KEXP "Mom Show" Airs Thursday
KEXP DJ John Richards was inspired by the death of his mom to create a show about loss.
Photo: Joshua Huston
Grief can be so profoundly lonely, feel so isolating. Even a loss that is more commonly shared, like the loss of a grandparent, stings and aches in its own way for each person. My greatest loss was more unusual, the death of my first daughter, who was stillborn. The passing of children has become uncommon in our time and place, which is fantastic, but does leave one feeling very much alone.
Thank goodness for the “Mom Show.”
Now in its 12th official year, KEXP DJ John Richards will host the Mom Show on Thursday morning from 6 to 10 a.m., featuring music and stories to remember, mourn, share and heal from the loss of loved ones. The show was inspired by Richards’ loss of his mother in November 2004 to lung cancer.
Doing the show “was really emotional and really hard at first,” Richards said. “It’s difficult, but it’s become easier as I’ve done it over the years. What has made it easier to do, is that I get messages now almost daily about someone dying or a loss or an anniversary of a loss.”
By sharing his pain on air with listeners of the Seattle-based, publicly funded radio station, he helped create a safe place for others to tell their experiences of loss as well. That includes divorces, the death of spouses and friends, or even children. Richards, who has two sons, finds stories about the death of children the most gut wrenching.
“It’s the saddest, toughest thing someone can deal with,” he said.
In truth, the Mom Show grew in part from the earlier loss of Richards’ father. At the time of his dad’s death, Richards was hosting a weekly, local music radio show and had to work the evening of the day his father passed away.
“I thought it would be dishonest not to mention that my dad died today and it was awful,” he said, so he told his listeners. “That changed forever how I would DJ and do my job. People were so supportive.”
In addition to the Mom Show, Richards is helping host the third Death & Music event tomorrow night. The event will feature four speakers, including Richards and his wife, as well as four musical performers: Sean Nelson from the band Harvey Danger, Sera Cahoone, Jen Wood, and Jason Dodson of The Maldives.
“It’s like a second funeral — in a good way,” Richards said. At the past Death & Music events, people “felt good after the show and laughed way more than they thought they were going to.”
Some of the music played during the Mom Show are songs that Richards listened to with his mom in the weeks before she died, or music he turned to while grieving. That includes “Orange Sky” by Alexi Murdoch and “Someone Great” by LCD Soundsystem. Some songs are literally about loss and sadness, like U2’s “With or Without You,” while others are emotionally evocative. And others are songs that helped someone cope in the past, or perhaps recall a happier time.
When someone hears one of these songs on air, shared with an untold number of listeners, “it makes them feel less alone.”
After my daughter died 10 years ago, I found comfort in Modest Mouse’s “Float On” — its percussive beat striking an almost military march that practically ordered me to keep going.
Other times, I succumbed and gave myself over to having my heart ripped out. It was then that I cranked “Stay With Me,” an achingly sad soul song released in 1966 by Lorraine Ellison. It’s one of the most devastating breakup songs ever recorded, and captured my misery perfectly, even cathartically.
Remember you said you'd always gonna need me
Remember you said you'd never ever leave me
Remember, remember, I'm asking you, begging you, ooh, ooh
Oh, stay with me, baby
Oh, please stay with me, baby
Stay with me baby
I can't go on
(Written by George David Weiss, Jerry Ragovoy)
The Death & Music event is being held Wednesday, Nov. 9 at KEXP’s studios in Seattle (472 1st Ave N). The show is sold out, but more tickets will be available when the doors open at 6 p.m. The event will also be broadcast on the radio at 90.3 FM and a video of the show will be archived on the KEXP website, kexp.org.
The Mom Show will air from 6 to 10 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10 during Richards’ regular radio show, which is broadcast on the radio and online.