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Tribute to Spirtles' Freeman this Sunday at Irving

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Rick Freeman - DAVE GORDON
  • Dave Gordon
  • Rick Freeman


With rose-colored glasses and a radiating smile, the late Rick Freeman played in Indianapolis’ The Spirtles for much of his life, packing venues like The Vogue and the Patio alongside his bandmates during the ‘80s and ‘90s. But whether he was up on stage or not, the guitarist and vocalist was always sure to spread joy through whatever he did.

“Rick was an intelligent, artistic, humorous, loving individual," Spirtles' drummer Joe O’Connell says. “He was a person that cared about people and really dedicated his life to music. He performed around the Indianapolis area for 40 years and brought all of that to music fans.”

Playing both covers and original music (with an emphasis on the latter), The Spirtles billed themselves as the “original jam band” in Indianapolis. But long before their heyday, lead guitarist and vocalist James Booth remembers meeting up with Freeman in the fall of 1976 to play some acoustic guitar on a front porch.

“We knew a lot of the same material," Booth says. "And our playing styles and vocals blended well, so it just worked well for us to make some music together.” Through this initial musical interaction, the two would go on to build a lifelong relationship with each other, both on and off the stage.

“It was just like he was part of my family,” Booth says. “He was a part of my life for that long. He and I were intertwined for many years.”

In memory of Freeman, a musical tribute has been scheduled for Sunday at Irving from 3 to 9 p.m. At the event, The Spirtles will start things off with an acoustic set of tunes, being followed by several shorter performances from other artists who have asked to be a part of the event. After all of these are finished, The Spirtles will once again take the stage, closing out the night with one last electric set.

Although the Spirtles have only played the occasional show in recent years, large amounts of fans have still continued to show their support for the band, according to Booth.

“We were very fortunate that we struck a chord with a lot of people," Booth says. "And we’ve got people that are coming this weekend that we’ve known for 35 or more years.” All in all, he attributes this to the organically fun environments the group created at concerts over the years.

“We had such a good time playing and our crowds had such a good time hanging out with us, that we just started filling up rooms,” he says. “But, we weren’t playing to make a living. We were playing to make music, and it just happened that people would come and support us in that.”

And in ultimately looking back on all of these fun experiences, O’Connell can now truly reflect on the organic impact Freeman had on him.

“After meeting and hanging with him, he pretty much changed my outlook a lot on life, and [showed me] that the crazy things that go on in life don’t mean anything, but that music and friendship and love mean everything,” he says.

Rick Freeman passed away at the age of 58 and is survived by sons Eli and Zeke.

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