Beneﬁt for Dave Harding at Belly Up Aspen tonight
ASPEN – Motorcycles have given music some memorable songs – Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” Neil Young’s “Motorcycle Mama,” Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” – and motorcycles have taken their toll on music, most notably in the deaths of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, both of the Allman Brothers Band.Local musician Dave Harding credits his motorcycle not for a song, not for something tragic, but for his life. In December, Harding was putting his 1200cc Honda Shadow away for the winter. But the kickstand wasn’t properly engaged, the bike fell on him, and Harding injured his hamstring. While being put through some medical exams, his doctor asked, “How long have you had that heart murmur?”In fact, Harding had no idea about his heart murmur. But the more significant response to the question would have been that Harding wouldn’t have had the murmur for much longer. After more tests, a genetic disorder – bicuspid aortic stenosis – was diagnosed. Harding’s aortic valve had two flaps instead of the normal three, and the shortage had caused stress on the flaps that were there.”They were worn out. They’d been overworked,” Harding said. Surgery to implant a mechanical valve was performed in late May, and when Harding woke up, he found out just how severe his condition had been. The surgeon estimated that, without surgery, he’d have lived another two weeks.”This is the first time I’ve ever heard of a motorcycle saving someone’s life,” Harding said.Then came the customary next hit: medical bills. So Harding, a guitarist, singer and songwriter who has been a prominent part of the valley’s music community for 20 years, has turned to his mates and bandmates to help raise money to cover his expenses. A Rock ‘n’ Roll Benefit is set for 6 p.m. today at Belly Up; topping the bill is the newly formed Zipper Club Band, featuring Harding and two other local musicians – singer-guitarist Bobby Mason and saxophonist Bryan Savage – who have had heart surgery.The event also will include sets by Dan Sheridan, Starwood and two more acts that include Harding: H4, which also features Harding’s wife, bassist Amy Hawes; and Estes & Harding, the duet with singer-guitarist Dave Estes that was a regular aprs-ski attraction through the ’90s. A silent auction will include guitars signed by Dave Matthews and Yes singer Jon Anderson. Raffle prizes include a $1,000 recording session at Aspen’s Great Divide Studios.Despite still recovering from the surgery – he needs help hauling his gear – Harding had a busy summer of playing weddings and corporate gigs. He isn’t certain whether the death scare has resulted in an enhanced appreciation of music.”Music’s always been very powerful for me,” the 59-year-old said. “I knew as a kid, this type of communication hits people of any age, any ethnic group, on a very meaningful level. But I suspect something will come up. And playing with these guys” – Mason and Savage, both of whom he has known for years and played with occasionally – “maybe something will come of that.”On the emotional level, Harding says he is touched by the response from friends who have come to his aid. “It’s humbling, big time,” he said. “I’ve played a million of these events, but this is the first time I’m on the receiving end, and it’s amazing. I don’t think you get this kind of support in other places.”Unlike with some musicians, Harding’s heart injuries weren’t self-inflicted. His condition was genetic. “Growing up, all the drug stuff scared the hell out of me. I stayed away from it,” he said. “Music was business for me. And fun.”So when, over the past few years, Harding began feeling a little slowed down and less energetic, he didn’t suspect damage to his body. “I figured it was just getting old,” he said.Now Harding looks forward to a few more decades of getting older. His doctor has told him he doesn’t expect to see Harding for three decades; his replacement valve should last that long.”The bottom line is early detection,” Harding said.
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