My Ode to Greg Ham

Aging can be both a curse and a blessing. It’s a curse, because with every year that goes by its another year closer to death. However, it can also be a blessing due to the countless memories that we posses. In my life, as I age, I can always rely on the memories of my childhood. It’s a time in all of our lives that reflects purity, and a time of a certain level of naïvety. The people who know me very well (not many) know that I am a very big Jimi Hendrix fan. Most of the people in this Country know who he is. Jimi Hendrix transformed music. I will forever love him, but my taste in music well exceeds the limits of Jimi. Many people don’t know Greg Ham by name, but they do know who he is. Greg Ham was the saxophonist, flutist, keyboardist for the 80’s rock group Men At Work. Greg joined the group in 1972; the year in which I was born. Ten years later, Men At Work would release one of their biggest hits “Down Under”. I know this song very well, because I fell in love the second I heard it on the radio. I just fell in love with all the elements of the song–The weird lyrics, the flute riff and later on the music video. It is important to remember that this was the time before the internet. This was the time before free downloads. I lived half of my teen years without internet, which meant I didn’t have MTV. They actually played music videos back then. No, the only way I could watch the video was to tune in on Saturday Nights to “Solid Gold”. “Solid Gold” was a weekly top ten music countdown show. I would sit two feet from the television set with my finger hovering over the record button on my tape recorder. As soon as “Down Under” would come on I would record it off the television set so I could play it over and over and over. Their second song was “Who Can It Be Now”. It was another song I would spend my Saturday night’s trying to record. Both of those songs came off their album titled “Business As Usual”. The Song “Who Can It Be Now” was the song that forever changed my life. It was Greg Ham’s smooth style of playing that made me want to play the Saxophone. I begged my mother to buy me their album. It took her 6 months to buy it for me, but when I got it I kept it for 20 years. I also begged for a saxophone, but that was after I was shot down for a set of drums. I managed to get my drum set, but my sax was cooler. I remember showing off to anyone that wanted to listen by playing the opening riff to “Who Can It Be Now”. It’s a simple B flat, F, F sharp, C sharp, F sharp, F riff, but people don’t know that. They just think it’s cool to hear a familiar sound coming out the horn. Greg Ham played so many instruments. I think that is why I can play so many instruments.

I never knew the man by his name. I just referred to Greg as, “the sax guy from Men At Work”. The other day I decided to break out my tenor sax. I tried playing that signature song, and something was bothering me. I tried Googling “Men At Work sax player” to find his name. Instead, I got “Men At Work saxophonist, Greg Ham, found dead”. I was stunned. It was as if I lost my brother or close friend. What is shocking is that I never really thought about him over the years. The time I did think about him, however, was a week after his death.

He was found dead, in his home, in Australia on April 19, 2012. This is sad, but getting back to the whole blessing and curse that aging gives us. It is often a different story with celebrities/rock stars. Greg was 58 when he died, but he will forever be remembered as that energetic 28 year-old that brought joy to so many, and motivated so many to do what he once had done–spreading joy through music. That is how Greg Ham should be remembered.