Larry Hoppen

Once upon a time you had to know how to sing.

This was before auto-tune, before all the special effects that allow poseurs to fake it. When one’s personal goals included buying a stereo so big and powerful it could be heard by your neighbors…the next block over. I’m convinced a whole genre of music, acoustic-based rock, has been relegated to also-ran status by the compressed music delivered to customers today, who listen to it on earbuds so lousy even dogs would complain. But in the seventies, the richness of the sound coming out of your speakers was enough to make you happy in itself, you needed no additional drugs, it was an aural orgasm.

And one of the great sounds emanating from the big rigs was the voice of Larry Hoppen. In such exquisite productions as “Dance With Me”. If you think it sounds good on Spotify, just imagine it with all the highs intact, filling up your living room.

Larry didn’t write the songs. That was done by Johanna Hall oftentimes in partnership with her husband John. But the vocalist behind the Orleans hits was Larry Hoppen. And maybe the band is a minor footnote in the history of rock, but you can’t find a baby boomer who does not know “Dance With Me” and…

“Still The One”.

I know, I know, you’re burned out on it, it’s cheesy, it’s overused. But once upon a time, “Still The One” was brand new. And when it burst out of the radio speakers, and that’s where we always heard things first, it was beyond a breath of fresh air, it was a lightning bolt to the head and heart, “Still The One” made life worth living.

But now Larry Hoppen is dead.

I don’t know what happened. The fact that future gigs were booked suggests some kind of misadventure. But does it really matter, once someone passes?

And they’re dropping like flies. You see being a musician is a hard life. The highs and lows of the road. And the swings in compensation. And we’re suddenly realizing that not everybody can do it forever, because health doesn’t play that way. Hell, in the last six months seemingly everybody I know has gotten cancer. Sure, that’s an overstatement, but it seems that way…that it’s only a matter of time before we’re all afflicted.

And what gets us through the pain is music.

And when “Still The One” breaks down just shy of three minutes in, and Larry Hoppen’s voice floats over the bass vocals and drums, we revel in the wonderment of being alive. Sure, nature can overwhelm us, render us speechless, but music can do this too. It’s almost impossible to explain, it’s something you feel.

I heard from Larry regularly. And my heart always skipped a beat. Not because he was famous, but because he possessed that voice, that emanated from the radio, that made me feel it was so great to be alive.

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