I’ve been very contemplative this week due to the death of a music giant.
No. Not the freaking pervert.
Martin Streek was a DJ for my favourite radio station, and was instrumental in introducing me to many styles of music. He graduated high school with the promise that he not only was going to be a DJ, but he was going to be a DJ at 102.1, a small FM station in Brampton. The station was in financial trouble, and the fact that they only played “alternative” music well before “Alternative” was the norm, meant that they couldn’t pay him off of the bat. He just hung around there and helped out with things. One day somebody suggested that the station could make money by hosting video dance parties at high schools and colleges. The owners thought that this was a great idea, so they started to look for a driver for the truck. Martin stepped up, studied, and got his licence. His job was to drive all over Ontario in a 10 ton truck and set up and tear down the equipment 3 out of 5 days of the week. This idea saved the company and put the radio station on the map as the cool radio station of the current young generation.
One night the DJ misjudged where the stage was and fell, hurting himself. Martin picked up the mike and lit up the stage. He found his calling.
During the 90’s, Kevin, Pete, Tom and I would more or less follow this guy from club to club to listen to what he was mixing together, and to watch him command the crowd into a frenzy as he infected everyone in the room with his raw enthusiasm as to how awesome the music was. There was always a line going up to the DJ booth as people waited to talk to him and request songs. If he showed up at a club, then that club was packed. He was so popular that he was able to secure steady gigs at some of the biggest clubs in Ontario. We all knew that we could go to the Kingdom on Fridays, The Phoenix on Saturdays and The Vinyl Underground on Sundays to catch him doing his magic.
He was hired by the radio station in 1984, and the station grew from “a little yellow house” with a small antenna into the biggest station in Canada, with a streetside broadcasting office in the Eaton Centre, using the CN Tower as it’s antenna (REALLY!). During those 25 years, he saw people come, and people go… But he stayed constant. His knowledge of music was only matched by his close friend Alan Cross, who went on to becoming the Production Manager of CNFY, and recently got promoted to corporate as an executive. I went from enjoying his high school dances to clubbing out every second weekend to now, where I would tune in to him on Saturday and Sunday nights and listen to his live-to-air broadcasts from the clubs that I used to all but live in. He was ageless. Anybody who knew his age wasn’t talking about it, at his request. Sporting a shaved head and a goatee, he used to skateboard into work in defiance of the grey hairs in his beard. At days from my 36th... I still am amazed that he had the energy to rock it so hard.
And then in mid-May there was a new voice on the radio. The graveyard shift punk-girl was doing the primetime broadcast (and doing ok at it). I, along with most, assumed that Martin took a vacation. But this vacation was lasting longer than was normal. I checked the website for the radio station… and saw NO trace of him there. I later found out that his reign over the alternative clubs of the GTA was over as he had been let go from the job that he loved. I was saddened and outraged, but I was looking forward to what he had planned. My first instinct was that the bloodless corporation saw that the king of their alternative music franchise was some guy in his late 30s… and decided that this was not the demographic that they were aiming for.
It turns out that Martin had only done one job interview in his life : The one for that radio station. Everyone who had met him knew that he loved the station enough to tattoo the logo on himself. He loved the music, and he loved doing what he did, and he put 25 years of blood, sweat and tears into that station. June 16, 2009, an unemployed, never married, childless Martin Streek turned 45. On July 6th (Monday), Martin posted this message in his Facebook :
“So...I guess that's it...thanks everyone...I'm sorry to those I should be sorry to, I love you to those that I love, and I will see you all again soon (not too soon though)... Let the stories begin.”
One of his friends read this as something ominous and went to his apartment to find the door with a post-it upon it : “Call 911”
His friends and ex-colleagues have been tearing themselves to pieces trying to glorify the man while vilifying suicide and discussing as to what were the signs, were there signs?, who did he last talk to?... etc. I’ve been talking to Kari and Kevin a lot about the meaning of life lately, and have scoured the internet for answers to some of those questions, when I came across this on a discussion thread that put a new focus on this event : Somebody asked as to where the funeral was going to be, and one of Martin’s actual friends replied with (paraphrased) :
"Remember who you are, and what is going on. YOU lost a radio legend. WE lost a friend. His mother is devastated and we want our time and space to grieve properly. If YOU have no idea as to what his cat’s name was then, really, we don’t want you at the funeral.”
The desire to ask certain obvious questions fell away after reading that. He was just an awesome DJ that I had the chance to talk to a few times. He was a lot more to many people.
I’ve reconciled this event as these revelations :
- I have questions, but I don’t have the right to ask many of them.
- He was a selfish ass for putting his family and friends through this
- He is a legend that will be remembered by thousands
Last night I listened to a 5 hour tribute to Martin by his mentor : David Marsden, a creaky fogey in his late 60s. At first, it was weird listening to a retiree talk about the hottest Canadian Alternative DJ ever (Chris Sheppard is the only possible contender)… But that man knows his stuff. The playlist was a celebration of Martin’s energy, and it closed off with a few songs that were guaranteed to pull tears.
Kevin’s and my conversation ended like this last night :
Kev C says:
you do realize the Martin provided much of the soundtrack to our lives right?
that's been bothering me for a few days now
how will I evolve?
am I simply to age now?
A chapter in thousands of lives just closed for good. To the best of my knowledge, he never pulled the plug on a set before it was finished. Why did he pull the plug on the big one?
The above story embodies the “live fast, die young and leave a pretty corpse” mentality… But it highlights the devastation that is left behind when somebody decides to take their own life.
My thoughts are on the good times, and my condolences to his family and friends.
Wherever you are,
Keep it locked in and cranked, Martin.
We will miss you