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August 2022
Vol. 21, No. 11

Featured Stories

J.d. Boucharde: Shine, Farewell Sweet Friend

by Francesca ValleAugust, 2021

J.d. Boucharde

J.d., writer Francesca Valle, and Kevin Wood.

J.d. as Elton John.

J.d. and his daughter Suraya.

J.d. with his father.

It is heartbreaking to be writing a second article for the Troubadour in just a few months about yet another San Diego linchpin, lost in another devastating accident. This time I’m writing through tears about a dear friend of mine. J.d. Boucharde was the first musician I played with in San Diego almost two decades ago. I hadn’t even moved to San Diego yet, but I drove down in my pick-up truck, loaded with gear to play the newly birthed Ray at Night Art Walk. I was 23 years old and new skinned to town, I fully expected to unload my truck solo. I pulled up, close to the stage, hopped out of my truck and lowered my tailgate. Before I had time to pull out the first speaker a scratchy voice with a hint of honkytonk shouted out to me, “Here I come, sis!” Sis. That was J.d. Boucharde, a brother to every human he met upon introduction. In my case, even before introduction. We became instant friends and kindred spirits.
J.d’s life was not short on poignant but harrowing stories. And J.d. was a master at sharing them. It didn’t require years of knowing the man or an audience for J.d. to connect. Vulnerability was one of his life forces. At his memorial last month, countless faces introduced themselves with story after story of a friend that “checked in” on them regularly. It occurs to me, now, that J.d. must have made daily phone calls to his beloveds to remind us that we are loved with an unyielding dedication. Each one of us seemed to have a story about “just talking to him.” The disbelief and shock in the community that surrounded this brilliant artist, who took on the title of Papa Hoodlum for several recordings, is palpable. When someone is so present so often, even when he is miles away, it’s difficult to grasp that they have transcended you.
Still, to his friends, the acceptance of J.d.’s loss is mostly quick. A self-proclaimed melomaniac, J.d. leaned into his emotions when writing. It was easy to see that this brilliant artist had figured out how to truly live life wholeheartedly. It certainly does seem that the more wholehearted a “creative” is, the higher the likelihood that they may die young. And J.d. left plenty of goodbyes embedded in his creations, even a children’s book dedicated to his daughter, flawlessly titled When I’m Gone. “J.d. saw me. He really saw me and loved me for me and taught me so much about love, death, and transition. The bond and love we shared will be a strong wind in the sails of my creativity and a bookmark in my heart. Always,” said friend Rhythm Turner.
No individual impacted J.d. as much as his daughter. Constantly including her in his creations, J.d. dawned the lens of a father in every scene. A fierce feminist and social activist, J.d. never backed away from difficult conversations or taboo subjects. Papa Hoodlum and the Hard Truth released songs that explored religion, politics, broken relationships, family, and addiction. Often with a firm poke or maybe even a shove, J.d. mastered the art of speaking the hard truth with love and beauty, J.d’s music carried the wisdom of a heart, broken-in and weathered, with decades of experience. It’s almost as if J.d. lived two lives on this planet. A first life as a religious scholar and young person, wearing his biblical title, James. And another, as a fresh-skinned and reborn human, free from the ties that once bound him down in his youth, named J.d. Boucharde. A father and friend who wished to free the world from the heartaches of the human condition that he was all too familiar with.
The unyielding compassion and empathy of J.d. may have been most apparent in his teaching studio. J.d. had a passion for teaching and for children. An honorary uncle to countless children, J.d. spent his days sharing his passion for tickling the keys of pianos near and far. It’s not only family and friends that will miss this charismatic character who had a taste for flamboyant tribute acts, impersonating the likes of Elvis Presley and Elton John. J.d.’s students have lost a mentor and superb musical educator. A respected teacher throughout Southern California, many of J.d.’s students have wandered through my studio. Always with a well-tended fire and solid understanding of the tricks of the trade. J.d. shared not only his boogie woogie piano, influenced by his idols with flavors of Bruce Hornsbey and Lynard Skinard, but also a passion for storytelling through song and an authentic singing voice that was immersed in the San Diego music scene. His legacy not only lives through his daughter and his art, but also through the eyes and the experiences of those who studied with him.
When Covid hit, J.d. put his nose to the grindstone, finding balconies and social media opportunities to perform on and collect donations for out-of-work musicians that were less fortunate than himself. He volunteered his time and skills generously, collaborating with Voices of Our City Choir, both as a guest songwriter and collecting gear for musicians who had lost most everything at some point. J.d. never stopped recording and was in the midst of production for a video of his recently recorded tune, “Shine.” J.d.’s nearest and dearest helped get the release of the audio of “Shine” out to the world posthumously. A fitting final message of hope and light. “A drop of love corrective is the cure.”
Divinity is a strange thing. It was something, I believe, J.d. was on a lifelong search for. At first, in the church and later everywhere he went, in everything he did. The almost magical, magnetic force of goodness, that binds communities together. He may have been addicted to it. From free diving into complete darkness and silence to daily interactions with strangers, J.d. lived intently and adventurously. With an almost stubborn courage, he faced the world open-eyed and open-hearted. In “Shine,” he sang, “We’re good enough to know we’re only human.” A prankster with an often mischievous sense of humor, J.d. was notorious amongst his friends for off-color jokes. Truthfully, when I heard of J.d.’s passing, my first thought was that it was some poorly crafted joke. But sadly, my very human friend, rarely slow to apologize and attend to the feelings of his friends didn’t quickly follow up with his typical egg-faced charm and the truth settled in. Our friend was gone. Lost to one of his favorite activities, one that he told me brought him closer to divinity. He found warmth and light in a place that most folks find cold and dark. Perhaps our community can find some comfort in that image.
In everything he wrote, J.d. left us his lessons, and his final single is perhaps the most befitting curtain call one could hope for. The last thing J.d. said to me was, “I love you. See you soon,” but the last words he left me with, the last lines of his last release, were equally engraved upon my heart. “Though we can’t see far ahead, into the mystery we go. So, write it down and remember what I told you. To have us all together here is such a sight. Walk the streets as brothers to our sisters and shine, shine. Can you feel it all around? Shine.”

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