Yesterday, Chris Squire, bass player and the co-founder of Yes, passed away after a battle with leukemia. I was truly saddened by the news and, along with many others, spent time thinking about his impact on my life.
When I was 14, I became aware of Yes thanks to my next door neighbor who played me the 8-track of Going For The One as we sat in his car (they didn't have a player in his house). I was blown away and shortly after, scraped together my pennies and bought my first copies of the Fragile and Tormato albums. Ultimately, Yes and every facet of their music and being became my obsession; that obsession continues to this day. I've seen countless line-ups dating back to 1979 right through to recent shows with replacement singers Benoit David and now Jon Davison. I've probably listened to their music every day of my life since I was 15 years old.
Beyond listening; however, Yes and particularly Chris Squire inspired me to pick up an instrument and play. I started on guitar and enjoyed it. Because of Chris's magical playing however, I realized that the bass could be truly exciting, exploratory and have a huge impact on the music. In 2000, one of my dreams was realized when my wife bought me a Rickenbacker 4001 like the one Squire played. To listen to his work with Yes, or any of his solo projects is to realize all the bass is capable of.
But I don't want to use this space (and your time) to reflect on the specifics of Chris Squire's music. I'm sure there will be lots of opportunities to do that in the days ahead. I typically use this space to look at professional ideas and concepts so I wanted to pay tribute to what we can learn from Chris Squire as a professional, driver of mission and leader.
Respect for Craft: Always be learning, trying new things and evolving in your endeavors. Chris was never comfortable with the notion that the bass should be relegated to a dull time-keeping instrument. It's legendary that he spent time away from the music scene in the late 60's tucked away and perfecting his playing. While he was inspired by John Entwistle of the Who and his out in front sound, Squire wanted to take this approach to a new place and did in spades. He was always coaxing new sounds from the bass and studying the styles of other players. His playing was so much richer due to his never ending quest for "better".
Mission Drive: The Mission of the organization is bigger than any one person. Chris was the only member of Yes to appear on every album over the nearly 50 years of Yes being in existence. Squire has said that Yes is a way of doing things - almost its own institution - and bigger than any one of its single members. He made it his personal mission to keep the band alive and in tune with the times even when it called for tough choices. In 1980, he and the three remaining member of Yes co-opted the Buggles, a young electronic band to continue making music, In 1983, he recruited South African guitarist Trevor Rabin, a move that introduced the band to a whole new generation. And most recently, with Yes's co-founder and brilliant singer Jon Anderson unable to tour, he recruited replacement singers to step into the vocal role. There have always been factions of fans that have disagreed and even been quite vocal about their disapproval of these decisions. But no one could ever question Chris Squire's 150% commitment to keeping Yes a live and relevant band.
Unspoken Leadership: Leadership isn't about titles, it's about actions. While Jon Anderson's soaring vocals play the lead role in the band's sound, it would be hard to dispute Chris Squire place as its leader. Beyond his drive for mission, Squire always had a knack for being sure the right pieces were in place - and he knew how to get them there. For example, there's a well-known story that when Yes was making "Going For the One", one of their greatest albums, they were without a keyboardist. Fan favorite Rick Wakeman was asked to step in as a session player but Squire hoped to convince him to rejoin Yes. One day after the record was complete, Chris said to Rick that you might as well just become a member - it would be better financially for both of us; happily he agreed. After leaving the studio that day, Rick picked up a local paper to read the headline "Wakeman rejoins Yes" obviously written prior to the discussion.
A few years ago, I was doing a Steven Covey-like exercise and you were asked to identify five people who you view as inspiring and influential. I chose Chris as one of those people for reasons well beyond his music. While I never met him, I will miss not only his incredible ability to make music, but his passion, sense of driven and leadership. One of the best ways we can honor him is by modeling some of these amazing qualities in our own lives.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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