“Wake up and live!”: The “rootical” Rasta bard David Daniels, battling cancer, returns to Minnesota


A couple years back, when Rasta bard David Daniels said something to me about plans to retire, I didn’t make too much of it. Mainly because, over time, I’d simply come to expect the unexpected from him. This is the guy, after all, who, dreadlocks and all, managed to get himself elected vice-chair of the Republican Party’s 4th District in St. Paul. And, despite being banned in Minneapolis from venues like the Playwrights’ Center, Patrick’s Cabaret, and the Bryant-Lake Bowl for herbal ingestion on stage, performed to packed houses for years, until he left the Twin Cities. 

I really should’ve known, though, Daniels was no more going to call it quits than water is going to flow uphill. Writing and performing audacious and inventive spoken word is in his blood. From his early work with Malcolm X Meet Peter Tosh to his highly successful Kolorado…A Western Tale and Black Hippie Chronicles to his current stint working with folk legend Charlie Parr, David Daniels has proved himself an artist determined to continually hone his voice and, when the occasion arises, have that voice heard.

He lives, these days in his beloved Denver, disgusted with the New York Mets and cheering the Denver Broncos, seeing a lot of his daughter Rose and doing medicinal marijuana to help treat bone marrow cancer. More inclined to take it easy than go out on the road, it took “Adventures in Music and Storytelling by Charlie Parr and David Daniels” to bring him back to Minnesota. Parr and Daniels are in Duluth at Teatro Zuccone on October 18th. Daniels is at BarFly in Minneapolis October 13th, on a bill to benefit Twin Cities Radio owner Jazzy J, who is undergoing cancer treatment. David Daniels answered questions via e-mail before coming north, discussing his latest goings-on.

So, what happened to your retirement?
I guess it didn’t happen.

How’d this adventure with Charlie Parr come to be?
I first met Charlie Parr a little over three years ago when we were both guests on Jazzy J’s Twin Cities Radio on the Net. I immediately became a fan of his, and we [kept in] touch. Couple years back, we began to discuss the possibility of collaborating. Now as you might know, artists who respect each other will often talk about collaborating…sometimes it happens, more often than not it doesn’t materialize. This past summer, shortly before Charlie appeared in concert here in Denver, we decided now was the time to embark on this adventure.

The benefit at BarFly?
Jazzy, who has made Twin Cities Radio on the Net a magnet for independent artists, has been battling cancer for as long as I’ve known him. Little did I know that a few short years later I’d be battling cancer also. Anyhow, Jazzy’s cancer has reappeared,but his insurance isn’t covering the procedures he needs. This benefit is to help raise those funds that he needs. I find it interesting that this benefit is taking place at this time when he in many ways is responsible for my collaboration with Charlie Parr.

Planning on getting banned from that place, too?
The venues I was banned from was a result of marijuana being smoked either onstage or by the audience in my plays or performance pieces. I haven’t performed a piece that calls for the use of marijuana smoking in years. My spoken word, poetry, and storytelling work has never called for its use on stage. While rootical in nature and style, my other work has focused on things like history, social commentary, spirituality. Parents have been bringing their children to my shows.

What are you writing these days?
I’ll be spinning a few new stories in Duluth with Charlie Parr. Needless to say, beating this disease has been my number one priority over these recent months. It was December 4th, 2009 when I was diagnosed. Barring any new complications, on that date this year, I will “officially” deem myself a cancer survivor. At this stage, I’ve been viewing participating in both Jazzy’s benefit and Adventures in Music and Storytelling as being part of the healing process. I am grateful that I feel I am able to take part in these events right now! Just a few months ago, I would have been unable to do so. I have been writing and blogging about this cancer experience, and sometime next year I hope to come out with a piece relating to this new reality in my life.

What’s next?
I think when one is faced with such a life-altering event as cancer, one comes face to face with the reality that none of us really do know what’s next. A year ago, I would have never guessed that I would be dealing with cancer today. What I do know is whatever the outcome with that, I must focus on the things that are most important to me. Quality time with family and loved ones is one of those things. My art is another. As Bob Marley would say, “wake up and live!”