Curtiss A’s John Lennon tribute follows more recent losses for ‘The Funeral Singer’

When Curtiss A sings “In My Life” at tonight’s John Lennon Tribute at First Avenue, it will conclude an impressive run of the rendition that started for the Dean O’ Scream on Dec. 9, 1980, on the local entertainment cable staple “Night Times Variety” just hours after the former Beatle was slain outside his apartment in New York City.

Curtiss A at Brad Zellar’s birthday party last month, at the Amsterdam Hall and Bar in St. Paul.
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
Curtiss A at Brad Zellar’s birthday party last month, at the Amsterdam Hall and Bar in St. Paul.

Since then, Curt has sung it every Dec. 8 at his reliably powerful Lennon tribute, and in recent months Curt has sung the Lennon-McCartney-penned tune at the funerals of his friends Bruce Allen, Kevin FoleySteve Foley and Buck Hazlett and his childrencausing friends to dub Curt “The Funeral Singer.”

Tonight, the Minnesota rock legend will dedicate “In My Life,” which Mojo magazine in 2003 deemed the best song ever written, to a special guest: himself.

“I had a stroke last month, so we’re doing it for me because I almost died, and make sure you say, ‘he laughed,’ ” said Curt, who laughed.

“Sometimes I sing it at weddings. I don’t know if I agree with [Mojo’s listing], but I do find it quite poignant. We do it in tandem with ‘Here, There, and Everywhere,’ and those kinds of songs are devoid of hopelessness. They’re the opposite of that. They’re like Christmas carols, or something.

‘In My Life’ has a beginning and ending, a bridge, and it’s pretty and poignant, and usually it makes people cry. I remember doing it years ago for someone’s funeral way back when [Suburbs co-founder] Chan [Poling] played the piano for me and I stood out in the audience, or in the congregation, and sang it from there. That was the first time I sang it at a funeral.

“If somebody wants me to do that, it’s an honor. So that’s what I’m thinking. It’s not hard to sing a song, but it’s hard to say goodbye to someone you love. It doesn’t scare me to sing a song, but afterwards I’m glad it’s over. It’s not like a gig. At a gig you’re trying to entertain people; at a funeral or wedding you’re trying to touch a soul.

“It’s always a little transcendent. When it’s happening, it’s somewhat daunting. I think I choked up most at Buck’s because you don’t want to be doing that because it’s your friend. Plus, now I’m old. Just waiting. The terrible thing about surviving all this time is that all your friends are dead, and the countdown for you really begins.”

The 32nd Annual John Lennon Tribute starts at 7 tonight with an hour-long set from Curtiss A and a little help from his friends, followed by an 8 p.m. performance of The Minnesota Beatles Project, followed by the Lennon-Curt band until they kick us out.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Colleen Foley on 12/08/2011 - 12:06 pm.

    Thank you Jim for the article on Curt, who has always been there for his music friends and families. I can never thank him enough for stepping up for our family when we lost both Kevin and Stephen. He was there to help and support us and bring extra meaning to their mem services with “In My Life”. So scary to hear about his own health issues – will be there tonight for him! Colleen Foley

  2. Submitted by Brandt Hardin on 12/08/2011 - 02:41 pm.

    Imagine a world living in peace… John did and I tried to channel his world-embracing and loving energy this week with a tribute portrait inspired by his music and his passion for changing the world. You can see this new work of art in memoriam on my artist’s blog at

  3. Submitted by Sherri Faye on 12/22/2011 - 10:18 pm.

    I went to the tribute, and have been there in years past! Curtiss A is stone cold trip! I love that guy, almost as much as I love the Beatles!
    My daughter, Staci, and I are painting a mural this year to promote the MN Beatle Project. I also have a portrait I’ve drawn of John Lennon, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, and other rockers. I sell them at stores in St. Paul and Mpls. and directly and a portion of the proceeds go to the MN Beatle Project.
    You can find them at my website, and have a chance to help support music and art education for MN kids. Being part of a bigger more peaceful world, full of music and art – what more could I ask for!
    or email me at
    THANKS CURTISS A, for your passion and unique you!
    Sherri Faye
    Artist/Writer/Graphic Designer/Humorist
    and Notorious Person at Large…

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