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Before I say anything, let me link to Kevin's own autobiography.


Kevin Gilbert was a brilliant musician and lyricist of practically indefinable style. If asked, he might have given preference to the label "progressive," since he cites bands like Gentle Giant, Genesis, and ELP as influences. However, his music generally the interminable noodling that is prog's usual hallmark, and works in elements of pop and just straight-up rocking out. You don't have to like prog to enjoy Kevin Gilbert, you just have to appreciate musical proficiency and relentlessly clever lyrics.

From his shed-cum-studio (called Lawnmower and Garden Supply because... well, because it was originally a shed), Kevin Gilbert produced his own albums and those of his bands Giraffe and Toy Matinee. Lawnmower's goal, besides serving as recording space for Gilbert himself, was to provide an open studio for promising and struggling new bands. However, Gilbert did not go unnoticed by the bigger names in prog rock; he produced an album with prog band Spock's Beard, and was asked to work with Dream Theater, though that project was thwarted by his untimely death in 1996.

People get a little squirrely when discussing Kevin Gilbert's death... his official site (www.kevingilbert.com) doesn't even mention it, and the fansite www.shadowself.com skirts the issue. I think it's just a matter of personal preference and bad luck, myself, so I don't mind saying that he died of autoerotic asphyxiation. Even if it hadn't been the kind of death that makes your loved ones mumble and change the subject, it still would have been a tragedy... he was 29 years old, still early in a burgeoning musical career.

At the time of his death Gilbert was working on a rock opera, The Shaming of the True, which was finished and released posthumously by his friend Nick D'Virgilio. The story is semi-autobiographical, the tale of an earnest rocker named Johnny Virgil who sells his integrity for fame, and in light of events some of the lyrics are harrowing:

Oh no, I'm lost and all alone
Battered and broken and scarred to the bone
Oh, love, you've never been a friend
But if you're still listening, I'm here at the end
Of a long day's life

Gilbert wrote most of the lyrics for then-girlfriend Sheryl Crow's first album, Tuesday Night Music Club, not to mention giving her her first musical break (playing keyboards on the 1991 Toy Matinee tour). His efforts went largely unacknowledged by Crow once she gained fame, however, and Kevin expressed his bitterness in the song "Miss Broadway":

I saw you on my TV taking credit for my work
And I knew if I said anything that I would be the jerk
There's always some ex-boyfriend, some jealous has-been clown
Trying to muscle in the spotlight, trying to keep the lady down

There's this comfortable old story about the man without a clue
Who rises to the top on work a woman had to do
But political correctness won't accept the inverse true
We just can't see painted toenails on the foot that fits that shoe
Crow expressed some very pretty grieving sentiments to Rolling Stone regarding Kevin Gilbert's death, but if you're a Gilbert fan it's somewhat hard to view her fondly.

After Gilbert's death, his friends and family established the Kevin Gilbert Memorial Fund, which provides instruments and music scholarships to talented but disadvantaged students in Kevin's home state of California. In this way, they hope to extend what Kevin saw as the vision behind Lawnmower -- making music available to the people who love it.



Kevin Gilbert discography:
Giraffe: The Power Of Suggestion (1987)
Giraffe: The View From Here (1989)
Toy Matinee: Toy Matinee (1990)
Kevin Gilbert: Thud (1994)
Kevin Gilbert: Kashmir EP (a cover of the Led Zeppelin song, which ended up being one of his most popular releases)(1995)
Giraffe: Giraffe (1999)
Kevin Gilbert and Thud: Live At The Troubadour (1999)
Kevin Gilbert: The Shaming Of The True (2000)

www.kevingilbert.com
www.shadowself.com

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