Ballad of Joe Zippo, Part 2

by Bill Brenner on January 8, 2011

This is the second post on my old friend Joe “Zippo” Kelley, who died last summer. Specifically, this is about the lives he made better just by being who he was. A benefit show in his honor is next week.

Mood music:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkDNjMLgrFk&fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0&color1=0x3a3a3a&color2=0x999999]

As I said before, my friendship with Joe played out when we were both attending Salem State College (it’s a university, now). He was a friend I would smoke cigarettes with outside the commuter cafeteria. We’d talk about everything from politics to Nirvana, his favorite band at the time. This was back when Kurt Cobain was still alive.

He eventually picked up a guitar and teamed up with my friend and fellow journalist Greg Walsh, forming the band Zippo Raid. When life gets me down, I think of guys like Joe, who plow through life’s challenges and show others how to live. That’s one way I find the strength to forge ahead.

I didn’t see Joe much in the last decade. I spent many of those years isolating myself from old friends because I was ashamed of the shape I was in. I was too busy trying to destroy myself to make time for old friends.

In what may or may not be a case of irony, I find myself in a deepening friendship with Joe’s parents, who I never met when he was alive. They are sweet people, and I can see now where Joe got his big heart.

As you’d expect, Joe’s death has been hard on them. That, in fact, is a brutal understatement. As Joe Sr. told me in a note he dropped in one of my earlier posts, “The death of my son has cut me to pieces.”

Grief does things to you.

Fortunately, Joe left behind a lot to remember him by. There are the Zippo Raid CDs, the photos, and the people who are better for having known him.

If you want to know more about him and support a good cause at the same time, you should check out a benefit show that’s taking place next week.

Details here:

1st annual Joe Zippo Kelley Memorial scholorship fund show

Saturday, January 15 · 6:00pm – 11:00pm

Salem, Mass.

St. Peter Street

Further details on this Facebook events page.

My next post on Joe will include memories shared by his friends and bandmates. If you want to share a story about Joe, you can e-mail me at bbrenner@cxo.com.

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