Friday Five: Uncle Danny

The Sandoval family said goodbye to one of our own today.

Danny Sandoval was an amazing man. He was a loving father and grandfather, and a loyal brother and son.  He was a beloved cousin and nephew.  To me and my siblings and cousins, he was an uncle.  He was my Uncle Danny. And he was one of the most influential people in my life.

Uncle Danny was a caring and accepting man.  Honestly, he was one the most non-judgmental people I ever known.  He took people as they were and saw in them the good that they carried.  In that alone he made a profound impact on me.

The most enduring memories I will carry about my Uncle Danny are his sense of humor and his love of music.  Like all the Sandoval brothers, Danny was quick-witted and had impeccable timing.  Not only could he make you laugh, but he loved to laugh himself.  Watching my dad and his brothers crack each other up was one of my favorite things as a kid.  To join in as an adult was even better.

Danny was also a gifted musician and a lover of music.  It’s the first thing anybody thinks about when they think of Danny.  He had an amazing voice, one of the best I’ve ever heard.  And he could do amazing things on a guitar.  He was in bands all throughout his life.  Though he was never famous, or never made a living at it, it was his passion.  And he was good at it.  Mostly self-taught, my Uncle could play the boleros he learned from my grandpa as well as the rock and rhythm & blues he loved from his upbringing.

Our love of music and, in particular, the guitar, was part of the bond we shared.  Simply put, he was my guitar idol.  He was also my teacher.  My Uncle Danny gave me my first real pick.  When I was a kid and showed him how I could switch between the G, D, and C chords, he showed me how to play an A chord and then how to make the switch easier to other chords.  When I was a teenager and I had inherited one of my grandpa’s guitars, he taught me how to do an A-minor and an A-7. When I started really working at learning songs in my 20s, he opened a new world for me when he showed me how to play ninths.

I loved to watch my Uncle play and sing, but I also loved to talk about music with my him.  He was a walking encyclopedia of 20th century popular music, especially 60s and 70s rock.  While he had his favorites, he was also non-judgmental when it came to music.  For me, that was always a lesson because it seemed incompatible with being a diehard fan.  But my Uncle had respect for music, musicians, and for the love people had for both.  He didn’t judge what you liked if you liked it because he knew what a powerful thing that was.

When I started to get into heavy metal, we could talk about AC/DC or Black Sabbath or Metallica, even though those weren’t big for him.  He knew them as a musician, but he also appreciated that they meant something to me.  He could show me what they did or why they sounded how they sounded, to give me something more to appreciate about them.  I always admired that about him.

Mostly, I remember him talking about the guitarists and the music he loved, because that’s what I loved to hear.  And, if my Uncle loved it, I made a point to like it too, because it had to be good.  I remember back in the 80s, when I was in high school, he was talking about Bob Seger to me and one of my aunts.  I knew who Bob Seger was but didn’t think that much of him.  I remember I asked him, “Why doesn’t he make music anymore.”  My Uncle answered, “Because he’s Bob Seger. He doesn’t have to.”  That was it! Even to this day I will defend the music of Bob Seger to anyone.

A lot of this blog is about music.  That’s because a lot of my life has been about loving music.  I work it into my classes and into my family as a result of that love.  That love comes from a lot of places.  It comes from my dad and my mom, from my grandpa, from my childhood.  And a big part of it has always come from my Uncle Danny.

Until the day I die, I will always think of Danny Sandoval when I play the guitar or listen to the music that we loved.  He’s always been a part of my passion for both.  I miss him dearly already, but I am glad that I can feel him in so many songs.

Here are some songs, a little more than five, that I will always associate with his talent and his love.  Rest in peace Uncle Danny…

“Pride and Joy” (Stevie Ray Vaughn)

“Spinning Wheel” (Blood, Sweat, and Tears)

“Whipping Post” (The Allman Brothers)

“Got to Get You into My Life” (The Beatles)

“You’re Still a Young Man” (Tower of Power)

“Vehicle” (Ideas of March)

“Funny (How Times Slips Away)” (Joe Hinton)

“Sleepwalk” (Santo & Johnny)

“Colour My World” (Chicago)

“Take the Money and Run” (Steve Miller Band)

“All Along the Watchtower” (Jimi Hendrix)

“Long Train Running” (The Doobie Brothers)

“Machine Gun” (Jimi Hendrix)

“The Letter” (Joe Cocker)

“Does Anybody Really Know What Times It Is?” (Chicago)

“Big Love” (Lindsey Buckingham)

“Oh! Darling” (The Beatles)

“Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” (The Beatles)

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