Requiem for Michael Stanley

“Take the time to love someone
Take the time to make amends
Take the time to make a stand
Take the time for your friends
‘Cause you can’t roll your own forever
And somewhere, down the line
You’re gonna see that’s all they give you
So you might as well take the time”

Take the Time by Michael Stanley

Michael Stanley Gee (March 25, 1948 – March 5, 2021)

Michael Stanley passed away this past Friday after a battle with lung cancer (F**k Cancer). No doubt, there will be a number of tributes written about Northeast Ohio’s favorite musician, but I feel compelled this morning to write about him. I’m 51 which puts me towards the end of the golden age of the Michael Stanley Band. In fact, my introduction to MSB was through an old local after school TV show called Video Arcade on WCLQ Channel 61 when I was 12 or 13. Video Arcade was hosted by Candy Kramer who played various cartoons in between a unique game where a video game was played on screen and a caller on the telephone would yell “pow” to make the game fire in order to score points and win prizes. Hey, it was the 80’s, video games were popular and latchkey kids were prevalent. We needed SOMETHING to keep us off the mean suburban streets and out of trouble.

The real groundbreaking aspect of Video Arcade was the fact that Candy Kramer played at least one or two music videos per show. For us working class, cable TV deprived Gen Xer’s in the Cleveland area, this was our first introduction to music videos. I distinctly remember two videos shown on Video Arcade. The first was Krokus’ cover of Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” (which, of course, I had no idea at the time that it was a cover). The second was “Take the Time” by the Michael Stanley Band. I’m not sure why I remember it so vividly (SPOILER; maybe it was the orangutan at the end of the video). As an aside, “Take the Time” allegedly was played only twice on MTV before it was determined to be “too country” and pulled from rotation.

At the time, I had no idea that the Michael Stanley Band was from my hometown. I barely knew where babies came from, let alone these rock bands I was discovering.Flash forward a year or so later and I finally put some of the pieces together when MSB released You Can’t Fight Fashion, their penultimate album which contained “My Town.” The song went to #39 on the Billboard charts, and of course, was played quite often on WMMS and other local rock radio stations. Between radio and middle school classmates who had older siblings in the know, I FINALLY, figured out that MSB was our own. Even still, I didn’t jump on the MSB train. I was too enamored with Journey, the J. Geils Band and just about everything played on Uncle Vic’s Sunday night show on WGCL.

In 1986, I started working at a restaurant in Strongsville. The manager, a guy named Mark Szabo was probably in his late 20’s at the time and he drew the musical road map for me that I followed for the next two years until I went to college. One of the stops on that map was Michael Stanley, however, Mark started me back at (almost) the beginning (side note: I never even heard the Silk album until I bought a copy at Blue Arrow Records last year) with Michael’s self-titled solo debut, then Friend and Legends (which contains one of my all-time favorite Michael Stanley songs, “Let’s Get the Show on the Road”) before taking me through the original MSB. As much as I started enjoying the music, I am ashamed to admit that I never saw the Michael Stanley Band live. By the time it clicked with me, the final stand at the Front Row had come and gone and Michael diversified into TV co-hosting PM Magazine and radio with his drive time slot on WNCX.

I’ve often heard that Michael Stanley was Cleveland’s Bruce Springsteen. To hell with that. Bruce Springsteen was Asbury Park’s Michael Stanley. Michael was a great songwriter in his own right. He never shied away from his Cleveland roots and he always championed the people of Northeast Ohio. He could make you sing, but he could make you think, too. I finally got to see Michael live. For two consecutive years, he played the little amphitheater in my town with his full band, the Resonators. My day job gave me backstage access and I was able to meet Michael and briefly thank him for his music. He was gracious and friendly but had that detachment all of us musicians have right before jumping on stage. For a man in his late 60s at the time, he led his band with the energy of a thirty year old and both shows were amazing especially watching the crowd respond to his music and sing along to EVERY song. For me, the highlight of these shows occurred during his second visit to our amphitheater. I got to stand backstage and watch him reunite with original MSB lead guitarist, Jonah Koslen to perform “Midwest Midnight” and “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Mind.” Maybe that’s what it felt like seeing the Michael Stanley Band back in the day. If so, almost forty years after I first saw the video for “Take the Time” (the lyrics of which seem to be the perfect epitaph for one of Cleveland’s greatest and most well-loved musicians), I’m glad I had the chance to meet Michael and watch him do what he did best. Godspeed, Michael. You are gone from this existence but your music will live on in the heart of Northeast Ohio forever.

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