Wednesday, December 7, 2016

USA/BOOK: “OLD FRIENDS ARE THE BEST FRIENDS” The Letters of John McKee and Mike Metheny

The Letters of
John McKee and Mike Metheny

“John McKee was a force. And he is one of the major reasons I became the musician I am now. To this day he remains one of the most important and unique personalities
I have ever known.”
– Pat Metheny (from the “Foreword”)

“Even though these letters were written more than 25 years ago, they still prove that two people can disagree sharply about serious social issues yet remain the best of friends. We could use more of that kind of thinking today.”
– Mike Metheny

“It’s not a jazz book. It’s a life book,
suitable either for browsing or a long, steady read.”
– Doug Ramsey (“Rifftides”)
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         John McKee and Mike Metheny grew up in a Kansas City suburb called Lee's Summit. As children of the l950s and '60s, they, along with other members of a tightly knit group of friends, shared rites of passage and savored life in small-town Missouri.
         As adults, John and Mike went their separate ways – Mike to Boston to pursue a career as a professional musician and teacher, John never leaving Lee's Summit or the family lumber business – but they remained in touch with a written correspondence that lasted over ten years.  It was a dialogue that evolved into an open-ended forum for a wide range of thoughts and opinions, a conversation-by-mail about everything from impressions of different books, movies and pieces of music, to their opposing views about religion and politics.
         In the late 1980s, their letters increased in frequency and intensity, and just about any subject was considered fair game. Childhood reflections, former girlfriends, current events, philosophical considerations and observations, the poignant, soul-searching and occasionally humorous accounts that come from everyday living... few topics were off limits. It was a cross-country "tennis match" that caused a decades-old friendship to remain rock-solid to the end.
         This correspondence did come to a close with John McKee's final installment written the day before his unexpected death. It was a last letter – handed to Mike by the minister at John's funeral – that served as a powerful if not prophetic summing up of this prolific postal discourse.
         And it was a bookend to a life that had touched so many others.