Matthew Power 1974 – 2014

Matt power

I met Matt while working at Camp Dunmore in Vermont in 1991 - we both had aspirations to be writers and hit it off straight away. Matt, who co-wrote and performed weekly skits - comedy sketches - showed me poems he'd written, which I thought were pretty good, and I incorporated his words into Light A Candle, which was actually my first finished song. We then finished Can't Carry On together, an incomplete song I already had, trading lines and scribbling them down on a scrap of paper in my log-cabin 'bunk'. Later, we wrote Sitting in the Rain, whilst on a two-day mountain hike, the title idea coming because it was tipping it down that evening in camp: again we bounced lines at each other as I struggled to find the next chord... these were exciting times: I was becoming a songwriter.

I re-established contact with Matt not long before his untimely death - who was by them an established and renowned journalist - because he owned copyright in, Can't Carry On, precurser of Something Has To Fall, which I wrote later. This was essentially because, in my opinion, there had been possible copyright infringement of these two songs by a well-known artist (who can no longer be named for legal reasons) I had pitched this song to in around 2000.
Having done extensive internet research, very close personal connections were uncovered between my father's cousin, who had links to the artist. Classically-trained musicians agree it looks like copying, but outright infringement isn't so clear-cut - it's a very grey area of law. I recorded a mash-up of the songs and also the uncannily similar scenes from the video, which Matt was bowled over by.

Matt, being the journalist he was - wanting to expose the truth behind the apparent similarities - had kindly agreed to help write and break this story, and I was just in the process of cobbling together a long piece encompassing my findings when I received news of his sudden death whilst on assignment in Africa.

On hearing the sad news of his sudden death at just 39 I wrote A Thousand paper Cranes, in tribute to, and memory of Matt, which is influenced by Matt's obsession with the ancient Japanese legend which says folding the origami cranes brings eternal good luck or grants a wish. Matt folded a thousand paper cranes for counterculture beat poet Allen Ginsberg (who was a family friend) on his deathbed - and in turn his wife-to-be, Jessica, folded another thousand in secret for him in time for their wedding.

He was one of the good souls and is greatly missed by many.

From Wikipedia:

Power was born on October 23, 1974, in Middlebury and grew up in Cornwall, Vermont. His mother is Jane Steele, his father is John Power, and he has two sisters, Julie Ruppert and Elizabeth Robison.

Power studied at Middlebury College and at Columbia University. He left Columbia before graduating to intern at Harper's Magazine.

Power lived in Brooklyn, New York and was married to Jessica Benko.

Power's work appeared in the periodicals GQ, Harper's Magazine, Men's Journal, National Geographic, and The New York Times. Additionally, his articles were collected in annual anthologies such as Best American Travel Writing and Best American Spiritual Writing, and he was a three-time finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists in international reporting.

Power died in Uganda on March 10, 2014, at age 39, while working on an assignment for Men's Journal. He had been accompanying British explorer Levinson Wood, who was trekking along the Nile in a year-long attempt to become the first person to walk the length of that river, when Power suddenly became ill and died. Daily Mail reports: "The expedition had recently reached Murchinson Falls National Park [sic], in what Wood had described on his Facebook page as a "real test of endurance".

From Matt's website:

Matthew Power was is a freelance print and radio journalist and a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine. He was a three-time finalist (2005, 2006, 2007) for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists in the International Reporting category, and a 2006 finalist for the Kurt Schork Award in International Journalism. He was the recipient of a 2005 Lowell Thomas/Society of American Travel Writers Gold Award for Best Land Travel Article, and a 2008 Bronze Award for Best Adventure Travel Article, and was a 2004 Non-Fiction Scholar at Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. His work is anthologized in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2005, Best American Spiritual Writing 2006, Best American Travel Writing 2007, Best American Travel Writing 2009, Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009, Best American Travel Writing 2010, and is reprinted in the textbook Writing as Surviving, Oxford University Press, 2007. He was a 2010-2011 Knight-Wallace Fellow.

Chris Downham 1960 - 2007

Chris downham
Chris was a close friend of mine introduced to me by our mutual friend and his colleague Dave Dobson. We hit it off despite a decade's age-gap, as we shared a number of things in common: as well as our names and growing up outside the U.K. we rather spookily both had ex-pat, British fathers called David and Canadian step-mothers called Kathy/Cathy - both from Ontario no less...
We were both still single and of course shared a passion for music, and so we talked, listened, drank, sang, played and sometimes wrote together. Chris turned me on to a number of artists during many-a lazy weekend spent together at his Leytonstone flat in the mid-nineties. He encouraged me to qualify as a diver in Egypt and inspired my trip to Belize where I dived Jacques Cousteau's famous Blue Hole (for which Chris generously lent me his fins, dive-bag and snorkel as well as books about the country). He also cooked me a lot of chicken tarragon!

By the time Chris was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called multiple myloma we'd fallen out of touch somewhat as I'd moved to Oxford from Reading, had become involved with a band and had also met my wife-to-be.

I visited Chris in hospital but unhappily by 2004 he was again too unwell to attend my wife's and my wedding (and '20,000 Yards of Ale' stag, which he would have loved!) Not long after this period he decided to move back to Canada in order to get his young family settled before the inevitable happened.

I was invited to play at his 'Pinestock' festival in 2006, which raises money for his parents' charity Project Umbrella Burma in Thailand. I would have loved to, but prohibitively expensive flights only permitted a visit in autumn 2006, which was to be the last time we met.
Chris died a few months later on 26th April aged just 47, and will always be missed and remembered as a lovely, sensitive and intelligent guy with a dry wit. Every time I thumb through my record collection I remember him - not to mention every time I taste tarragon! Hearing and taste: two of the most evocative senses (or is that smell?)

Anyway, as far as what I'm to leave behind after my time on Earth is concerned, Chris' legacy is his contribution to Down To Earth (written in January 1997 and demoed with Ian Catt later that year, for which Chris was present). Chris provided the opening line of lyrics and also the parachute line in the chorus, taken from a poem of his. Good Night (written for my kids after the birth of my son in 2003) was recorded using Chris' old Tascam 4-track, which I still have and which Chris kindly let me have after I helped him out one time.