Monday, July 22, 2013

RIP - Faye Hunter

Readers of this blog who are perhaps too young to know the name Faye Hunter should. Every "jangle band" and the many female musicians we cover here owe a great debt to Hunter. Her work as bass player and harmony singer in Let's Active in the early 1980's was highly influential. Hunter was a pivotal figure in the nascent college radio world or the "alternative scene" as it might be called today.

Let's Active was a trio formed in North Carolina by Mitch Easter, best known for his production of R.E.M.'s debut EP Chronic Town and LP Murmur. Let's Active became the artier, quirkier cousin of R.E.M. and were a big success on college charts and the club circuit. Hunter was a huge part of their sound. Let's Active's inventive rhythms were unique and memorable.

Here's "Room With A View" from their 1983 debut Afoot, featuring Hunter on the opening vocals and playing some terrific bass lines:

I will always remember Hunter as she looked right here in the video to the 1983 single "Every Word Means No":

Hunter left Let's Active in 1986 and went on to play with Marshall Crenshaw, Tim Lee, Chris Stamey and on various power pop projects, but kept a lower and lower profile over the years. Life didn't treat her nearly as well as she deserved.

Her death has hit her friends hard, especially those in the Winston-Salem music community where Hunter grew up and was revered.   The best thing I've read today was by her longtime friend Peter Holsapple (dBs, Continental Drifters, R.E.M., Hootie and The Blowfish) in the Independent Weekly in Durham NC: Faye Hunter Reflections, 1954-2013.  

I was a huge Let's Active fan and saw them every chance I could. I met Hunter a few times, and while I didn't know her well, I had a great impression of her and not just because she was the coolest woman around in 1983 and pretty much every guy I knew had a crush on her. My closest contact with her was in 1983 when Let's Active rolled into Tut's in Chicago after a long drive and facing a grueling schedule the next few days.  So my partner at time and I prepared a cooler full of road food for the band to take with them, including a ham.  When the band came back to their dressing room after their amazing set, the cooler was empty, the ham gone with the opening band who had departed the club and cleaned them out. Hunter was in tears: "But you went to so much trouble for us. It's so unfair to you guys."

And that's a glimpse into Faye Hunter's personality and character, thinking only of others when anyone else might have been thinking of either themselves or retribution.  She had Southern charm to burn and shined both on and off stage.

It's not too late to discover Let's Active. And the place to start is Afoot and Cypress released the following year while Faye Hunter was still with the band.  She will be missed.

1 comment:

John Hyland said...

Great tribute, JD. I listened to Cypress about as much as Murmur and Reckoning back then. All are essential listening from that time.