R.I.P.: Matthew John Arnold, A Phoenix Music Maker Who Broke the Mold

Bill Goodman
American beauty: Matt Arnold during a tribute to songwriters from the '70s.

A good number of Matt Arnold's friends called him "Skippy."

I don't know why, and right now, I don't care, other than the fact that it is one of many things I'll never get to ask him about. He died on Friday, March 24.

Matt (because I can't call him Arnold, I just can't) was an avid photographer, skateboarder, musician, and above all, kind and caring soul who touched so many lives that I can't even count. He touched my life for the first time in the early '90s when a mutual friend introduced us. We talked music for hours and skateboarded and, to be honest, I was a bit in awe of this wild(ish) and good-looking guy who had a knack for making people feel at ease.

He was one of those guys that made you think, "Wow. That's the life I want to lead," yet to speak to Matt was a joy. He was my friend Mark Henderson's friend, but instantly after meeting, he was my friend, too. Whenever we would meet up, whether Mark was in town or not, there was a huge hug and he became completely engaged in conversation at once. There was no denying Matt's attention, and he was not about to get shortchanged in hearing about what I (or anyone else, for that matter) was up to and what was coming next.

We love you, Matt. Ride on, brother, ride on. - COURTESY OF LUKAS MATHERS
We love you, Matt. Ride on, brother, ride on.
Courtesy of Lukas Mathers

He was unassuming and a man who would truly give you the shirt off his back if you needed a shirt. In recent years, Matt became something of a fixture at the Crescent Ballroom and led the charge on several great "Cover the Crescent" shows. I remember vividly how excited he was to be doing some Doors songs a few years back with a great backing band. Matt had a good amount of musical talent, but first and foremost, he was a music fan.

Matt supported local music, and for years would show up out of the blue with his trusty camera and take great pictures, then ride away on some killer (and often vintage) skateboard. He had moves for days and style galore. Again, I admired the guy, and always felt better for even having a few minutes with him. To those who knew him, none of this comes a great surprise. He was a prince of downtown Phoenix before downtown Phoenix was hip or cool.

A people person, Matt waited many a table over the years and probably charmed many a patron into tipping a lot more than they normally would. He just knew how to look into your soul and find what you needed to celebrate on that particular day. Matt would also light up when you talked about your kids or any kid anywhere, especially if they showed an interest in music or art or skateboarding.

Matt Arnold was a prince of a man who felt things deeply. He loved and lost and watched people close to him suffer greatly. I believe he felt every ounce of any pain someone he loved felt right along side them. This may have been too great of a weight to bear. 

He had some rough times over my years of knowing him and, unfortunately, the last few years I heard that he was struggling a lot with some serious health issues. It is not my place to say more than that, but I hope he left this world knowing how much he was loved and respected. I loved him for who he was and in my heart, the poetry of his life will forever flow in gentle meter and beautiful verse.