by Angélique Davies
Reconstructing Jonathan Davies has been illuminating for me. Collecting stories about my brother has caused a cascade of memories that seem to creep into my waking state, and it is like my brother’s voice is in my head, asking me to remember him well.
One time, when we were double-riding our Honda 70 around Lefroy Harbour, Jon took me into the woods to show me a rabbit warren he had discovered, and the little bunnies hiding there. This was quite possibly our singular, most peaceful moment together.
Another time, he bought me a tiny carved turtle to cheer me up when I went to the record store at Square One only to find they had sold their last copy of the Kung Fu Fighting 45. That quickly turned tears into a smile. Jon woke me up very late one night because he thought it was important for me to see David Bowie’s guest appearance on Saturday Night Live. On reflection this was a rare and special invitation into his world. And when he worked at the airport Jon got me the autographs of celebrities like Donny Osmond and The Ramones, because he knew I was a fan.
I think my brother’s biggest impact was to introduce me to a world of music and artists like The Clash, The Jam, The Psychedelic Furs and many others at a time when music provided me with a refuge from a world that for me was chaotic, and often lonely. Jon could do some really thoughtful and magical things, and I wish that he had let me see that side of him more often.
Making sense of positive and negative memories of my brother has resulted in many revisions during the writing process. This narrative has not only been about the shadows that concealed certain aspects of my brother’s life (and certain memories), but it has also been about boundaries, both his and mine; I have struggled over what to say and what to leave unsaid. In the end, one’s life is the sum of its parts, and acknowledging the dark parts of Jon’s story has shed light on the fact that like anyone who is a troubled, creative dreamer, he was fragile and fallible. Somewhere between the forces that made Jon reach for the stars and those that kept stardom beyond his reach, the artist that he was still shines through.
I realize now that there were many indicators along the way which suggested that Jon’s mental health issues began much earlier in his life. Jon often broke rules or pushed boundaries by doing things he surely knew would upset our parents. He verbally and physically hurt me and sometimes my friends. If he saw the problem with growing marijuana in his drum room, that didn’t prevent him from doing it. Jon seemed spurred on by what seemed to be a consistent lack of consequences for his actions. Maybe he’d outgrown being constantly photographed, and raised the stakes by doing riskier things that would get him noticed and even caught, but seldom held accountable. Maybe that early excess of attention made Jon bold enough to dare our parents to point the camera at a darker side of him that they had long chosen to ignore.
At the same time Jon was very sensitive, and even self-conscious. Early in his life his own boundaries had been violated by a caregiver who proved unworthy of his trust. While in high school his two middle fingers were seriously injured in a shop class accident, which could have changed the trajectory of his music career. He often kept his hands fisted, to protect and hide them. These were traumatic experiences that happened at times when he was particularly vulnerable.
The educator in me now sees the part of my brother that remained a wounded kid throughout his life. Being permitted to do as he pleased, and learning that protection from bad things that happen is not always guaranteed, most certainly affected his personal and artistic development. I think Jon may have been filled with under-the-surface anger much of his life which tended to show itself when he wanted attention, or when things didn’t go his way. Jon was given many opportunities in life, but he also had his fair share of disappointment and pain.
Jon went through many hard stages in his life – two marriages that didn’t last, our parents’ deaths, unsuccessful projects and fractured friendships. As his depression deepened, his increasing dependence on alcohol and drugs caused episodes where he broke with reality, when the full force of his anger would show itself. He became alienated from those who loved him, including his two young children. Jon died of liver failure, on June 23, 2016, believing his life had been a waste, that no one would have a single kind word for him when he died. Yet even when his life started to unravel, Jon always pursued creative projects. He hoped to see his screenplay, an adaptation of The Great Adventure by David Cruise and Alison Griffiths, produced in memory of our late father. He tried to revive his drumming career by forming a new band. And Jon encouraged his greatest creation – his children – to share his love of music and to pursue their own dreams. I admired this about him, and believe his life was anything but a waste.
Friends who knew him before depression overcame him and before his dreams had lost their lustre, shared their stories, bringing to light those parts of Jon’s life veiled in shadow – parts that I missed because I was younger, and because we were not close. I know him better now, and feel a sense of closure that has been eluding me. This is my eulogy for Jonathan Davies – musician, actor, writer and artist – a tribute to my brother whose resplendent light was extinguished too soon.
by Angélique Davies, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Read all 4 instalments of Angélique’s story:
Life in Shadow: (published in 4 parts)
Life in Shadow: A Drummer’s Story Comes to Light (Part 1)
– published July 15, 2017
Life in Shadow: Kinetic Ideals and Breeding Ground – (Part 2)
– published July 16, 2017
Life in Shadow: Finding a New Artistic Direction: Groovy Julia (Part 3) – published July 18, 2017
Life in Shadow: A Eulogy for my Brother (Part 4) – published July 20, 2017