very high quality, unique electric guitar builder


In Memoriam

Dana Kennedy Russell


April 11, 1946 - November 6, 2008



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Dana Kennedy Russell, 62, of Boulder, died peacefully on Thursday, November 6, 2008, at Hospice Center in Louisville, in the company of close friends. Dana was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 11, 1946, to Dana K. Russell Sr. and Florence Russell. He was preceded in death by his father, He is survived by his mother, his sister Sherry Sisco, and his brother-in-law Dr. Charles Sisco, of Springdale, Arkansas, as well as his brother, Phillip Foss, of Littleton,. Colorado.

Dana lived in San Francisco during the mid-60’s where he played ceremonially oriented music using innovative hybrid stringed instruments in a trio led by Malachi (John Morgan Newbern) with flutist Prof. Stan McDaniel. Together they performed at many of the Bay Areas’ popular venues of the day. He moved to Boulder in the late 60’s, and, except for a five year sojourn in Aspen during the mid 80’s, lived here the rest of his life, spending the last 15 years in a small stone cottage at the foot of the Flatirons. During most of the 90’s Dana was a partner in a commercial painting company called “Awl Things Considered”. He then worked for several years at Guiry’s Paint and Art Supply in Boulder. Finally, he worked as foreman on a ranch in rural Boulder County.

In addition to his esoteric musicianship, Dana was a calligrapher, photographer, fine carpenter, painter, and restorer of Victorian windows. He loved to travel throughout the West, often accompanied by his longtime companion Kathleen Campbell. Above all, Dana was a hermetic Buddhist, practicing Tibetan Tantric Buddhism as expressed in the Bardo Thodol, or "Tibetan Book of The Dead". He loved cats, and adopted many a stray. He was a good and loyal friend to all who knew him. Grateful thanks go to the staff of the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center, the Boulder Community Hospital Cancer Care Unit, and finally, at Hospice Care of Boulder and Broomfield County. Special thanks go to Karen Van Vuuren, of Natural Transitions, for the guidance she gave Dana’s friends at the end of his life. Donations in Dana’s name should be made to Natural Transitions, P.O. Box 17848, Boulder, Co 80308. A memorial celebration is planned for the near future. For more information please email jwmatlack@yahoo.com

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Thoughts and memories of Dana
as they are received.

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Time has ceased for Dana
For us it goes on,
though he is still with us
A co-conspirator, observer and
conversation partner.
He is now the past.

Dana was not
a Big Mac
Plastic Furniture
or traffic confined to cement

He was:
Finely polished wood
Clear notes hanging in forest mist
A fine cut glass lamp
the chimney polished to clarity with newsprint
the wick trimmed with specially sharpened scissors
expertly handled for the task
gleaming with a brightly burning yellow flame

As I watched the wood he gathered for decades
tumbled into a pickup
to be trundled to the landfill
helpless to cull the jewels from the junk

As I looked through his books, clothing and possessions
the extraordinary and the commonplace
His Mala, his knife collection,videos, pictures and paintings
his calligraphy and carvings,
even then learning things about him
I never knew or suspected.
He was deep.

It occurs
I never really knew him
in the 36 years we hob nobbed, coffeed, smoked, walked, worked and
conversed.
We traded pleasantries, insults, and bad puns.
(his were the worst)
His smile a comfortable quilt
His compassion hidden
but ever present

He has gone to join whatever awaits
with whoever went
and the horses they rode in on

In his family album
there is a picture of a five year old Dana
in Cowboy hat and fringed jacket

Thus he would appear
through the years
in elegant black leather
His guitar held loosely
at his right side
A smile of greeting on his face.

Bob Ruston, 11/21/08

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I met Dana in 1994, and we became lovers and then good friends. Dana lived in a wonderful stone cottage in SW Boulder near an immense open space by the Flatirons. He was an artist to his very core; calligrapher, painter, photographer, wood carver, restorer of Victorian windows, fine carpenter, guitarist, songwriter, and was learning to play Native American flute. Dana often longed for commercial success in his artistic endeavors, but deep down he really didn’t want to mass produce his art. Although Dana lived a very frugal life, he and I loved to take trips throughout the West--Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, California, and even Alberta/British Columbia--rarely by plane, once by train, and often by car. He called the two of us "Professors of Aesthetics" (a la Mark Halpern, author of A Soldier of the Great War, one of Dana’s favorite books), because often we both would stop to admire the same aspect of nature’s infinite beauty. Some of his photos, shown here, are a small sample of Dana’s aesthetic and sometimes humorous eye.

Was he a stubborn man? Indeed. Did he sometimes have outbursts of fierce anger? Oh, yes. He and I once spent weeks studying and meditating on the Dalai Lama’s book on dealing with anger, but sometimes Dana just couldn’t control his, especially when he saw the gross injustices of the Bush administration or kids tormenting ducks on a pond. I’m glad he saw Obama elected before he passed! Some say a measure of a man are the friends he keeps. Dana had wonderful, long-time, loyal friends--John and Clare, Rob, Steve, Bob R., Bob B. and his newest friends, Tracy and Allen, who so kindly gave Dana’s three cats a loving home at the Dusty Rose. Dana was also thrilled to be reunited with his friend John Newbern (Malachi), who created this wonderful website. I was not present at the end of Dana’s life, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t always in my heart and thoughts. He changed me in many ways and, most importantly, taught me how to live in the moment.

Kathleen Campbell
Estes Park, Colorado
11-13-08

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I first met Dana in San Francisco in the summer of 1966. I had just been signed to a recording deal and I was looking for musicians who could get into the unusual music I was playing. For this Dana fit right in, both as a guitarist and as a percussionist. He had a calm temperament and was extremely interested in the spiritual concepts that my music was based on. We performed together at many of California's popular venues of the day including several concerts for rock promoter Chet Helms. Though Dana was not politically involved he was leading a very spiritual life. Dana once declaired, "I am a Celtic Zen Buddhist." And so he was, indeed. He had even called me "teacher", but as life would have it, he had at least a few lessons for me.
I am a strong believer in reincarnation. I would recommend to all of Dana's friends that he is perhaps a Bodhisattva and may return someday. When it is least expected someone will look into a child's eyes and see Dana's smile. Count on it.

John Morgan Newbern, 11-10-2008

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It's always sad to lose a spiritual friend and companion on this path of impermanence and illusory appearance. Fortunately, it seems Dana had successfully seized the opportunity and cultivated an awakened relationship with his own heart/mind, rigpa. So, in memory of this Warrior in the Way of the Bodhisattva and the Path of Bodhichitta, we'll offer our prayers for his swift and unencumbered rebirth in Dewachen, the Pure Land of Amitabha.
Perhaps of some interest to you is that yesterday (November 6, 2008) was the birthday of the 16th Karmapa, and was a very auspicious day in Tibetan astrology, as indicated by the coronation of the new King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, a date so auspicious they had to wait two years for the formal coronation to take place. For the rest of us sentient beings, as vast as the sky... One breath at a time!

Roger Ralphs, 11-07-2008

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Photos by Dana, compliments of Kathleen Campbell*


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A Horse With No Name

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Red Cliffs Sunset

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Spirit of the Ancients


*The photo of Dana at the top of this page is by Kathleen Campbell