I must admit that it still surprises me that many of his fans claim they were not aware of the troubled life he lived until they saw the film Ragamuffin.
He told us. He told us so many times, so many ways. Why didn't we listen?
Is illusion just so much easier than the reality that produces songs like the ones Richard wrote? Is the Nashville public relations machine so much more credible than the truth of Richard's songs? Do we want to believe that Richard had some special bargain with God that no one else has had, that he could be "blessed" with these songs and remain untouched by the heartbreak, even the doubt that produced them? Or do we simply want a shortcut? Do we long to project our own struggles and our need for transformation onto someone who we think can handle them? Do we imagine that finding Richard's music excuses the rest of us from spiritual aspiration, and the human struggle and pain of transformation?
For those of us who would honor Richard's memory, perhaps the best memorial we can give him is to allow him the space to be human and to struggle in our memories, as he did in his life. Then maybe we can take up our own struggle to be honest enough to be humble, ambitious enough to be vulnerable, and receptive enough to be transformed.