Remembering Jack Sonni
"Tomorrow never knows."
Remembering Jack Sonni
(December 9, 1954 - August 30, 2023)
It was just after midnight last night when I read the news that Jack Sonni had died at the age of 68. He would be the first to tell you that he was best known as “the other guitar player in the Dire Straits,” and, yes, he was part of the band on the Brothers in Arms world tour promoting the record-breaking album of the same name, and played guitar on stage next to Sting on “Money for Nothing” at Live Aid in 1985.
Jack was on tour with Dire Straits Legacy, a band of musicians who had recorded and toured with Dire Straits, but this week had to miss some gigs due to unspecified health problems. Sharing the sad news, DSL wrote: “Our beloved Jack has left a void in our heart and soul… we will miss you so much, you are forever with us.”
Jack also “raised a rock and roll ruckus” regularly playing with The Leisure Class, a group he first formed in 1977, and hosted a Newsweek podcast of the same name. Give any of these episodes a listen to hear Jack in his own words.
Jack was also a talented writer, and his last Instagram post from earlier this summer was about taking some time off “getting my novel in shape for my agent’s publisher hunt.”
He was a terrific home cook and a discerning and entertaining dining companion. He was a dedicated friend and a positive and encouraging voice to his many fans in a world filled with so much anxious churning.
But most important of all, he was a father and a grandfather, and someone who embraced what he called “a philosophy to Live Well and Live Now in pursuit of creating memorable moments with friends and family.” Jack knew tragedy first-hand, having lost one of his twin daughters, and one of his frequent sign-offs was, “Hug them while you can, chilluns. Tomorrow Never Knows.”
I was fortunate to have met Jack in Oxford, Mississippi, in the fall of 2019. I regret that we didn’t get to spend more time together in person after that, but we remained close and over the past few years called each other, made cocktails together over Zoom, kept up over texts. We were overdue for a check-in call and I wish that last one had happened. Whenever he encountered one of my books in the wild when he was traveling or on tour, he would always text me a photo. His last one from over the summer, a selfie of him holding a copy of Amaro: “Hey brother! In a groovy indie in Ventura Cali.”
I’m devastated that we’re all now walking in a world without Jack. But I can only imagine the pain and loss his beloved family and friends are suffering right now, and I’m sending them all of my love, prayers, and condolences during this difficult time.
I was re-reading Jack’s essay, “Reflections on Loss & Grief” early this morning, in which he offers this impassioned wisdom:
“All we have is this moment, my friends. This moment, right now. Be in it. Be present with your loved ones. Give them your full attention and focus. Listen. And do your best to hear what they are really saying. There is nothing more important and nothing that cannot wait.”
Jack was always generous with his time and shared stories and served as a resource for me here at LAST CALL and in other outlets. Like this piece on Oxford, Mississippi, and one of his favorite places, The Upstairs Bar at City Grocery. How I wish I could join him one last time at that legendary bar he loved so much.
On our New Year’s Rockin’ Eve Special, Jack shared his New Year’s Eve tradition of a pasta dinner with his grandmother’s recipe for sugo Calabrese, a few hunks of ciabatta, and a bottle of Chianti Riserva in front of a big TV watching The Godfather.
“This ritual seems to ground me, connecting me to my family and friends scattered across the country. The wedding scene, the dinner gatherings, sauce-making instructions when they’ve gone “to the mattresses” all bringing back so many sweet memories while looking forward to making more in the coming year.”
For a long time now, my band ends our gigs with this song. It was a favorite of one of Oxford, Mississippi’s most beloved figures, Ron “Ronzo” Shapiro. Ronzo was a champion of the arts, a kind, generous spirit with a smile for everyone, always. He was the unofficial mayor of Oxford’s community of writers, artists, musicians and an inspiration to all. I ran into him once as I was leaving town, driving through the Square. He was crossing the street, turned and waved to me and said “Hurry back. Life’s better when you’re in it.” Probably the single most kind thing anyone has ever said to me. “Ooh La La” is a sweet song, a natural sing-along, custom made for leaving, wrapped in the love of kindred spirits.
I hope you’ll check out this Encore Appearance of Dive Bar Jukebox with Jack Sonni from December 2, 2022, to learn more about his life and music in his own words, and take some time to queue up his terrific playlist while lingering over a glass of wine or your favorite bourbon this long weekend in his memory.
Here’s to you, Jack.