2008-04-03 19:04:50 UTC
For some reason I missed this one, and since his death hadn't been
posted before here you go.
Muretich lived, loved music scene
Outspoken Herald rock critic, 54, loses battle with cancer
Heath McCoy, Calgary Herald
Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2006
You never knew quite what you'd stumble upon when paying a visit to
When word spread last April that the mercurial Calgary rock critic was
terminally ill, stricken with a brain tumour, people around the city
were stung by the news.
Always a boisterous, extroverted soul, Muretich had kept an unusually
low profile in recent years -- certainly since his fast and furious
days as the Calgary Herald's rock reporter throughout the 1980s and
'90s -- and many of his friends had not seen him for a long while. But
so many wanted to reach out to the man.
Would he shake hands or bite 'em? Nobody could be sure. It depended
how Muretich was feeling that day, really. It wasn't much different
when he was healthy. And so some paid him a visit and others stayed
One Herald reporter made the journey to the 11th floor of Foothills
Hospital on a Friday afternoon in April. Rather than finding Muretich
confined to his bed, or taking medication, the visitor witnessed his
former colleague storming out of the ward, bags packed, grumbling
bitterly about the doctors.
"They're treating me like I'm already dead," Muretich growled. "I've
got things to do."
"Can I catch a ride home?" he asked.
Anybody who knew Muretich had to laugh at the story. It was so like
him. Razor sharp. Tough. Obstinate. Full of life. That's how he'll be
Muretich, who was coaxed back to the hospital that same night, died at
home this past weekend. He was 54.
Muretich was raised in Montreal, where he earned a BA in theology and
philosophy at Concordia University before attending the University of
Western Ontario where he earned a masters degree in journalism. After
a short stint as a court reporter in Peterborough, Ont., Muretich
moved to Calgary in 1979 where he worked as a rock critic for the
Calgary Sun (then called the Albertan). He came to the Herald in 1983,
where he stayed for the next 19 years.
For two decades, Muretich was the voice -- with a capital V -- of
Calgary's music scene, both in the Herald and on TV where, in the
mid-80s he hosted his own community access music video show -- FM
Moving Pictures -- on Channel 10. Muretich also had his own show on
Calgary's campus radio station, CJSW.
In a conservative city, writing for a family newspaper, the hard-
living writer managed to be Calgary's version of Lester Bangs, the
gonzo rock critic for Creem magazine in the 1970s. Muretich might not
appreciate the comparison, having once snarled at this writer: "I
could write circles around Lester Bangs." Humility was not James's
Nevertheless, Muretich, who described his freewheeling style of rock
journalism as "surfing on chaos," lived and breathed the Calgary music
He was so ingrained in it that when he married his second wife, Sally,
in 1995, the nuptials were performed at the legendary and now defunct
rock club, The Night Gallery, with rocker Art Bergmann as the wedding
Muretich made a sizable impact, promoting the Calgary music scene to
the rest of Canada and providing gutsy, insightful, sharp-witted
commentary on the rock world at large for Herald readers.
There's no better way to pay tribute to Muretich than to hear stories
about the man from the people he touched.
Rest in peace, James.
Jann Arden (Calgary based singer-songwriter; Juno award winner)
"James was so bold and forthright and . . . well . . . odd. (At first)
he kind of scared me, to tell the truth. His bald head and numerous
twitches and quirks made him a force to be reckoned with. He made me
nervous. (But) over the years I was so proven wrong. You cannot judge
a book by its cover, not his book, not that man. He was warm and
sensitive, and very open about his life and his pain.
"James has done a number of kind-hearted stories about me over the
years; one in particular has always made me laugh. . . . James came to
my parents' home in the mid '90s to interview them for a piece he was
doing about my Living Under June album. He plowed through a few
probing questions concerning my youth and my wild years in the bar
scene . . . My mother, at some point, asked James if he'd like a
drink. Whoops. He did indeed. . . He went on to polish off an entire
bottle of really horrible cheap whiskey. My mother said it was one of
the most entertaining nights of her life! She told me that he made
them laugh and laugh at all his crazy stories. Mom said he cried a
couple of times, told them that he loved them and that he loved me.
Well, I loved you too, James my dear. You wrote like you lived."
Maurice Ginzer (concert promoter, former owner of Kaos Jazz and Blues)
"I remember when he came into my club on 17th Avenue when we were
primarily doing jazz and shifting into blues (mid '90s). It was one of
those nights where there was a really staid, super-conservative
audience and James walked into the place and we had a drink. He
listened to the band, it was Jack Semple, and he called it
immediately. 'This is a performer. This is phenomenal!' Then he leaned
over to me and said 'But what's wrong with this crowd?' As he had a
few more drinks, he became quite vocal about it! 'C'mon! We gotta get
'em going. Don't they know what they're listening to?!'
"A couple more tunes went on and he had a couple more scotches and
finally he said: 'I'm gonna throw some life into this party.' So he
walked up and started talking to this attractive woman. It looked like
she came straight from the office. She was in a two-piece business
suit, a little uptight maybe. . . .
"There's James in one of those T-shirts where it was cut off at the
arms. He was gritty and rough looking . . . and he got her up
dancing. . . . I think it was one of the first times anybody danced in
"From that point on, the club became a pretty happening spot."
Tom Bagley (Calgary artist and rocker)
"When he came to town, this was a different place. There wasn't all
the bands there are now, but he always supported this little
underground scene. . . . When I started Forbidden Dimension he came
over to my house with a photographer, I lived way down in the suburbs
with my parents. . . . He came over and did the interview and left,
and as a joke he left a condom on the kitchen floor. We're this very
suburban family, right? But my mom one-upped him. She said: 'Oh, James
left his hat.' They thought he was this wild guy, but they appreciated
him because he was always promoting their boy."
Kerry Clarke (Associate producer: Calgary Folk Music Festival)
"I remember James taking part in a CJSW funding drive. He announced
that he would take off his clothes, the more money people gave . . .
until he was naked. And he really was naked there in the booth. There
were a few squeamish people around who were quite shocked. . . . But
it really helped pump up the funding drive." (Incidentally, naked
James stories abound in Calgary. Accounts still make the rounds of him
running around a number of rock festivals, the folk festival, and even
the Ship and Anchor wearing only a Speedo).
Tom Cochrane (Canadian rocker, Juno award winner)
"There's a song on my upcoming album (No Stranger) partly inspired by
(James) called White Horse. We as musicians run into you (rock
critics) in the course of business and promo tours and stuff, and the
first line of the song says 'I didn't get to know you all that well.'
But I knew him enough to know he was a pretty generous guy and he
believed in music. If it didn't solve all the world's problems, it
could definitely ease the pain. He really believed that. . . .
"He and I had a lot of disagreements over the years, but I really
respected his opinion. . . . Because you knew he sat down and listened
to the music hard. That's why I would take him very seriously. . . .
He respected honesty in art.
. . .
"One thing about James, he lived life to the fullest. He probably
pushed the envelope more than a lot of musicians I know. . . . I
always tipped my hat to the guy and I think I'm going to go drink a
glass of wine for him in a little while. Scotch? Yeah, I might have a