With her boyfriend John McTigue on drums, Jayne did a version of The Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends." She had already been battling cancer for some time, and the song was the perfect shout-out to the community of friends that had embraced her throughout her fight. She strummed a few chords on an acoustic guitar at the beginning, but after struggling to hit the right chords, she gave up the guitar. Instead, she just belted out the song, vocal and drums, as chills went through the crowd. Midway through the song, she removed her wig to reveal her bald head, hairless from round after round of radiation and chemo. It was one of the most touching and electric moments I'd experienced seeing someone perform.
And that was Jayne. Bold, unafraid, open with her pain and struggles, unwilling to let a stupid disease cramp her style. (Shortly after that performance, a benefit show for Jayne at Cabana brought out movers and shakers like Steve Cropper, Raul Malo, Mandy Barnett, Foster & Lloyd, Jim Lauderdale and more. Read Kay West's touching story on the event here.)
Jayne died yesterday evening.
I'd known Jayne for many years, and the evolution of our friendship is kind of amusing when I look back on it. In the first couple of years we knew each other, to be frank, an email or call from Jayne would trigger a bit of anxiety. After all, I was a journalist, and she was a tenacious publicist, so intent on helping out the artists, events and organizations she represented that I knew she wasn't going to give up until she made the absolute best case why the Scene should cover her clients.
For instance, I remember several years ago, when she relentlessly argued for greater coverage for the Americana Music Festival, phone call after lunch after email after phone call. Finally, she convinced us to put it on the cover. In retrospect — and with the hindsight of seeing what a huge success the festival has become, in large part due to her work — it was clearly the right decision, and she knew exactly what she was talking about.
Soon thereafter, I started to develop a real respect and fondness for Jayne, not to mention trust in her opinion. She knew where to pick her battles, and respected us when we had to pass on covering an artist. And I'd start to see her at functions and concerts and such, and we became genuine friends. Not "call each other and hang out" friends, but friends who always took the time to catch up with each other.
After she was diagnosed with cancer, our friendship grew even more. She showed up at some of my band's shows at Family Wash. Just a couple months ago, I played a couple songs at the John Lennon Imagine No Handguns benefit, and I dedicated one to her: "I Dig a Pony," in honor of her lifelong passion for horses. In fact, I had to beg her to stick around till we got onstage, because she needed to get home for meds. I told her I had a surprise for her.
My girlfriend Wendy and I had a couple of long and lovely conversations with her over the past year or two. One such conversation, at a party last summer, was particularly memorable.
It's funny and strange and a little bit twisted how a devastating and deadly disease can seem to magnify the beauty and sweetness of a soul while it's ravaging their body. Anyone who spent time around Jayne during her illness knows that as wonderful as she was in health, she somehow became even more fabulous during her final months, exuding a glow and sense of peace that suggested everything was going to be all right, no matter what the outcome. Of course, I only saw her in public from time to time, and didn't witness the pain and suffering she endured privately. Still, when I saw her, more often than not, I felt like she was comforting me more than I was comforting her.
So I sit here at a computer keyboard at midnight, sad, though a little amused at the irony (an irony that I know Jayne would appreciate): Seven or eight years ago, I dreaded phone calls from a relentless and dedicated publicist named Jayne Rogovin, and here I am tonight, tears rolling down my face because I'll never get a call from her again.
If you're one of Jayne's countless friends and colleagues, and you need a little solace and company, I'm sure you'll find out at the 2012 Love Is Deaf, which takes place tonight at 8 p.m. at Douglas Corner. In fact, when I wrote the Critics' Pick about it last week, Jayne was the centerpiece. Little did I know what the week held in store.