Roots rock band Groovy Julia. Photo courtesy of the band

Life in Shadow: Finding New Artistic Direction with Groovy Julia

by Angélique Davies

From 1987 to ’93, Jonathan held various positions in the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission. Around 1989, while training to be a case presenting officer, he met Chris Cook, who lived in Jon’s neighbourhood.

They discovered their shared love of music while working together as adjudicators. Chris describes how over the course of four years, the two “began to play music together and formed [their] band Groovy Julia.”

Though their musical styles differed in some ways, their shared ‘musical sensibility’ motivated them to build a spectacular rehearsal space on Polson St. down in the Portlands, and to begin to arrange and play Chris’s original compositions. Groovy Julia enjoyed playing a lot of Toronto gigs, though they never achieved acclaim.

Chris writes, “It’s never easy for a band playing original music to get gigs or even get paid, but those weren’t stumbling blocks for Jonathan. He was a true believer (at that point) and often kept the ship righted when I became discouraged.”  Unfortunately when a new bass player joined the band, conflict ensued, which ended Jon’s tenure with Groovy Julia.

In 1992, Jon’s artistic interests were taking a new direction. He began attending play and screen writing workshops at Ryerson Polytechnic basing his earliest efforts on his work in immigration and the stories of his clients’ struggles. (Jon’s return to the world of drama is not surprising. At University of Toronto he minored in drama, and I recall that he played Adolf Hitler in his friend Rob Costigan’s production of Blitzkrieg: A Play about Hitler and Eva by Bryan Wade.

Poster of Jonathan Davies and Rob Costigan's production of Julius Caesar
Poster of Jonathan Davies and Rob Costigan’s production of Julius Caesar

In the summer of 1987 Jon and Rob collaborated on a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The performance of this play at what was then the new amphitheatre at Mississauga’s civic centre was one of my brother’s most successful creative projects).

Though Jon’s time with Groovy Julia had ended – and by this time both he and Chris had left the government – Chris continued to work with Jon on a television project called Planet Cool (arranging photo shoots, proof reading scripts, scouting locations and writing incidental music). Sadly, the project came off the rails, when one of the lead actors left.

Chris believes that “Jonathan became despondent about what had happened. It was an ongoing regret about it that was one of his greatest demons.”

Around 1998, Chris and Jon drifted apart “after so many years of close collaboration, in so many areas.” Their friendship had its conflicts – Jon could sometimes denigrate the opinions of others and make people feel used, and he “could turn on you very quickly” if he felt slighted or people didn’t “conform 100% to his vision.” (Jon suffered for many years with mental illness and substance abuse which undoubtedly contributed to this behaviour).

Chris notes with regret that “eventually these things trumped what attracted you to Jonathan in the first place – his incredible enthusiasm for a project.”

Their friendship did not end amicably, but Chris “never stopped thinking fondly of Jonathan. At his best, he was a whirlwind – a force of nature. He was at once inspiring, infuriating, warm, distant, funny, creative, loyal, energetic and amazing and will certainly [be remembered] that way.”

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


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