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Benefits Aid Ailing Escovedo

Fastball, Gourds members play to help pay medical bills

June 25, 2003 12:00 AM ET

A string of benefits are being planned to help singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo pay his medical bills. Escovedo collapsed after a show April 26th in Phoenix and has since been diagnosed with advanced cirrhosis of the liver, a complication of Hepatitis C.

This week the Continental Club, in Escovedo's hometown of Austin, Texas, will host a pair of benefits featuring Miles Zuniga of Fastball, Kevin Russell of the Gourds, Jon Dee Graham, Beaver Nelson and David Garza, with additional shows being planned at clubs in Chicago, Seattle, San Diego and North Carolina.

Garza toured with Escovedo in 2001 as part of a trio with pedal steel player Eric Heywood. "Although Alejandro is twenty years my senior, I always refer to him with affection as 'the son I never had,'" says Garza. "With regards to the Austin music scene, what Bo Diddley is to rock & roll, what Baudelaire is to French dandies -- so is Alejandro Escovedo to Austin music. I call him Bo Diddliaire."

Escovedo feels like he's turned a corner of late, with the low point coming during his weeklong stay in an Arizona hospital last month, which included an emergency transfusion after his blood pressure began to dwindle. "They gave me two pints of blood and I began to come back," he says, "but I was really slipping away. It was very close."

In the time since, Escovedo has been resting and treating his illness with a mixture of Eastern and Western medicine, taking Chinese herbs, American pills and once a month making the 300 mile drive north from his home in Canyon Lake, Texas, to Dallas for blood work.

Like many musicians, Escovedo has no health insurance and his medical bills currently tally about $20,000, a figure his manager calls the "tip of the iceberg" given the treatments and medications to come.

"The doctors are hoping that Interpheron [a Hep C treatment] and a combination of drugs will take," Escovedo says. "If they don't, they'll discontinue the procedure and try another one. Hopefully it won't end up being a liver transplant."

Prior to his collapse, Escovedo had begun work on a new album with producer Chris Stamey (Whiskeytown, Yo La Tengo), but the record is on the backburner and Escovedo has cancelled all performances for the rest of the year. "I've been resting more than anything," he says.

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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