touching tribute Egon,my Father was a musical genius, and we were all blessed to be in his presence.

    God bless.

  12. Johannes says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Egon.

    I first heard his music when you released Now in 2003, and found the music to be just.. brilliant. After reading your article on Stark Reality in waxpoetics i asked Monty if I could do an interview with him by e-mail. He answered just a couple of hours later, with long well-written answers on my badly spelled questions. Even if I never met him i understood that he was a very special man.

    A year ago I found an original copy of Stark Reality for just a couple of dollars. The day I found about Monty’s passing I took the LP out and listened to it from beginning to end. It’s a masterpiece that’ll always have a special place in my heart.

    I send my thoughts to his relatives. Love from Malmö, Sweden.
    /Johannes

  13. Jaap says:

    I first heard The Stark Reality years ago in the Stones Throw 101 mix. When PB Wolf dropped “Dreams” into the mix he blew me away and I immediately went to my local record store to find out more. I ordered the “Now” anthology and soaked up every second of it when it finally arrived about a week later.

    Thanks for introducing me to his wonderful music and thanks to Monty Stark for creating it. May he rest in peace.

  14. zynzelay says:

    Thank you for sharing such warm, loving and respectful remembrances. May Mr. Stark’s loved ones be comforted by their warm memories and the beautiful gifts of song he left for us all to enjoy.

  15. iTunes Codes says:

    This is a cool blog and I will be back soon. Thanks for the great message! I hope all is well.

  16. Nice article, I just ran across it going through Propeller. Im a bit late though, I mean months late since you posted lol.

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