Earl Root lives on
Earl Root's memorial service started at 6:00 p.m. on Friday. I got there at 7:40 or so, late from playing ball with my four-year-old nephew at his new house. Outside the funeral home in south Minneapolis, a light rain was falling, but even a diminished crowd was spilling out of the chapel by the hundreds. Many mourners were smoking, glancing up, looking for a familiar face.
Inside the last few friends were going up to the front of the chapel to talk about Earl, one by one. "I never thought I'd be wearing a WASP t-shirt to a funeral," said one friend. The room laughed warmly.
Other things said about Earl in those last 45 minutes of his memorial (and I'm paraphrasing from memory):
"The thing about Earl was he had the widest devil horns" (the hand gesture).
"Most of us love music. But I don't even think there's a way to describe the way Earl felt about music. He would take a $500 amp and pay $500 to drive 500 miles to play some stinky little gig for one person, and be grateful to do it. He was just grateful to play music. He had more right than anyone of us to be bitter, and yet he was always the least like that of anyone of us. Am I right? [Crowd answers: Yeah]."
"We'd talk about our cats. Can you imagine? Two grown men. Underneath all the tattoos and metal, he wanted to talk about [makes loving cat-owner noises]. That was Earl."
It probably says something about Earl Root that I loved his KFAI radio show The Root of All Evil, and listened to it often, without truly loving metal as much as most of his fans did. It gave me a kick, even driving to the funeral playing a couple hard rock cassettes I bought the day before at the Salvation Army, to know that Earl would probably consider whatever I was blasting hopelessly wimpy. I didn't know him well, just through his old store, and the occasional interview for City Pages. But I knew he was the kind of person that local music scenes can't exist without: the kind, good-humored, cool-as-shit lifeblood. My favorite part of his show was just him talking with his friends about music.
At the end of the service, a woman who appeared to love him very much, and to have known him for a very long time, thanked everyone there for being his friend, and told the room, "He died like a warrior"--very peacefully, actually. She flashed devil horns, and the crowd clapped and did the same, and someone up front yelled: "Metttaaaaaaaaaaalllll!!!!" People smiled and wept and talked and filed out of the chapel. Outside, the rain had stopped, leaving behind a rainbow in the late-evening sun. Rest in peace, Earl.