Jack, You Dead

“If you had to pick just one song to play at your funeral, what would you choose?” I asked my friend sitting beside me at the party. We agreed that we would need to give that a lot of thought. But at that moment we were listening to the single song chosen by our friend, Jack, at his “Last Waltz” party (as the invitation his grown children sent out called it.) Jack himself preferred to call it his ‘Not Dead Yet’ party. The song he chose to play was B.B. King’s version of ‘Jack, You’re Dead.’

Our friend Jack wasn’t /isn’t dead yet. He made it to his party, pumped with morphine, sitting in a chair with extra pillows at one end of the bar. His brother and son ran interference for him, inviting friends and relatives attending in small groups or in singles to come have a chat and hold Jack’s light, dry hand for a moment, and then to give him a break when he needed to shift, breathe, drink a little ensure from a straw. His wife and daughter, and son-in-law and daughter-in-law worked the crowd, mingling with all the guests; friends from many spheres of their lives.

Jack took the mic. He didn’t make a long speech. He said he wasn’t a fan of funerals, and preferred to get people together when he could be there, too. He asked everyone to cherish the people in their lives, to reunite with someone here today, and to have a chat with someone new.

Jack has led quite an accomplished life, working for his community in ways large and small. But these words were the legacy he wanted to leave for all of us.

These few words and the song- ‘Jack, You’re Dead.’ In the din of the bar and with bad acoustics I couldn’t hear the lyrics, but I imagine we all found the song later to have a close listen.

Here are two verses that I hope will explain Jack’s (somewhat shocking) choice of song to you:


When you get no kicks from loving
And you blow your top instead
It’s a fact that you ain’t living
Jack, you’re dead!

If you just ain’t got nobody
Since you’ve gone and lost your head
Rigor Mortis has set in daddy
Jack, you’re dead!

source: https://www.lyricsondemand.com/b/bbkinglyrics/jackyouredeadlyrics.html


Search for it and take a listen to one of the many versions. Then go and remember who you love and care about, and tell them. Reunite with someone. And finally, meet someone new. Stay alive until your end. Take Jack’s advice.

Photo credit: tidal.com

Lyrics by Walter Bishop and Richard Miles


5 thoughts on “Jack, You Dead

  1. Oh, Fran, what a rich story you tell here for those of us who don’t know Jack, but actually do through you—and our shared humanity. (He sounds like someone who has his priorities straight.) Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re inspiring me on so many levels: to listen to this song, to remind the people I love of just how much I love them, to remember how very alive I am.

    Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great story. I love the idea of a party before it’s too late. Funerals can be very uplifting, but Jack is right, so much better to be able to be there and say goodbye and share stories when the person is still breathing. I didn’t know the BB King version of this. I only knew Joe Jackson’s, but either way, it’s a good lesson from your Jack and a good listen for us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for gently revealing the purpose of the “party.” I love that friends from many seasons of life could gather and celebrate your friend. I’m sure there were many deep feelings attached.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jack sounds like an amazing human. The song’s message and Jack’s admonition are perfect. The remind me of a line in The Great Gatsby. Wolfshein tells Gatsby, “Let us learn to show our friendship while a man is still alive.” Something to that effect, anyway. I bet there wasn’t a dry eye in the place at that celebration of life. Such a joy to read this, Fran.

    Liked by 1 person

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