I lost a good friend this weekend.
His name was Harvey Luckman. He passed away on Saturday, March 15th in his home in Riverdale, NY after a tough battle with cancer. He was 60 years young with a heart of gold and a rock and roll soul.
We met under less than auspicious terms, when my little Land Rover Freelander broke down and I needed a mechanic. My wife had been searching Manhattan dealers, notorious for their exorbitant rates for car repairs. She explained how she just had gotten off the phone with some guy named Harvey, who made her feel strangely comfortable, sounded like he knew what he was talking about and oddly didn’t sound like a crook.
Harvey knew cars. He had been dealing with them for over forty years and at one time had the exclusive Rolls Royce service repair shop for all of Manhattan back in the early Eighties.
The day I walked into Harvey’s crowded little service booth inside a garage filled with Land Rovers, Rolls Royces, Bentleys and other fine exotic cars, the first thing I noticed while waiting for him to get off the phone, was the screensaver on his computer of the Led Zeppelin reunion concert back in ’07, where they performed in honor of the late great founder of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun. The second thing I noticed was his disheveled Yankees hat, blue blazer and Marshall Amplifiers T-shirt, tucked inside it along with his salt and pepper stubble and glasses.
This was Harvey’s uniform. A fashion statement that walked the tightrope between having to deal with wealthy Upper East New Yorkers in need of repairs for their ultra luxury rides and a rock and roll spirit that he openly wore on his sleeve for all to see. He was a real character. A true New Yorker.
When he got off the phone, holding his head and complaining of a wicked hangover, I casually asked him if he had been to the reunion concert. Suddenly, he lit up and launched into an indepth story about how he had indeed flown overseas on a total whim to see the only reunion concert Zeppelin would ever play that yielded the recent DVD, Celebration Day. Harvey wondered how I knew so much about Led Zeppelin.
And so began our relationship built on cars and rock and roll. He would learn that I had toured with rock stars and was a music producer. I would learn that he was hungover from playing a late gig with his band, where he proceeded to get way too fucked up.
About a year and a half later, after getting to know Harvey for all the wrong reasons (my car was in for constant repairs) I would return to him in total despair after blowing my motor and having to hear him explain how it was a total loss and not worth the expense of trying to rebuild a new motor.
That also turned out to be the same day his music partner showed up at the shop to talk about an important meeting they had that evening, when they would choose a music producer to record their album of original music. The band was called Hoffman School. This was a lifelong dream for Harvey. Having a band of his own and an album he could be proud to play for people. He was really excited.
While trying to console me, the lightbulb suddenly went off and he remembered I was a music producer and did I want to check out the band? Long story short, I did and ended up getting the gig and eventually my car back too with a fresh new motor.
You could read the full story here. I had written a previous post on the bizarre circumstances that I would find my next album project as a result of that chance meeting.
Harvey was now paying me as a professional to do what I do, making records for bands. Yet, he would regularly stop everything and invite me out for an evening at B.B. King’s nightclub, where he held court regularly, whenever a great act was passing through. He would take care of everything and always wanted to make sure I got plenty to eat and drink. He was a true mench.
It’s hard to believe I had so much emotion at the service today for someone I only knew for a very brief period, maybe a couple few years at best. But with Harvey, you became family instantly when you got to know him. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for you. He called everyone brother, but rather than the throwback to the Sixties lingo that was just his vibe, Harvey really believed we were all connected brothers and sisters.
So here’s to you, Harvey. You awoke the child in me who was always a diehard rock and roll fan and reaffirmed my own belief that rock and roll will heal your soul.
I hope you’re up there on that big stage in heaven right now, jamming with Bonzo and Jimi and all the rest of ’em with that shit eating grin on your face.
Play on brother!
P.S. It was a frigid day in March as we all stood outside the funeral home, cursing the endless winter and shaking our heads at how quickly fates can turn and lives can come to a sudden end. As I exchanged hugs and walked away, crossing the street on 76th & Amsterdam where just a block down the street The Allman Brothers were holding court for their annual string of March shows at the Beacon Theater, a young dude was approaching from the other direction. His coat was wide open, which seemed odd when everyone else was all bundled up trying to avoid the cutting wind. My eyes were immediately drawn to his black T-shirt. A vintage Led Zeppelin ’77 tour shirt with the winged man emblazoned across it, symbol of Zeppelin’s own Swan Song record label. I couldn’t help but smile, knowing Harvey must have thrown that one in there just to let me know he was smiling down from that big stage in the sky.