RIP Frankie 45 *Updated*

4:08 am by

Frankie 45

Photo by Allison V. Smith

Yesterday was a sad day in Dallas music. Frankie Campagna, lead singer of greaser punk band Spector 45, passed away. Frankie, or Frankie 45 as his friends affectionately called him, has been playing music in venues across Dallas for nearly a decade, and his energetic, wild shows had been getting more and more attention. They were named the best Dallas punk band in 2009 and 2010, and their song “Try, Try, Try” was named one of the best local songs of 2010 by the Dallas Observer. I had the privilege of seeing Spector 45 perform at the Dallas Observer Music Awards Showcase, and to call him a friend.

He was a positive, upbeat and kind person, and was quick with a compliment and a hug. On stage, he embodied a completely different persona, and was a force to be reckoned with. I had a punk phase in my college years, and his kind of punk was my favorite kind – raw, energetic punk that you can’t help to bob your head along with, and for some hop around in a mosh pit (I used to try and do that when I thought I was hard core, and always quickly exited). One of the other things he will be remembered for is his great sense of humor, which often showed through in his lyrics. One of the best examples of this can be heard in the love song he wrote, “I Love You”.

He will be sadly missed for his charm, and the effect he had on the Dallas music scene and Deep Ellum. That area has suffered in recent years, but in the past 6 months, I really feel that there is a resurgence. If you haven’t been to Deep Ellum lately, then I recommend you to make a visit. It really takes Dallas up quite a few notches in the cool factor. Go there, visit a few bars or music venues, and have a whiskey in honor of Frankie.

UPDATE, 1/4/11:

I have a confession to make. When I originally wrote this, I wanted it to say so much, but when it came down to it there was a lot that I wasn’t ready to talk about yet. I could talk about Frankie the musician and a little about who he was, but I couldn’t talk about Frankie the person, what he meant to others, and what he meant to me. After the encouragement of a few people, I’m going to make an attempt to do that now.

Talking about my feelings towards someone is something that has never come easy for me. I even struggle with it when it comes to my closest friends, people I’ve known for years. Frankie never had any problems with this. He never shied away from telling you exactly what he thought about you, or his opinion about a situation. The thing is, he always seemed to think the best of others, so when he told you what he thought, he always left you feeling warm and cozy. Every time you saw him, he would make your day brighter by a joke he said or a compliment he gave to you. The last text message I received from him illustrates this perfectly. We were hanging out at Amsterdam, the bar I frequent and he bartended at which is how I came to know him, and he sent me a text that said, “You look like a purdy princess.” That’s just how he was. So giving of himself not just in how he treated others, but also in music and his cause to help restore Deep Ellum. If you ever saw him play a live show, you walked away knowing that he put everything he had into it.

I went to his memorial the day he died, and there were literally hundreds of people gathered at his father’s art gallery in Deep Ellum to pay their respects. All shocked that someone like Frankie, who always seemed so happy and upbeat, could do something like take his own life. The more I talked to people, the more I realized that he treated everyone in the same manner that he treated me. He was a person that made everyone feel special and important, who helped you see a positive outlook on life, and that you knew would always make you smile. Every person there could not believe that they wouldn’t have that bright spot in their day anymore.

So where do you go from here? The main thing I’ve done thus far is reflect. You can’t help but look back and think, was there something I missed or something I could have done. The trouble with that train of thought is it doesn’t do any good or bring Frankie back. The last time we really hung out was before a solo show he was going to play at The Libertine about two weeks ago. As usual, we talked and laughed a lot. There was one thing that stood out from that conversation that never happened in the others. He mentioned that he thought he needed to take small breaks from “the scene.” He was a musician and a bartender so, as you can imagine, he pretty much didn’t get a day off. I told him that sometimes we liked to hang out and play games, no alcohol involved, just good old fashioned fun. He got really excited about that and said he would love it if I invited him out the next time. Unfortunately, I left the city for the holidays soon after, so game night never happened. The last time I saw him was the Wednesday before he died. He walked by and didn’t see me. I almost got up and chased after him, but didn’t because I thought I’d see him later. Though we hung out beforehand, I missed seeing him play his solo show at The Libertine because he wasn’t going on until after midnight, and I had to be at work at 8:00 the next morning. Once again, I thought I’d see him play another day.

So, again, where do I go from here? The natural conclusion I could draw from the final moments I spent with Frankie are that you should spend your time with someone like it might be your last. I don’t think that’s a bad way to live, but it could get exhausting. I think there is a better lesson to be learned: don’t hold back. In all the times that Frankie talked to me and complimented me and told me what he was thinking, I don’t think I ever once really told him how I felt about him. We laughed and told jokes and I would thank him, but never once did I tell him that I thought he was a special person and that he always made my day better. What I’m taking from this is that I need to open up. Not be afraid of letting things out and really telling people what I think of them. It’s time for me to return the favor and try to make someone else’s day. This is my new goal in life, and this article is my first chance to realize that – my tribute to Frankie.

A Memorial Concert will be held at 7pm at Club Dada on Thursday featuring The American Fuse, Here Holy Spain, the Backsliders, Legsweeper, and more. For more about the concert, read this, and for more about his life and death, read this article from the Dallas Observer.


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