A tribute to Jim Differ

March 2019

On December 2, a packed house of friends, family, colleagues and admirers gathered at L.U’s Outpost to pay tribute to a truly remarkable person. A person who made a huge impact in this city in the 20 years that he had been here, an impact that is unmeasurable - although by looking around the room that night you could see some measure of the impact that Jim Differ made on this community.
There were reminiscences by family members and friends, and video tributes sent in by colleagues who were unable to travel to the event. But the heart of what made this evening such a communal and powerful happening was the music. Over forty of some of Jim’s favourite musical friends played twenty-one of his favourite songs, in many different styles that represented Jim’s wonderful aesthetic and eclectic taste in music. Songs that were near and dear to his heart.

The evening began with a moving film of still and video images of many moments of Jim’s life and the people who helped shape that life, underscored by a string quartet playing the theme from Cinema Paradiso, his favourite movie, and closed with all of the musicians gathering on stage to perform “Forever Young”, a song that Bob Dylan and the Band played at the first concert that Jim attended, a concert that inspired him to become a musician. We heard the title song from Jim’s favourite album, Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, a couple of his cherished jazz tunes, one of the last songs he played live with Rodney Brown, an Abbey Road medley that incorporated 14 drummers each playing a short solo in homage to Jim, and a heartfelt performance by his beloved band, Flamenco Caravan. Even Jim’s children, Lauren and Matt played on several of the songs, and his brother John came up for an impromptu number. All of the musicians who played that night brought so much love and respect to the stage and it showed in their performances throughout the three-hour tribute. We were all truly honoured to be a part of this evening. Jim was present in a way, as a video was played of several of his drums solos, filmed at gigs over the years and segued together. It left everyone in the room awestruck at the incredible musicianship and showmanship he brought whenever he sat down behind a drum kit, but also reminded us of what a tragic loss his death has been.

All of us have been touched by Jim in a unique and special way, and we were blessed to have him in our lives. He was beloved by this community; we miss him dearly but he will never be forgotten.

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