To Fans Worldwide
by Marcia Higgs
Very few people will get the chance to make a wish, or convey a message to their loved ones before they depart this life; and even if they do, there is no guarantee that their word will be honored when they are gone. Joe Higgs did not depart from us suddenly, in fact, he had spent many months battling the non-discriminatory, malignant plague we all know as cancer, so, of course, he had a chance to get a few things off his mind. One of the things he had an opportunity to do, was ask of me to relay a message, for him, to his Fans around the world. But there's a very heartbreaking, yet truly amazing story behind his message that I really must convey, because, this food will not taste as good, if it's devoid of the ingredients. It ma seem too long to read, but to any true Fan of Joe Higgs, this will be well worth your time.
In the summer of 1999, Joe Higgs agreed to perform at the 9th Annual "Jazz At Drew" Legacy Music Series, in Watts, California. This Los Angeles festival usually brings an eclectic mix of Jazz, R&B, Blues and Gospel Legends to the lush campus grounds of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science, revered as the only black medical school west of Mississippi.
Now, Jazz at Drew had extended an invitation to reggae pioneer, Joe Higgs, and was scheduled to perform on the October 2nd, 1999 event. Additionally, the team had plans to honor Joe with the Charles R. Drew University "Jazz At Drew" Legacy Music Series Lifetime Achievement Award. This was endorsement that Joe was really looking forward to. Unfortunately, though, 2 weeks before the show, Joe Higgs suffered a stroke and was admitted to the Los Angeles Medical Center. At this point the doctors told him that the cancer he had survived, a few years earlier had returned. The "Jazz At Drew" team was informed that Joe Higgs would not be able to attend as he was in the hospital battling stage 4 cancer.
On Saturday, October 2nd, 1999, the day of the event, I received a call at around 4 o'clock in the morning. I saw that the call was coming in from Joe's hospital room. I was terribly afraid it might be the call that I had been dreading!!! I mustered the courage and answered the phone. It was my father, telling me he had a plan he wanted me to run by his keyboardist, Jawge Hughes and his bassist, Glen Jones. The plan, in my father's own words:
"At around 9 o'clock tonight, I would really appreciate if you, Jawge and Glen would come and steal me out of this hospital room and take me to the show, because I really need to have a talk with the people... you know, my fans. And even if it's with my last breath --- I WANT TO TELL THEM THANKS FOR EVERYTHING --- because, it's only because of them that the name Joe Higgs is mentioned today!"
He paused and waited for my response. I never said a word, so he continued.
"I would also appreciate if you could stand beside me on the stage --- and hold me up --- and make me look good --- because I'm not feeling strong enough to stand on my own, you know?"
I told him that I would. Still, I could not believe what I was hearing!!! My father, Joe Higgs, wanted to steel away from his death bed to say "THANKS" to his fans!!! However admirable, I knew, without a doubt, that stealing him out of the hospital was NOT going to happen. But I didn't want to break his heart. I didn't want to shatter what was left of my father's deeply broken heart. All I could do was help him keep his heart into a good place. So, I finally broke the impasse, saying, "Dad, it's gonna be alright! I will share your request with Jawge and Glen, and I'm sure we can pull this off. He said he was looking forward, and I hung up. At around 9:00 AM that same morning, I called Jawge and relayed my father's mind boggling plan to him. When I was done, in a very calm and concerned tone, Jawge said to me,
"Well, that's a very ambitious plan Joe have... an' I ah wondah' how we go' execute dat now?"
I must admit, we had a good laugh! It was a breath of fresh air! But Jawge came up with a plan of his own.
"We just have to pretend to want to steal him away, while letting him know that SECURITY at his room door was too TIGHT." I agreed.
At around 4:00 PM, I got a call from the Nurse's Station. They were informing me that my father had just been transferred from the INTENSIVE CARE UNIT to the CRITICAL CARE UNIT, because, he had taken a turn for the worse! I was shocked!!! Yet totally relieved!!! I felt like a billion pounds of rocks had just dropped off of me!!! That night, I just stayed at my father's bedside, and, in silence, watched his drips dripped from the canister that hanged. But I will never forget, that even though Joe was in no shape to perform, his band went ahead, did the honors, and accepted the Jazz at Drew award on his behalf.
On October 5th, 1999, Joe was returned to the INTENSIVE CARE UNIT. He was still asleep when I entered the room, but, eventually, he opened his eyes. I held his hand told him how sorry I was that his plan didn't happen. He interrupted me in mid sentence, saying,
"No, don't you worry --- IT WASN'T MEANT TO BE!!! But, as you can see, I am now, officially, Inspector Gadget," he joked.
I had to tell him, that after all he had gone through, his sense of humor was still in tact. But he soon got much weaker, his words dragged deeper, he could hardly remember, and my father, who God had blessed with great penmanship, could no longer write, so he dragged on this message.
"Mi dawta, promise me that you will tell my fans that I thank them for everything, and that I love them! And tell Ricky and Claudette, and Juicy, that I appreciate all they do for me."
This was the first time thinking my father might have arrived at the place where he was ready to accept death, which took him away on Friday, December 18th, 1999. He was 59.