January 31, 2012
There are so many heroes amongst us. Some are living, some have moved beyond. But all of them have inspired someone in some way. When I think of heroes I think of teachers, a great parent, someone who has left a positive and everlasting impact on someone else.
Recently the rock world lost a hero of its own. Riot guitarist Mark Reale passed away on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the age of 56 from complications of Crohn’s disease. He was a fine example of such a hero: A man whose music inspired generations of musicians; a man who helped me find my way home multiple times when I needed direction.
Both my brother Rock Star and I are Riot fans. I recall the time when I first saw one of their videos on MTV. I couldn’t stop watching it. I loved the look, the music, the attitude. Then one day my brother took a trip to the mall and came back with one of their CDs. Their music seemed masterful and the fire that it created within me was always one to inspire.
Mark’s passing really hit home for me. Here we had a guy, who had battled Crohn’s for most of his life, working and performing while enduring almost constant pain and the side effects of treatment for his illness. Yet he always seemed to have a smile on his face. He didn’t sell a trillion albums and didn’t seem to care if he did. His passion was one for music. That’s all he cared about and that’s why we cared so much for him. There is a huge and obvious lesson in his story.
Living is doing something that you love. I am doing it now. That is something that Mark did. How he led his life has been an example of how I want to spend the rest of mine—working with others, to extend a hand and offering encouragement when needed and hope to inspire. I can only do this by following the heroes who have come before us. Mark is a hero and his legacy will continue through those who are willing to do what he had the courage to fight for—his own happiness. Seeing how he kept it until the end will inspire me to do the same.
I didn’t know Mark personally but I did have plans to contact him in the next few weeks to ask for his involvement with the next Rockstar Superstar Project CD. It’s sad to me that I can’t have him perform on it but beautiful to know that I would have never come this far if I hadn’t finally gotten sober to follow his example.
As I go to schools and talk to kids about the dangers of substance use, my message is about waking up every day and doing the next right thing. I tell them that’s how heroes are born. Eyes are always watching for the next individual to rise up and make a change for the better. There will be many more heroes born into this world, but there will only be one Mark Reale.