Much will be said and written about Lance Diamond in coming days, following news of his death on Sunday (Jan. 4, 2015). But here’s a perspective that may not get much attention.
As great as Diamond was as a performer, his bigger contribution to Buffalo may have been bringing the city’s residents together across racial lines. What bigger tribute can you pay to a performer than to say they helped peace and brotherhood grow in their community?
It can be a frustrating at times, but sometime it seems like that invisible line that runs down the middle of Main Street still keeps people apart. Music fans can be almost totally oblivious to great performers who live and perform just a few miles away. Soul great Jessie Butler is one who comes to mind in that regard. Recognition for Count Rabbit came late, and Donnie Elbert never received it in his hometown.
But Diamond didn’t just blur those lines he obliterated them. In his band. And especially in his audience. That’s thanks in part to his collaborations with the Goo Goo Dolls, but at least as much to his own personality. I can’t think of another performer – white or black – as widely loved in the Buffalo area. When it was a Lance Diamond show, it wasn’t a matter of black, white, gay, straight, or any divisive labeling. It was people coming together to enjoy the music, the moment and each other.
Dale Anderson wrote a great profile of Diamond for The Buffalo News back in 1989, when the singer had recently started working with the Goos and was seeing his prominence rise. Here’s a bit of what he told Anderson:
“There are so many great musicians I’ve had the honor to work with,” Diamond declared. “Drummers like Mike Caputy and Eli Konikoff. Keyboard players like Doug Gaston, Bobby Jones and Kevin De La Pinta. Great horn sections with Nelson Sky and Dick Griffo. Guitar players, I’ve got some awesome ones like Steve Camilleri and Tyrone Williams, Andy and Freddy Ripello. I’ve had the cream of the crop. Name any musician in this city and they’ve probably played with me.
“I came from that Pine Grill school of thought that said you had to dress the best and sound the best. I’ve spent over $50,000 on equipment that was stolen and on clothes. At one time, I could go two weeks in a row and never wear something twice, and that was when I was working six nights a week in the hotels.
“Everything I’ve done has been to look the part of the entertainer I’m trying to be,” he added.
And that was the kind of entertainer he was.
Who will take Lance’s place? Nobody, really, but it’s good to see walls breaking down in Buffalo. Critt’s Juke Joint and DBGB’s are entities that both fill that gap, as do performers like Rod Nickson, Van Taylor and others I’m either forgetting to mention or haven’t had a chance to encounter yet.