For those who couldn't be there, Mark Eskin's Wake was just like going to one of Mark's gigs. Friends from all walks of his life were there. Mingling and swapping stories. High School friends, work friends, band mates from any number of the bands that Mark had been in, and of course Beatle friends. Mark loved his Beatles. He loved music, listening to it, playing it . . . If he wasn't onstage, he was in the audience. Mark was always there, an integral part of the Chicago music scene. A constant presence. . .
The funeral home was packed to the rafters. It truly was a Rock & Roll send off. Amazing the amount of talent in the room. Friends from Mark's various bands and bands that he sat in on, such as New Colony Six, Instant Karma, Sting Rays, American English, New Invaders, Cavern Beat, etc., all took turns performing while the rest of us sang off key at the top of our lungs. I don't think Mark could have missed hearing us. It was opined that Mark was upstairs spinning and laughing at us! lol... If you check YouTube, there are videos posted of the jam.
Instant Karma bandmates Alex Evans and Bob Blider, led everyone in a rendition of "This Boy", one of Mark's favorite Beatle tunes. Later, when Instant Karma lead singer Jay Goeppner arrived, he led everyone in John Lennon's signature song of hope "Imagine". For me the most poignant part of the evening was looking at all the pictures of Mark. Recognizing quite a few of them from shows that I had attended. Most bittersweet though, was the then-and-now photo grouping of Mark and Flo, with the single unopened bottle of Heineken placed next to them.
The day of the funeral was bright and sunny, with the kind of clouds that you use to see animals in when you were kids. 50 of us must have packed the tiny little chapel, with at least 20 more outside it. Before the service started, one of Mark's oldest friends stood up and said a few words. How Mark is now sitting in with another band after 37 years of making music down here. How Mark the nice Jewish boy got mixed up with a bunch of rebellious Catholics. And how Mark was one of the most talented musicians he has ever known.
The Rock & Roll Rabbi officiated, wearing his Beatle tie. He began with reading several psalms and a blessing in hebrew and english. He then spoke about Mark's early life, how Mark got his first guitar at 9 yrs. Recited some of Mark's musical history. Read out loud Mark's own words on how he felt when he played with the original members of New Colony Six the night before their induction into The Saint Pat's Hall Of Fame. He spoke about how Mark lived to play music, always filling in when needed. One story that the Rabbi told was related to him the night before at the wake. It illustrated Mark's other great love, his love for his wife Flo. Mark was sitting in for another band. He wanted to change the order of the set list because Flo was going to be late for the gig. All of her favorite Beatles songs were in the first half of the set and he didn't want her to miss them. The Rabbi closed with an altered song lyric from one Mark & Flo's favorite songs. Offering up words of comfort and love.
Back out into the beautiful sunny day to pay our last respects and say goodbye to our dear friend. A solemn and brief few words at the grave site by the Rabbi. After the casket was lowered, we were all invited to throw 3 shovelfuls of dirt into the grave and we were not to hand the shovel to the next person, but to either place the shovel into the soil or lay it on the ground. So that we would not pass on our own grief to the next person. It was explained to us that according to Jewish belief it is important that the deceased is buried by their friends and loved ones. Showing our continued love and concern for them as they take their final journey.
Standing there, with the sun on my back, I thought about my friend Mark. Thought about what a sweet gentle man he was. How he always greeted me with kisses and hugs. How he would look out for me in my early days of Fake Beatle watching. Thinking about what a talented musician he was. When I was learning to play guitar, I would watch him play, watch how his fingers would make the chord changes. I remember commenting to him one time about how it always seemed that guitar players had long fingers. Mark answered me by holding up his hand and waving his stuby digits. This after I just watched him rip through "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
For me Mark was a fixture in my Beatle world. I was either there to watch him perform or he was there with me in the audience. Like a child who expects their parents to live forever. I expected Mark to always be there to be my big Beatle brother. I will miss you Mark but most of all I think would love to see you in the band you'll be performing with now! : )
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Obituary for Mark Eskin
Deft, versatile musician, singer MARK ESKIN | 1958-2010: Passionate performer of '60s, '70s rock played with 30 bands, didn't need sheet music -
The Cryers have many Beatlely connections, performing with and opening for acts such as Laurence Juber, Denny Laine, Terry Sylvester of The Hollies, Joey Molland of Badfinger, The Pete Best Band, Peter Asher and the late Gordon Waller, and 60's Folk Rock Duo Chad and Jeremy. The Cryers are also a staple at one of the largest live Beatle music festivals, Abbey Road on the River where they often bring along one of their famous friends.