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Fare Thee Well, Stephen

A little over five years ago, I received an email from Stephen St.Croix with the subject line Goodbye, Mix. Oh no, I thought. What have I done? I've pushed

A little over five years ago, I received an email from Stephen St.Croix with the subject line “Goodbye, Mix.” Oh no, I thought. What have I done? I’ve pushed too hard. We were a day and a half from shipping the magazine, and even by Stephen’s measure, we were cutting it close. I opened the file, dreading what he might say. Then I read a love letter to our industry, which closed with the hardest couple of paragraphs I’ve ever had to read. I’ve held that document on my hard drive, opening and re-reading it a number of times over the years. Today, we’re sharing it with you.

Stephen St.Croix passed away in the early morning of May 6, in his home, surrounded by family and friends. He wasn’t supposed to live that long, but because he did, we all learned a little more about how it can feel to be passionate about music…and life. He stretched our deadlines over the past five years, but he never missed a column. When his bones were so broken from a motorcycle accident, he composed from his hospital bed using ViaVoice. When morphine made him groggy, he stopped taking it. It pained him these last three months when we ran “classic” columns. He was burning to write. He had so much to say. He felt love and a deep responsibility to you, his readers, whom he always considered family.

Stephen was quite simply the smartest guy I’ve ever known, and one of the most creative. He designed and built the Marshall Time Modulator, and he hosted Stevie Wonder in his home for six months during their work together on Songs in the Key of Life. He redesigned the interface for the Quantec Room Simulator, and he restored The Wizard of Oz. He held dozens of patents worldwide in technologies far removed from music-making, and he delivered a column about swimming into the Mediterranean and listening to a solo guitar on a rock in the water. That brought him great joy, at a time when he needed it.

Yes, he had an ego that would fill a concert hall. And he had the Harley swagger and rock-star persona that would dominate a room. That’s what you read each month. At home, he was humbled by the genius and significance of an iPod. He would describe in great detail the sight of the first snow on the naked Maryland trees. More than anything, he loved to sit and pet his cats. He approached death with the spirit of a Teddy Roosevelt and the dignity of a Nelson Mandela. He was one of a kind.

More than anything, I think I’ll miss the phone calls. A voice from 3,000 miles away that could answer any question or reassure any decision. He told me why we have so little lightning in California, and he long ago predicted how records would soon be made. He was right.

A few years back, he called just to say that he was in love and was going to be married, to a wonderful woman named Teresa. He, a man who lived life for the sheer experience, said he couldn’t believe he waited all this time to experience real love.

I can’t remember our first phone conversation way back in the late-’80s, but I’ll never forget the last. A week and a half before he died, while trying to tweak a column, he called to say thank you. To me. To Mix. For allowing him to talk to all of you all these years. He wanted to remind me how special it was that we got to be a part of this whole music-making world. I can only hope that I am so gracious as I stare at my final days.

Stephen, we love you and we’ll miss you. All of us.