Playing in the Band

By Michael Morse

Two surviving members of quite possibly my favorite Southern Rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, were on TV last night talking about the band, the impact of losing three of the original members in a plane crash in 1977, and how they have managed to go on—keeping the spirit of the deceased alive while charting new territories. My favorite part of the interview was when Johnnie Van Zant, youngest brother of the deceased Ronnie and a founding member, went into great detail about how as individuals the members were nothing. However, when they get together and each one does his part, the backup singers chime in, the drums get beating, and the bass kicks in, feet get tapping and magic happens.

I fell asleep shortly after the interview and during the subsequent concert footage. Just before dozing off, I was thinking about how some people are rock stars, some people are victims, and some of us are firefighters. All the world is a stage, the people are merely players…

Smoke fills the arena, obscuring the scene. It lifts a little, the crowd roars and through the haze the band takes the stage. I’ve got a part in this, and I get things moving; a man is down, possibly injured, not breathing. I need some rhythm, and the drummer and bass player take the stage and start pumping. One beat a second, small pause, a ventilation and more beats. The roadies move in, taking the lifeless form with them, and into the van they go. The drummer keeps his steady beat, the wind section kicks in and with his usual flourish, the lead guitar player knocks out a face melting, adrenaline charged solo.

The band pauses, I feel for a pulse, watch the monitor, and kick the band back into their song. Our roadies get the van moving, we’re headed to the next gig, but this isn’t a practice session in the back of the van, this is the show, mistakes are not part of the program. In perfect synchrony we play on, the steady beat from the rhythm section keeping the lead guitar and myself focused, doing the things that make it all come together in perfect harmony. Now, if we could only get the singer to cooperate.

A crowd waits, apparently we are the warm-up band, but that’s okay, it’s all about the music anyway, the beauty of the band is there can be no ego’s, without each part performing their job, it all falls apart. We need the roadies to get us there, the drummer, bass and sax player to keep the beat, the guitars to add flourish, the back-up singers to keep the harmony, the security detail to keep the gang at bay, now, if we could just get the singer to come back we would have a hit record.

We enter the next arena, security parts the crowd, bright lights blind us, the singer has his own rhythm now, a pulse, strong and steady, and he’s breathing on his own. He pops up on the stretcher, ready to rock.

God, I love Narcan.

I woke up, and the TV was still on. Lynyrd Skynyrd was long gone, but like any great musicians, they stuck in my head, and my dreams showed me that no matter what we do, we are all part of the band.


Michael Morse is a former captain with the Providence (RI) Fire Department (PFD), an author, and a popular columnist. He served on PFD’s Engine Co. 2., Engine Co. 9, and Ladder Co. 4 for 10 years prior to becoming an EMT-C on Rescue Co 1 and Captain of Rescue Co. 5.

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