Remembering a punk jazz genius on the anniversary of his tragic passing
It was 35 years ago today when we lost one of the most vital voices in American punk after Dennes Boon of Minutemen died in a van accident on Interstate 10 in the Arizona desert.
D. Boon was only 27 when he died, but his intelligence and perspective superceded his youth. The Minutemen, comprised of Boon on vocals and lead guitar, the mighty Mike Watt on bass and George Hurley on drums, were inherently a political band. A voracious gormadizer of history, poly-sci and George Carlin albums, Boon’s lyrics proved a perfect foil for the band’s wiry hybrid of jazz, hardcore, country and post-punk, cumulating in such skate tape staples as “Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs” and “One Reporter’s Opinion”.
“Well, kind of like with that nature thing, you know, it’s a humbler,” Watt told The Creative Independent last August about keeping the legacy of his childhood best friend alive and well in the 21st century. “You’re going to be joining D. Boon. Even if you live healthy, you only got so much time. You better be earnest. You gotta make it count, man! That was the hardest lesson I’ve learned in a strange way, because you can get a little full of yourself. You got to work on that on a lot of levels. When I start doubting and stuff, and I’m lucky I got the momentum from the old days being with him, but on the other hand, I also feel this need to give him credit. I feel like what you’re seeing is not just all me. You know what I mean? It just isn’t. It’s not fair to the whole story. When I think about him, one thing, it’s gratitude of course, but the other is like, ‘Whoa, there’s only so much time.'”
I was in 6th grade the Christmas week we lost Dennes Dale Boon, clueless to the gravity by which we lost one of California’s greatest rock guitarists. Funny enough, one of the very first indie bands I was turned onto by my Thrasher pals in 8th grade was fIREHOSE, the band Watt and Hurley would form with Ed fROMOHIO in 1986. Sadly, it wasn’t until senior year that I discovered the genius of The Minutemen, whose music remains a vital staple of my listening diet at 47. I remember dubbing Double Nickels On The Dime (which I just learned was a pisstake on Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55”) off my friend’s vinyl copy of the album onto a Sony blank cassette (I recall this because I was a staunch loyalist to Maxell XL-II’s and it remained an outlier in my secondhand music collection).
D. Boon would have been 62 had that crash in the Arizona desert never happened. It is quite painful to speculate just how many more amazing songs this guy had in him to carry through his 30s, 40s and 50s. I’ll bet my house that a Boon solo album would have been hailed as an all-time classic as his deep love for country music certainly comes to the fore in this alternate universe.
In honor of Boon’s memory in the wake of this tragic anniversary, please check out some of my favorite Minutemen shows on YouTube.
VIDEO: Minutemen at the Starwood 1980
VIDEO: Minutemen at Love Hall Dec. 1983
VIDEO: Minutemen at The Stone in San Francisco, May 13, 1985
VIDEO: Minutemen Acoustic Blowout ’85
AUDIO: Minutemen Live on WREK Atlanta 11/30/1985