The Shapiro Files

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Tribute to Tim Rivers

If we’re lucky, in our lives there are people we meet who make a huge positive impact on who we are and what we become. My friend, Tim Rivers, was one of those people. We met in late 1990 when I was singing with the SDSU Concert Choir. Tim was a guy with talent to burn. He had a beautiful baritone voice, was a skilled graphic artist, was an excellent writer/poet, and he even played piano quite well. And if that weren’t enough, prior to moving to San Diego to pursue a degree in music, he had a very successful (and highly influential) career as a DJ in the San Francisco club scene in the 70’s and 80’s. In fact, he won an award from Billboard Magazine for his artistry behind the turntables. For more about Tim’s DJ-related career, check out this interesting site I found in preparation for this posting.

Tim and I quickly became very good friends and it wasn’t long before we started making some music (more about this in a little while). He also became my biggest supporter, encouraging me to do more with my own singing (I had zero confidence in my singing ability when we met) and this led to my making it into SDSU’s advanced vocal group, The Camber Singers and later, to San Diego’s premiere choral group, San Diego Master Chorale. It was with the latter that I had the opportunity to sing on a real CD project (a recording of selections from Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette and Les Troyens a Carthage ) for the Naxos classical music label (check it out on iTunes to hear samples).

But more than encouraging just me to expand my musical horizons, Tim was an inspiration to anyone he came in contact with. He was very spiritual in his outlook on life and always believed in the goodness in people. His enthusiasm for living (not to mention his very distinct laugh) was contagious to everyone around him. Such joy was even obvious to people who didn’t know him but who just happened to catch him walking around the SDSU campus, as he frequently hummed or sang without self-consciousness as he made his way from class to class.

Yet with such a positive spirit, Tim would sometimes speak of carrying a dark cloud along with him wherever he went. And indeed, that proverbial dark cloud was as dark as it could possibly be. By the time we met, he had already known for several years that he was HIV-positive. Keep in mind that this was the early 90’s, when living for any length of years with the virus was extremely rare — a fact that was never far from his mind. While I could probably describe in length some of the physical and medical impact the virus had on Tim while I knew him, it somehow doesn’t seem appropriate to go into that level of detail when talking about someone so full of life. I will say, though, that with each adjustment he had to make to his life, he was always very upbeat and frequently made jokes about whatever new device or treatment he had to take on. It was a pretty remarkable quality.

If I have my dates right, I believe Tim received his B.A. in Music from SDSU in the summer of 1993 and followed through on his long-since established plan to return to San Francisco after completing his studies. It was weird saying goodbye, since something just didn’t feel right about it. In retrospect, I suppose that strange feeling was likely the sense that we might not see each other again. And indeed, that was sadly the case.

After he returned up north, we talked on the phone a couple of times, but as is often the case when people move away, you tend to lose touch. Then in the summer of 1994, I was accepted into a 7-week business internship program in Yokohama, Japan. My trip to Japan was immediately followed by a tour to Canada with a choir for which I was serving as instrumental music director and accompanist. Somewhere in all that activity, I changed phone numbers and addresses a couple of times. So I can only imagine that if Tim tried to contact me, he probably had no idea where I was. Thus, it was through my own carelessness and self-involvement that I allowed my friendship with Tim to fade away.

It wasn’t a until several years later that I received the terrible news from a mutual friend that Tim passed away in 1995. And it wasn’t until very recently that I learned that a memorial service was held on a boat in the middle of San Francisco Bay. A fellow friend of Tim’s from San Diego, Greg, very kindly described the service in an email exchange we had just last month: “Timmy’s ashes were released on a beautiful sunny day. I will never forget the way they reflected all the colors of the rainbow. Someone had a tape of him singing as we said goodbye. It is one of the most memorable days of my life.”

So after all these years, I really felt the need for making at least some amends by honoring Tim in the only way I know how. This brings me to the music archive project I mentioned a couple of posts ago. A couple of years before we met, Tim recorded an entire Christmas tape for his friends and family of himself singing a-cappella choral arrangements of traditional and modern holiday selections in four-part harmony by way of multi-track recording. Called Yule Tide Greetings, the tape was recorded and engineered by his friend Adam Gieger (who tragically passed away in 1991) and was a very impressive production that continues to be treasured by his friends today. In 1992 when I got my little entry-level Tascam four-track tape recorder, I asked Tim if he wanted to record some “sequels” to his Christmas tape recordings just for fun. He loved the idea and we ended up recording two new selections. We also had a couple of “jam sessions” that year and recorded a handful of tongue-in-cheek recordings of pop standards with me playing my Korg M1 keyboard behind Tim’s always-excellent vocals — all recorded live via a cheap Radio Shack mixer directly to my home stereo cassette player. I love all the recordings, but I have to admit that it’s his amazing spot-on lounge-lizard interpretation of “New York, New York” that always cracks me up every time I hear it.

So over the past couple of weeks, I took every recording I had of Tim (both my copy of Yule Tide Greetings and all the various recordings we did together) and transfered them all to the digital realm in order to create a comprehensive CD compilation. Audio tapes don’t always stand up well to the test of time, so the project took quite a number of late nights (I can only work on such projects after Melody goes to bed) to digitally equalize the recordings so they’d sound sufficiently bright and clear. I even designed a CD cover using the artwork Tim created for his Yule Tide Greetings tape by scanning it into Photoshop and making just a few tweaks with the text elements.

To any of Tim’s friends who find their way to this entry by way of a Web search, feel free to let me know if you’d like a CD (Greg should have already received his copy) and I’d be happy to send one along. It’s the least I can do.

Additionally, I’ve posted the entire CD on my website so everyone in cyberspace can enjoy the artistry of my friend, Tim Rivers.


  • Hi Steve:

    I found this very interesting, and very sad. Sad because of his death, of course, and sad because you lost track of him and missed out on years of friendship and memories.

    Thanks for sharing such a special story with us.

    Aunt Linda

    By Anonymous Aunt Linda, at 12/28/2006 4:31 PM  

  • This entry was very touching to me because I know how much Tim impacted Steve's life. It's very heartwarming to know that Tim's spirit lives on through his recorded music and through the inspiration he spread to those around him. I never met Tim, but I am thankful that Steve had the opportunity to know such a wonderful person. His memory will indeed live on forever, even for those of us who just hear the stories.

    By Anonymous Marcie, at 1/24/2007 5:28 PM  

  • Thank you, Steve, for this story about our brother. This is indeed a moving tribute to him. I can tell that you and Tim were truly good friends even though you lost touch with one another. Tim was all that you said. He joked about his illness to the end. He is missed very much. His memory lives on by people like you. Thanks again.

    Tim's brother, Jim

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/06/2009 5:42 AM  

  • I worked with Timmy at Jax"s Music in the Haight in the late 70"s.He would play the Emotions or Earth,Wind and Fire and hit all the high notes.We would dance around the store and sing.He was so much fun and such a flirt.I loved when we were together.jennifer

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/25/2011 3:40 PM  

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