Tony Johansen: 1937 – 2015

<b>A GENEROUS HEART:</b> Tony Johansen and Susanna Joslyn Johansen were married last Valentine's Day, with Jack London serving as best man.
Courtesy Photo

On February 4, my best buddy and musical companion of 25 years left us here on Earth and continued his soul’s journey to another place. Tony Johansen was a mentor to dozens, if not hundreds, of beginning musicians in the Santa Barbara area. He was voted a Local Hero two years ago. He began a jam session in his home some 30 years ago and opened the door to all in the Old Time Music world.

He was a Buddhist with a skeptical twist who was exceptionally good at “keeping it real”; no nonsense went unnoticed. He took into his home those who needed a temporary place to stay, no questions asked. He had a sly smile and a generous heart.

He met his beloved Susanna Joslyn Johansen a few years ago, and I was honored to officiate at their wedding last Valentine’s Day. The above photo was taken that day, with their best friend Jack London. He also served as best man.

Tony had a very tough past few months, but right up to the end, he remained calm and ready for the next stop. A few days before he died, another good friend was holding his hand and telling him how much he meant to him, how he was going to miss him, and so on. Tony’s eye opened, and he said: “Don’t be so dramatic.” That’s Tony. Irreplaceable.

Forgive the dramatics, Tony, but we miss you so much. Okay, okay, somebody call a tune.

The best way to get a sense of Tony is through his own words. His poem follows:

What Would It Feel Like

What would it feel like

Not to live in a world gone haywire

Where everything we did

Gave to the world

More than we took from it?

What would it feel like

If we woke up in the morning and

The feelings of despair were gone

And we leapt from the bed

Eager to contribute the next thing

To the great turn around?

What would it feel like

To climb on your bike

Or walk to the bus

Instead of the car

To dig up an asphalt parking lot

Plant a vegetable garden

A duck pond, a small forest?

What would it feel like

To read to the blind, tutor a child,

Push a wheelchair

Knowing your few needs were met

And worth was measured in love

Not money

To sit quietly and listen

To those in conflict

With themselves and others?

What would it feel like

To bring the stillness of your own heart

To the turmoil of another’s heart

Gentling their waves with your calm

Letting their waves pass

Through you and away

Like wind through bamboo?


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.