DitL of...the one and only Josh Gant

(age: 23)

What can you say about a guy who inspired so many around him, just by being himself? A guy who had a great voice, both in the literal sense and in his view of the world? The man was no saint, with flaws all his own, but the strength of his character and his heartfelt compassion and love for everyone around him was undeniable. He exemplified the idiom "someone who'd give you the shirt off their back" and, for these, and many other reasons, he was loved by nearly everyone who met him in his too-short 28 years.

I first met Josh through a younger cousin, who was kind of head over heels for him, when I first moved to Huntsville in 2001. Gant was in a heavy metal band, playing bass and singing backup, already playing shows in clubs and bars well before he was 21! This might not be so uncommon now, in a world of Beibers and Swifts, but then it was a rarity. Gant's personality and presence on stage was already something impressive, before he even attempted his solo career. Gant was a different kind of musician; he didn't really listen to music or sing until his mid-teens, getting into music much later than most artists. A couple of friends, who were up to no good, started making music in the neighborhood, which piqued Gant's interest, so he asked if he could join. At the time, he didn't play any instrument or sing! The band needed a bass player, so they taught him how to play and soon discovered his peforming and singing talents. His love for music and growing interests in different styles spurred him to form a band, which I played in for a few years.

My first impression of Josh was a surprising one. Gant had long hair, multiple tattoos and piercings, and was wearing some raggedy jeans. Now, please don't judge 23 year old Stephen too harshly for judging others too harshly, as my life from 17 until then was mostly military, so I tended to still view the world from that perspective. Within a few minutes of talking with Josh, however, I realized I was talking to one of the most humble, kind-natured people on the planet. A few years later, after we became roommates, bandmates and best friends, he confided how he hated the way some people in his small town, typically older folks, looked at him when he was out in public. That is a danger of stereotypes--people maintain them without attempting to revise them by getting to know someone, or, as my retired Marine father would say, by shaking their hand and looking them in the eye. I was saddened that Josh felt that way, but appreciated he didn't allow those people to skew his view of himself or his unique take on life.

Josh and I played any venue and event that would have us, from seedy bars, to restaurants, to weddings, to good ole boy parties out in the field on a trailer! We had many fun adventures and I'm so thankful I got to share part of his journey. Josh was just starting to hit his stride as an artist and songwriter, when his fiance, a beautiful person in her own right, collapsed in their bedroom. She'd been having problems with her blood pressure the previous week and Gant came home one day to find her already gone. Rachel was my friend and while I was devastated, my pain subsided over time. But for the rest of Gant's life that pain never lessened. Josh lost a part of himself , which I don't think he ever found again. And when he left us a few short years later, a small town in Alabama lost a part of themselves, as well...

I apologize for this grim post, but I'd like for you, the reader, to take something away. Josh lived life to the fullest and wanted everyone to experience that joy as much as him. At gigs, his main concern was that everyone in the band had a good time, usually checking in with us several times during a show. He wasn't concerned about anyone hitting a wrong note or the drummer starting a song at the wrong tempo--just that we all were comfortable and having fun! Josh is remembered from so many different perspectives and people loved him for so many different reasons---his memory serves as a reminder that for all the selfishness, avarice, and hatred those around us may propagate, we still have the potential to give the better parts of ourselves, without fear, and to not allow pettiness and ugliness to pervade. We should try and be as kind as my good friend Josh and the world would be better for it.




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