Remembering Bobby Harrison | AspenTimes.com
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Remembering Bobby Harrison

Dear Editor:

I was saddened to learn of the death of my dear, lovely friend, Bobby Harrison.

I had lost contact with Bobby when he was playing in Austria in 1994 and had pursued his whereabouts thereafter in vain. I am saddened to learn that he died in Chicago, as my wife Vivian and I were in Chicago earlier in 2009 and would have given anything to have seen him one more time.

I would deeply appreciate any information about Bobby’s last days in Chicago, where he lived, and what he was doing.

I met Bobby in 1955 when he was studying piano with Isabel Rosen in Danville, Ill. He lived with his adopted father and mother, Robert and Eulalie Harrison, in Georgetown, Ill. He later entered the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana as a piano major, studying with Stanley Fletcher and Soulima Stravinsky, the son of Igor. He possessed a strong classical technique as well as an outstanding ear.

Financial considerations caused him to drop out of the university and relocate to Chicago to begin a career as a piano man in bars and lounges in that city. I followed his career from Chicago to Aspen to Europe. He even lived with me for a time in the summer of 1974 in San Francisco, playing the venue downstairs from my apartment.

Bobby was an extraordinary individual, a black man who was capable of working and living in a very white world while coping with the subtle and not-so-subtle racism of middle America. He was never white enough for the white world and never black enough for the black world. For me, he was always a faithful friend who I could talk to at 3 in the morning if I needed to. He loved me and he loved my family, and we shall never forget him. I miss him dearly even to this day. I hope his final days were tranquil and that he had found the peace in his soul that he so deeply deserved.

Again, I would appreciate any information about Bobby during his last days in Chicago. Please contact me at (510) 525-9215 or vivbill@aol.com.

Bill Roller

Berkeley, Calif.


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