Dave Bookman, beloved Toronto radio personality and friend to musicians everywhere, has died

Dave Bookman, a fixture on Toronto radio and one of the best friends Canadian music could ever have, died peacefully at 12:45 am today. He was just nine days short of his 59th birthday.

He’d been in intensive care after suffering a medical issue–a brain aneurysm–a little more than a month ago.

Goddammit. Everyone–and I mean everyone–was hoping he’d pull through.

I’ve known Bookie for more than a quarter-century, first as a colleague at 102.1 the Edge when he was brought in as a contributor for our supper hour music magazine, Live in Toronto. He later graduated to doing a variety of shows, including The Indie Hour and weekend on-air shifts.

And every Tuesday, he could be found welcoming people at the door to the back room at The Horseshoe for his legendary Nu Music Night. Hundreds of bands (including The Strokes and Thom Yorke) played that event over more than two decades. Never a cover, either (Well, maybe those ultra-special occasions.)

When I became program director at The Edge and I needed an afternoon drive personality, the only person I had in mind was Bookie. His style was somewhat unconventional, but that was the point. There was no one like him.

The man lived and breathed music and radio.

He was real. He was genuine. He was authentic. He loved music. He was curious. He was well-connected within the industry. His music knowledge was extremely deep. He was a pop culture junkie (he never missed The Young and the Restless). He was an exceptional interviewer. And it was all delivered with boundless, intoxicating, and infectious enthusiasm.

When you needed a moral compass, you could look to Bookie for some sage advice. And if you ever needed a recommendation on a restaurant, Bookie knew them all.

I thought he was the best.

We’d have long debates and discussions about music. I could never really understand his love of Wilco and Dinosaur Jr. He couldn’t understand my infatuation with Nine Inch Nails. At least we agreed on the genius of Elvis Costello.

Bookie was musical himself. He was a member of The Bookmen who released some indie material, including a split single with Furnaceface that featured a cover of Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘But Peace, Love and Understanding” back in 1988. (The Bookmen featured Tim Mech, a longtime associate of The Rheostatics.)

As an interviewer, Bookie was fearless. If he worked from notes, I never saw them. He once took on all four members of U2 live in the studio in front of hundreds of fans. Bono even gave him a shoulder massage.

But times change and in time, both of us left The Edge. I landed with the group that put Indie 88 on the air when Bookie needed a job, I lobbied management for them to hire Bookie. Which they did. It was perhaps the most perfect fit in the history of Canadian radio.

Me and Bookie at an Indie 88 birthday event at Lee’s Palace.

When Bookie didn’t show for a shift back in April–he was never late–everyone knew that something was very wrong. Something was. Bookie was transported to hospital where family and close friends stood vigil. He fought hard but in the end…

Brain aneurysms are ugly. They’re unexpected, completely unpredictable, and almost never diagnosed ahead of time. Those who suffer one are just unlucky.

Josie Dye, a colleague of Bookie’s at both 102.1 The Edge and Indie 88 penned this lovely tribute.

Anyone who has ever met Bookie will tell you that he was kind, caring, highly principled, hard-working, and a great friend.

Listeners will miss him, too. Here’s a sample of the kind of email that came in today:

Hi Alan,

“We’ve never crossed paths, I’m just one of millions of Toronto-area folks who’ve been listening to you and Bookie and Josie and the rest for all of my teens, 20s, and 30s. But I wanted to reach out and send my condolences just the same. You guys are the rocks of Toronto radio, I can’t tell you how many hours of my life have been spent tuned in to the Edge, to Indie, Bookie’s College of Musical Knowledge. As a listener, I am crushed by the news, and I didn’t even know Bookie like you and the Toronto radio family. I am so sorry for your loss.”

Best, Rob

Gilles LeBlanc, another listener and frequent contributor to this space, created this playlist dedicated to Bookie.

Somewhere deep in my vinyl collection, I think I have a copy of a record released by Bookie’s band, The Bookmen. I’d dig it out, but I don’t think I could bear listening to it right now.

He will be missed. A lot. Peace, my friend.

PS: For everyone wondering about a public memorial, nothing has been announced yet. Watch this space.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38165 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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