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Mark Rubinstein

Updated: Jun 9

It is with heavy heart that write of the passing of my friend Mark Rubinstein, who slipped away from us early this morning in a hospital in Ohio. Many of you from San Antonio knew Mark for his formidable musicianship, playing jazz piano with Small World, or accordion with the Sabas trio, or drums in the Rejects, his first band, a seminal Texas punk outfit. The Rejects single sells for serious money, if you can find it—it is so sought-after. Mark produced many recordings for all kinds of musicians. And I am quite sure that each one of them feels like I do today.

Mark’s musical skills were so much more than formidable—there is a word I’m searching for, something akin to genius or other-worldly or magical. I play regularly with Joe Reyes, who bowls me over constantly with his musical skill. But even Joe makes mistakes on occasion. I never once saw Mark make a mistake--on drums, on guitar, on piano. His ears were like nothing else. I witnessed it many times in the recording studio: Mark could hear things invisible to me. I suppose it’s somewhat like how a dog has a widely different experience of the world, an expansive bandwith of perception that we can sense and guess at, but not experience firsthand. Mark could see music in color bars, and recognize a granular detail of rhythm and pitch that is closed to most of the rest of us.

Mark produced Buttercup’s first two records Sick Yellow Flower and Hot Love. And years before that he produced my band Evergreen's album, Low Down Son. I count myself so very lucky to have spent many hours toiling with him in semi-airconditioned rooms trying to eke out something emotional and beautiful. Mark’s musicality and perfectionism helped take my sometimes strange song ideas into a place where they could be listened to repeatedly. I owe him so very much.

Mark and I setting up a telephone to sing through. We stayed up all night playing the same song through the telephone--a 24 hour live performance. circa 2006

Mark was so damn funny. You can hear me laughing on our song “Hot Love” as I blow the vocal entrance after the bridge. After trying to sing the part so many times—at least a dozen—Mark just patiently rewound one more time. I asked him, Is it getting better? Getting closer?  He said “not better, not closer, maybe different.” In a way that was so honest, exposing the ridiculousness of my floundering. But yet, so gentle. Mark was a big guy, and his face when expressionless could look very intimidating—he had a heavy brow and big goatee. However, he was never unkind, never impatient. He was pure kindness. He was constantly laughing. He was a true friend.

Mark didn’t graduate from high school—he got a GED instead. I think he was so smart that school just bored him. But somehow he taught as a professor of recording at UTSA and later ran the music recording program at Ohio State. He worked with Celine Dion and Luther Vandross. Mikhail Gorbechev sat in his lap once, while Mark was dressed in a Santa outfit. Mark said some kind things about my songwriting early on, for which I am deeply indebted. I go back to Mark’s words when I’m feeling particularily insecure, which lately is often.

I’m crying through this eulogizing of Mark. I guess I’m going to continue to cry as I type. It feels so heavy that this world, which needs gentleness and kindness so very badly—a world that is desperate for someone who can truly listen—has lost this bright, gentle light. We’ve lost his quiet genius. Oh Mark, this is unfair.

Mark struggled with an auto-immune disorder for many years. The past two days his sisters have been with him and Saleta Gomez (who was Mark's best friend). I'm glad they could be there to spend time with him and comfort him. Lately it had been very difficult for him. I suppose he has found peace, now. Later I’ll go back and listen to Hot Love, but right now I just cant. I doubt you can hear me now, but I love you, Mark.


Mark and Saleta, New Years Day bagel party 2007

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