Alexander Cockburn is our Tarnished Gold

“Don’t cry, the joy is in remembering, what you have always been.” – Beachwood Sparks, The Tarnished Gold

There is a comfortable familiarity that returns when you recall memories of old friendships. It’s a familial reunion or sorts – years may have passed but no matter where you are in life, it’s as if not much has really changed. That’s the feeling that is rekindled in the songs of The Tarnished Gold, the new album by the psychedelic folk band Beachwood Sparks.

As the the news that our pal Alexander Cockburn passed away buzzed through my phone late on a Friday evening, Chelsea and I were kicking back, gazing up at the desert sky just outside the majestic Joshua Tree National Park. We were preparing to battle the steam and heat to catch Beachwood Sparks open for Chris Robinson Brotherhood down the road the following day at Pappy and Harriet’s.

When the weight of his death sunk in, and the beers and tequila flowed, The Tarnished Gold trickled out of tiny speakers on repeat. The echoes of Gram Parsons inspired harmonies and guitar tones reverberated throughout our quaint adobe bungalow. Parsons, as it’s well known, overdosed in Joshua Tree at the ripe age of 26. His desert spirit is still alive there.

So too is Alex’s for me.

I always considered Alex to be an ally and a friend. Even though we battled over his qualms with manmade climate change and other, more trivial matters, he was there to protect and defend his friends. Alex helped me find my voice as a writer, as he did for so many other young journalists. He challenged us. He made us think. He was an eccentric intellectual that loved life. I miss him.

Great music evokes feelings and memories and The Tarnished Gold will forever be the soundtrack that reminds me of the night we lost Alex. We are lucky that his words and critical lens will always be with us, to encourage us, to propel us forward with a smile. He is our tarnished gold.

 Beachwood Sparks plays the LA Folk Festival on August 3, 4. Photo of Alexander Cockburn by Tao Ruspoli.

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