Jay Frank gave a toast when Lori Taylor and I got married that might have been as long as the actual ceremony. And though I teased him about it in the years since, I never doubted his sincerity.
That really was the driving force behind our friendship over the past three decades. Because as many times as we’d ever ask each other “are you for real right now?” — we never needed the answer to that question.
So if I were to flip the script on his toast from that day, I might reflect on some of our wildest adventures together, like:
- The time he was driving me and our friend John to a band’s afterparty in his tiny car and inadvertently got us into a high-speed chase.
- All the times he’d say “do you wanna get something to eat?” and we’d end up in Cortland, or Syracuse, or Manhattan, or Toronto because someplace there made his favorite version of something.
- The time he remembered I had a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” movie poster on my dorm room wall, so he called me from a Hollywood party to put me on the phone with Kristy Swanson. (While I was standing next to Lori, no less.)
That just scratches the surface.
Jay could simultaneously be my best friend and the biggest pain in my ass. When he knew he was right about something, he’d dig in—hard. But when he knew you were right, he’d become your biggest champion. That stubborn streak served him well:
- He earned the respect of, then got to work alongside lifelong heroes like Lol Tolhurst and Richard Barone. Sharing their art with new audiences meant so much to him, he was willing to put everything on the line to make them happen.
- He used his platform to center voices of stellar artists, like Daniel Cartier, Jenn Bostic, and Like Swimming. (“Hey,” he’d call me, “do you know where we could get a house concert or a listening room for… tomorrow?”)
- He embraced tools and technology that would define the future of the music business, even when it meant he got his ass handed to him in the boardroom. He predicted at least half the features of your favorite music app, then pulled the industry toward his vision of the future.
For all the bullet points you’ll see when the trade magazines memorialize him this week, none of his accomplishments mattered nearly as much to him as his love for Linda and Alex.
He once told me how falling in love with Linda washed away so much of the fear and anxiety he struggled with earlier in his life. And in an industry where we all know too many people who sacrifice too much time with family in exchange for fame or fortune, Jay put Alex at the center of his universe. Every single thing he accomplished in the last decade wasn’t about moving his career forward or about pushing the music industry ahead. It was really about shaping a world in which Alex could grow and thrive.
We hung out in person for what would be the final time last year, even though it seemed like we always had some e-mail chain, some game of voicemail tag, some thread of silly DMs rolling in the background. He’d confided in me that he didn’t want people to know about his illness, that he didn’t want to be defined by how his life ended instead of how he lived it.
So, he’d be the first to bust my chops about spending this much space on him instead of saving this word count for something else. Instead, I’ll meditate on the kind of advice we’d trade with each other over the miles.
If that meatloaf you like means driving two towns over, go get that meatloaf. If your favorite musician’s playing a set at a criminally small venue, fly to that gig (if you have to). If an artist’s work made an impact on your life, tell them. And if that person you fell in love with still loves you back after they’ve seen your entire record collection, marry them.
Jay Frank died from colon cancer today. His favorite movie was Repo Man, and I’m not entirely sure the cancer story isn’t a cover for his preferred/predicted exit: