A Life Well Lived

Dick Shanahan performs at the Loew's State Theater in NYC, March 1943

Dick Shanahan performs at the Loew’s State Theater in NY, March 1943. Photo: Arsene Studio

I’ve only officially been a Shanahan for about five years, but I was eighteen when Grandpa Dick and the beautiful Masumi first welcomed me in to their home, and their family.

Photo by Leigh Miller

Scott’s Grandfather led an incredible life, and has left behind the kind of indelible legacy that will live on in our family for generations to come. He passed away early Sunday morning. He was ninety one.

Dick and fellow Gretsch-Sponsored drummer Louie Bellson in an early ad for Gretsch drums.

In 2007, Dick retired from a seventy-three year touring career as a professional jazz drummer. By Christmas the following year, our then eighty six year old family patriarch was complaining that he was bored.  My husband — always a little star-struck by his grandfather — jumped on the chance to ask him if he’d consider teaching him the drums. Dick agreed, and at twenty six years old, on the day we found out we were pregnant with Delilah, Scott took his first drum lesson.

In the four years that followed, Scott and Dick would spend every Saturday together as Scott went from novice to certified Jazz Drummer, getting to really know his Grandfather and learning a remarkable life story along the way.

Photo by Leigh Miller

From his early days playing jazz clubs across the US and how that experience informed his zero tolerance policy for discrimination or social injustice from his four kids, to how he stepped up to grab a final taste of the spotlight at just 21 years old when he discovered he’d been replaced on tour only to find himself with a bigger paycheck and a renewed contract, Dick’s presence and stories changed Scott, just as it was obvious Scott’s presence stories changed Dick. For Dick’s wonderful wife Masumi and I, it was a special pleasure to witness, one we’ve marveled over often. This loss is a bittersweet one — an absence we’ll feel heavily, but coupled with a sense of deep appreciation for the invaluable burst of time he and Scott had together at the end, and of course, the vain wish that there had been more.

The past two years, Scott spent labor day weekend playing roadie for his Grandfather as he came ever-so-briefly out of retirement for the Annual Sweet & Hot Music Festival here in Los Angeles. Here’s a quick view of the show through Scott’s eyes:

We miss you already Grandpa Dick. To the rest of my beloved Shanahans, in name and otherwise, I’m thinking of you all, and I’m so sorry he’s gone.

Feed Me Seymour