About three days ago, the drummer for one of my favorite bands ever, passed away. Pat Torpey was 64 when he passed on, and while I am not a drummer, I totally dig the way he made the beats that defined himself and anchored Mr. Big’s music. I highly doubt and would argue that the band’s music would be as amazing as it is had Pat not been behind them.
This is one of the very few times that the death of a musician had moved me to tears. I swear, I am not making this up. When I read the news of him passing on over Facebook, and from very reliable sources at that (Pinoy Prog Community), I immediately sprang into action to see and know that he was alive and well. I didn’t want to believe it, but alas the news were all true.
See, he had Parkinson’s disease and that kinda robbed him of his ability to bash away. But the band were such awesome people that even though he was diagnosed many years back, they stuck together as a band, and when the disease had gotten so bad, instead of throwing him away, they got around it by hiring a touring drummer and adding him on shows as a percussionist and occasional singer.
I first saw the band in the flesh in May 2011 for their first show in over decade here in Manila. I remember having to line up for a long period of time, clad in a USMC jacket passed down from an uncle of mine that I chose to wear for that event because it had the flag of Japan on it, a country where Mr. Big was well and truly big. The other reason I chose that jacket was because at the time, I did not own a leather jacket and it looked quite the part sans the actual material.
They were amazing that night, performing all of their classics along with some new material. I remember losing my voice afterwards because of so much shouting and singing along.
I next saw them in Oct 2014, keeping their promise of “We’ll be back!”, and this time around I brought with me my then (now ex) girlfriend, and we even upgraded our tickets from VIP to the one with the meet and greet option, on the spot! By this time, I already owned leather jackets so of course I showed up in leather. It was a shame I didn’t have a photo of just me with the band, but anyway here’s a couple of photos of us with the band.
At the time, the band had already disclosed publicly that Pat was struggling with Parkinson’s disease. I remember being in line with my ex, along with a great majority of Manila’s other, more known guitar players, and I even spotted Fayeed Tan just right in front of us. My ex wanted in mainly because she found Paul Gilbert to be handsome, I was of course in it for the band even if I related most to Paul because, well, guitar player. I remember waiting anxiously in line and when we were up to have our photos taken, I was ecstatic. I remember shaking Paul’s hand, I told him I was a guitar player too and he was like “You definitely look like one!” and we held up our hands and I was “Good lord! No wonder Colorado Bulldog is next to impossible in the positions you play!”. I shook hands with Eric and he was telling us to enjoy the show. Pat was on the sides, and he held his arms in probably to keep himself from shaking up. I shook his hand and told him “Dude, I know you’re fighting. You have to fight this!”, and I swear his smile lit up and he went “Yeah, I will! Definitely!” and then I pulled him in to hug the man. He’s the only one among the guys I hugged, and I wanted him to know that us fans are behind him and the band every step of the way. Of course, I also shook Billy’s hand but he didn’t seem to be very chatty but we did bro fist before we were cattled off by the organizers.
Damn, I feel teary right now and it’s been a couple of days already since Pat had left us.
That show was very special because at that point, Pat’s duties had been largely taken over by Matt Starr, who’s a great guy and a good choice as a touring drummer. Due to Pat’s condition, he was unable to play some of their more complicated songs like “Colorado Bulldog”, and what think to be a signature Pat tune, “Take Cover“, due to its instantly recognizable drum work. However, Pat came out to play when able on the more mellow numbers like “Just Take My Heart”, and also played on the side with some percussion instruments laid out for him, along with singing on a few songs.
That night was such an amazing experience, and the band was such a great collection of musical talent.
Since then, Pat’s condition had worsened although they were still able to work together with Matt permanently sitting on the drums in his place. As how we’d seen them in Manila, Pat was still with the band and you can see on “Defying Gravity” that while Parkinson’s had taken a deep hold on him, he was fighting it and still played with the band. Again, I would like to emphasize just how great the rest of the band is to keep Pat playing with them.
They genuinely seemed to be having fun, and everyone is still hitting on all cylinders, even Pat.
But then, all good things have to come to an end. I never knew Parkinson’s could kill, but it does. It took Pat away from us last February 7th. Until now, the band and its management is still asking for privacy.
I’m still teary eyed at this point. I’m gonna have to cut this short at this point lest I really start crying myself out. Here are some more videos of the band with memorable Pat moments on it.
I’d like to end this with a comment I posted on Billy Sheehan’s page about Pat’s passing.
“Parkinson’s may have taken Pat from us, but his spirit remains forever.”
We love you Pat. Sometime on, we’ll all have to go. It just happened to be that you went on ahead of us. But we’ll all get there, and as I always say, if there is an afterlife, I hope to hear your music and to meet you again.
1953 – 2018