David Blair: Soul Embodied, Gone Too Soon

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My good freind, Erik Proulx, is on a mission to tell stories on film about people and places coming back from the brink. His last documentary, Lemonade Movie, was not only powerful in it’s message, but gorgeous to watch.

He’s been working on a newer project for a while now called Lemonade: Detroit about how a city decimated by the last few years is being rebuilt from the ground up by artists, entrepreneurs and individuals who believe in the power of single voices working in harmony to do the impossible.

One of those voices was National Poetry Slam Champion and singer/songwriter David Blair. Erik recently shot footage of Blair setting Emily Dickinson to a cappella music at Detroit’s Institute of Arts.

The footage was to be used in Lemonade:Detroit, but Erik posted it on Monday…after learning of Blair’s tragic passing over the weekend. It blew me away. It took me back to what matters. So, I had to share it with you.

Watch Blair’s face as he sings. This is a man doing what he was here to do.

Such an incredible gift, followed by the realization that Blair is no longer here to share even more.

Curious, when you watched and listened, how’d it make you feel?


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36 responses

36 responses to “David Blair: Soul Embodied, Gone Too Soon”

  1. Ramona says:

    what an incredible loss to this world.
    thanks for sharing.
    out to read more about this David Blair.

  2. Jen says:

    Wow! Watching this, knowing that this man has passed on, makes it bittersweet. As he describes what we’re about to experience, I felt that feeling you get when you’re doing you’re thing and you want to talk about it out as you feel it. There’s a sort of wrestling with words and anticipation. Then he sings and as he sings he becomes more and more one with the song and the space and the people.

    I can’t help but be effected by your words, “This man is doing what he was here to do,” as I listen. That line makes me feel this more. Thanks for sharing this beautiful piece!

  3. YiShun says:

    We once watched a children’s book editor reading a book she’d edited. She teared up and choked up when she got to the part where the baby owls got reunited with their mama.
    This was like listening to that.
    Love what you do, and put your own spin on everything, even the classics.
    Thanks for the reminder. On another note, it is incredible how Dickinson’s words are so timeless.
    On yet another note, the DIA artwork is incredible–is that WPA-era backdrop always there?

    • The wall you see behind Blair is part of Rivera Court. There are four large walls in an open court painted by muralist Diego Rivera (1886–1957) as a tribute to the city’s manufacturing base and labor force of the 1930s. Rivera completed the twenty-seven panel work in eleven months, from April 1932 to March 1933. It is considered the finest example of Mexican mural art in the United States, and the artist thought it the best work of his career.


      • YiShun says:

        Faith–Thanks so much for the information! We love Diego Rivera, and it’s nice to know DIA has kept it so lovingly.

  4. Deb says:

    Absolutely beautiful…..poetry and soul embodied (great title for the post). It’s definitely bittersweet, to think of him gone, and I’ve only just heard of him and heard him. Something about him, made me feel like I wanted to get to know him and made me think that there are so many wonderful, beautiful, interesting people out in the world and I should find ways to get to know more of them!
    My usual tagline is: Life is amazing. Live it well!
    But today I will use: Life is too short! Live it well!

  5. Al Smith says:

    Thanks for sharing this Jonathan. Incredible talent.
    What a Shame.

    He was indeed, “Doing what he was here to do”


  6. Lisa says:

    Glory bumps… that’s all I can say…

  7. Geez I so FELT that. Talk about leaving a piece of yourself behind when you go. And it makes me think of the gazillions lined up, panting and fretting and holding their breaths, to be featured and discovered! on one of today’s “Everybody’s Got Talent” reality shows. That’s just it you know … EVERYBODY’S GOT TALENT. Just be who you are, do what you wanna do, share, live. Right here, right now. That’s what it is to be alive, to be human on this crazy beautiful planet. Waiting for Simon Cowell to say something nice about you … that’s gotta be the gates of hell man 🙂

  8. What struck me was the refrain about being on the way to judgement and “it’s partly down hill”. Seemed fitting for what we have been living through here.

    I live in the Detroit burbs – have been in the area for 20 years. The city has so much history and potential as well as so much trajedy. The first year I lived here (1991) there were over 700 homes in the city burned on Halloween – what they called “Devils Night” (a yearly burning fest). Fortunately, that has been cutailed and contained.

    We have some amazing things here – wonderful zoo, Art Institue, premier Orchestra et al. I look forward to watching the revival. It will be a long, slow process

    I look forward to seeing Lemonade: Detroit.

  9. Jayne says:

    .. I feel moved to my core.. He literally becomes one with the ‘one thing’ he is expressing. May we all do what we have been born to do… So be it. JX

  10. Bob Poole says:

    What a loss. The words and music brought tears to my eyes made even more so knowing that not only is his talent gone but also what appears to be an incredible human being. I will find more of his music. Thank you for sharing this.

  11. Ana says:

    Profound. I would love this on my ipod as a reminder. Does anyone know where I can get an mp3 of it, or how to convert the clip to upload audio only? Thanks for posting.

  12. Lesley says:

    That was touching and moving. If we could all find our raison d’etre, what a great place this world would be.

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Amazing! Not only David’s beautiful voice and passion, but the act of building creative ideas on top of the creativity of another. Thanks for sharing this.

  14. Carole says:

    A profound story! Beautiful, inspirational and such a gift to those he leaves behind. it’s almost as if he knew!!!!!
    Thank you so much for sharing this Jonathan.

  15. Sharyn says:

    What a lovely man. But for you, Jonathan, I would have missed him. And now I know to find everything I can about David Blair.

    Thank you . . .

  16. Bunny says:

    I love that he used something nontraditional as a song. To bring Emily Dickinson alive in a wonderful way was amazing. I can only hope his efforts will inspire someone else to follow in his footsteps and carry on his legacy. We are all here for such a short time but he obviously made the most of his time here. Thank you for sharing and showing me something new and wonderful.

  17. Michele says:

    How did it make me feel? Inspired…and very, very sad that he’s gone.

  18. maryRRR says:

    Yes, he was “doing what he was here to do”…as are you, Jonathan. This is a most timely message for me, a comfort, actually. Wrestling with my own “inadequacies” regarding who I am (child of the King) and how I am to live (closer yet to Judgement) at the same time my 94-year old mother enters the emergency room this morning. “Downhill” can be fast, but it can also be effortless when body, mind, and soul are aligned.

    I appreciate your writing daily, Jonathan, but especially today. Thanks a million!

  19. gwyn says:

    Someone said glorybumps. I’ve not heard that before but yes that’s what I felt. Such a vibrant presence so full of life. Like a sacred gift knowing he is gone. Thanks

  20. Erik Proulx says:


    Thank you for the touching tribute. Filming him was one of the great joys of my career. The universe needs more people like Blair, not less. I am doing what I can to make sure his work and spirit endure. Thank you for helping me in that mission.


  21. Bob Burke says:

    Wow! The video itself is so uplifting and inspiring. Yet, the realization that the artist recently passed is saddening. Such a shame that David’s talent has now gone “downhill.” Not only am I headed off to find more information about David Blair, but also Erik Proulx who clearly has an eye and ear for the special and unique.

    Thanks Jonathan.


  22. Lana says:

    Watching him left me in awe and wonder. How he so fully embodied and expressed life as he saw it. This really shows in his poem Detroit – While I Was Away.


    What a precious soul. May we all learn (or have the courage) to do what he does!

  23. Randy says:

    Electricity. 100% pure electricity. Just incredible.

  24. Barbara says:

    Thank you Jonathan. It’s funny how people who you don’t even know, and who you just “met” however briefly, can make an indelible mark on your life. Having just heard David Blair, I feel as if someone has given me a gift that will last always.

  25. I have tears in my eyes. We lost an important, beautiful person in our family this week – too soon, too young. I’ve recommitted to doing work with meaning and this was a gift supporting my decision…

    Thank you , Jonathan and Erik for sharing David and his passion. May more people be inspired to do the work they are meant to do…

  26. Maureen says:

    A beautiful performance — so sad there won’t be any more. Thanks for sharing.

  27. Thank you for sharing this video. I didn’t know of David Blair, but the video gave me a small glimpse of someone I now wish I’d had the opportunity to know while he was here.

    At music camp in the woods last week, I was struck by the impermanence of life when a friend had a seizure in the middle of a class. Thank god my friend is fine, but as the ambulance drove away I wondered if we’d ever see each other again.

    Moments like that, losses like David’s, are potent reminders to (as Susan puts it above) recommit to doing work with meaning.

    We each have gifts to share, and it’s essential that we DO that work and SHARE it, regardless of how we feel about it ourselves. (“Oh, what I have to share isn’t good enough, so I just won’t bother” etc. etc. THAT would be the worst loss of all.)

    The truth is, each of us has no idea of the ripples we cause. It’s not our job to judge, but to just do and share.

    Thanks again for the reminder.

  28. Giovanna says:

    I´m part of the croudfunding group believing on the Lemonade Detroit project… and they really are doing a wonderfull work! It´s great to spread the word about it.

    Regarding David…what a lost this was… tks for sharing the video. He really was there, in that moment.

  29. Marguerite says:

    ..and I write this with tears in my eyes…just one word: BELIEVE

  30. Hard to believe that a man like that, with so much to offer, is gone. Thank you Jonathan, this filled me all the way up.

  31. This gave me chills….may he rest in peace.

  32. Travis Duncan says:

    I interviewed David last year when he visited Manitou Springs to perform music and poetry for high school students. It was the second time he’d been to the school and he spent extra time with the kids in the slam poetry club there after his performance. He was such an impressive and inspiring person. I’m so glad I got to meet him. Thanks so much for posting this video.

  33. Wow, what a voice… what a heart. Thank you for sharing this, Jonathan, made my day.

  34. […] wasn’t aware of David Blaire until I read Jonathan Field’s post about him turning Emily Dickinson’s poetry into song. I thought it would be kitschy, but it […]