David Wilcox was playing his guitar on a Philadelphia street corner one day when a man in a suit approached him and growled, “Why don’t you work?”
Taken aback, he collected his thoughts for a moment, then strummed a chord and crooned, “Why don’t you sing?”
Those were the days when Wilcox was a street musician, honing his craft with the toughest crowds he could find. Thirty years and 18 albums later, he’s still offering observations on life seen sideways driven by a spirit of restlessness nurtured right here in Mentor, Ohio.
David grew up on Ruth Street, just a stone’s throw from the intersection of 615 and 20. He recalled camping out in the backyard with childhood friends and often riding their bikes in circles at that intersection at 2:00 AM when it was so quiet, you can hear the clicking of the traffic signals. These were different times indeed.
His family moved to Mentor in the 1950s because it was a nice, safe place to grow up. Mind you, the Mentor of the 60s and 70s was a still a pretty rural place…a place to dream from.
Like many, he felt that a small community could be a pretty boring place for a kid but he credits Mentor for serving as a launching pad in many ways – the place that “wound his spring”, so to speak.
“There are adventures to have and what Mentor gave me, that was most valuable, was something to push against,” he says, “It was a safe place that made me confident enough to trust my restlessness.”
Today, David travels the world with his trusty guitar in hand with messages of hope and redemption just like he has for the past four decades.
David’s journey began after graduating from Mentor High in 1976. Always a tinkerer, he thought he’d end up “fixing things” or “designing stuff”. That was, until he came across a woman playing guitar in a stairwell during his freshman year at Antioch College.
“She was playing with an authority that was not anything I had ever heard before,” he added, “What I heard was completely different. What I heard was someone speaking their heart musically, not imitating anything,” says Wilcox, “Music was a language that you could use to communicate the subtleties of the heart to the mind and that changed everything. I realized the tool she was holding was an oracle that I needed to translate the confusion and yearnings of my heart into some sort of understandable direction.”
“To me, the guitar was a real lifesaving device because I didn’t have access to my own heart…I love physics and I still love fixing stuff but now I love fixing more complex problems like how we communicate with each other.”
David still tinkers with the road bikes he enjoys riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway near where he makes his home nowadays in Asheville, North Carolina. His music has taken him around the world and his journey continues to this day. And, it all began right here in Mentor.
Learn more about David Wilcox and his music at www.davidwilcox.com