Music News

Beat Surrender

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But, says Smith, "We knew something more permanent had to be done. Even though nobody wanted to push Jon out of the band, it was either that or break up. And I was a complete asshole about it. I was too afraid to call him. I was waiting for him to call me, and I guess he was waiting for me to call him. So we just went on without him."

The lack of communication led to Norwood making a return trip to Phoenix only to get here and figure out he was no longer a Beat Angel. Friends say he was crushed, that playing again with the band was the one thing he most looked forward to, the thing that inspired his return to town. But Maestri says the parting may have had an unintended upside.

"It was probably the best thing in the world for Jon to get away from those guys. He needed to change his mindset. The way they did it wasn't very proper, but as painful as it was, it gave Jon the push to get out of Phoenix and go back to Oregon, where his family was, where he could get centered."

Kelly agrees: "I don't believe Jon would have cut himself off from the band. He had such a sense of loyalty. He would have given the Beat Angels his last dying breath." She pauses, then adds, "Obviously, they wouldn't have done the same, as they easily showed."

Smith says he understands such sentiments. He says he's received "an earful of shit" from a couple of Norwood's friends, to which he allows, "I can't blame 'em. He was one of my best friends. He was my pal. He was there when my marriage broke up, he took me into his house. And now I tell myself, 'You kicked the guy when he was down.' It was just utter childishness, and it's something I wish I could go back and change, but there's nothing I can fucking do to change it. I never got to make amends, I have to live with it, and I do live with it, every day."

Norwood eventually got a call from Beat Angels guitarist Keith Jackson, who officially confirmed what the ousted drummer had already heard. A few months later, the band sent a card to Norwood after he'd moved back to Oregon for good. Kelly remembers that by then Norwood was sick again, fighting another brain tumor, this one inoperable.

"Jon acknowledged the band's gesture," she says, adding that he showed little outward bitterness. "He was not an ugly person before the cancer, and he didn't get that way afterward. And, anyway, he'd been working with a healing woman who was helping his mind and spirit, so by the time the card came, he was clearly not of that world anymore."

Indeed, Norwood's last days were of a world dominated by the Eastern mysticism that so fascinated him. His sister, the one who drove him to Woodstock, is now a practicing Buddhist, and she helped enlist a gathering of monks to assemble in prayer at Norwood's bedside. A Tibetan lama visiting the area was also asked to stop by the hospice, and did, promising Norwood's name would be offered in prayer at an Ashram in India.

Jon Norwood died peacefully on December 19, four days before his 44th birthday.

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Ted Simons