So long, my friend …

By Brayton Cameron

A priest, a rabbi and a dead music teacher walk into a bar … But seriously, folks, a friend of mine recently died and death is not all that funny.

Rufus Stennis Brown was a music instructor at Kishwaukee College, and he died Feb. 8 at the age of 32. While Rufus and I were not the closest of friends, we both shared a love of music. I suppose that was the foundation of our friendship.

I was listening to his album “O.X. Reality” when I thought I should go visit him at work sometime this week. However, when I logged on to the Kishwaukee College Web site to check his office hours, I found not only was he no longer working at Kishwaukee, but he was dead on top of that. He died and did not even bother to tell me. You could imagine my disappointment.

So there I sit, staring at a computer screen telling me my friend was dead. It did not seem true at all, considering I could hear his voice coming out of the speakers behind me. It is a weird experience, the moment when you realize the album you are listening to has been made by someone that is dead – as in not alive … as in possible zombie … as in no longer able to do anything any of us are used to doing.

Imagine listening to “Double Fantasy” the moment you heard John Lennon had been shot or reading “Death of a Salesman” when you heard about Arthur Miller’s death, or eating Wolfgang Puck soup – you get the idea.

It was nice to read about Kishwaukee College’s desire to create a Rufus Brown scholarship. This is designed to help music students handle the ever-rising costs of tuition. At first I thought this would have made Rufus happy but not after remembering how much he hated teaching and wished he could focus primarily on recording. I recall the e-mails he would send filled with expletives discussing the flaws in the educational system.

But here I am singing praises and quirks about a man who cannot hear me and no longer cares. I guess that is a near-amusing thing about people that die. When someone passes on, the majority of people seem to idolize the deceased. Let us take the late President Reagan, for example. Nothing against the rotting corpse, but I am not sure if his death was worth all government employees taking the day off. Does anyone remember Iran-Contra?

Perhaps Rufus is in a better place, a place free from the tyranny of higher education and the tight iron fist of musical theory. Perhaps this is an attempt to say “bye” to a person that did not say “bye” to us. In his own words “I die to think that tomorrow you’ll be gone.”

Views expressed in this humor column do not necessarily reflect the Northern Star or its staff. Send questions or comments to