Images above: David Stewart
We now know that the number of people who died from Covid-19 in Chiswick between March 2020 and the end of February 2021 is 61.
That’s 61 groups of family and friends for whom the pandemic represents rather more than a financial loss or an inconvenience, who have suffered real loss.
Local funeral director Oliver Peyton told us how hard people have found it not being able to mourn in the normal way. You can read an interview with him here:
Here we remember David Stewart, who died in the very early days of the pandemic, leaving his wife Robyn and sons Tommy and Jake.
David was a musician. Not the David Stewart who partnered Annie Lennox in the Eurythmics, but the one who played at Glastonbury with Steve Hillage in 1979, toured with Thin Lizzy and built and managed British Grove Studios in Chiswick with fellow studio engineer Dave Harries. Together they launched the careers of the next generation of musicians and associated technicians, recording a wide range of music at the highly successful studios.
David and Robyn’s son Tommy is also a musician. (Instagram: tommysinging) Tommy, now 18, is embarking on a solo career as a singer-songwriter. Jake is building his own business, not in the music industry, but also inspired by his father. The two have recorded a version of Cowboy Song, originally written and recorded by Phil Lynott.
“The song was one we used to play a lot together” said Tommy “so it had a lot of significance”.
David played lead guitar, rhythm guitar and bass and the house was full of guitars when the boys were growing up, so it’s no surprise that they both play. Tommy is on lead guitar and vocals; Jake on rhythm guitar and bass.
The whole family is steeped in the music industry; Robyn too is involved, as long term PA to Mark Knopfler. He commissioned David and Dave to build British Grove Studios in the early 2000s to record Dire Straits’ music, and he still owns it.
Mark suggested Tommy and Jake record the tribute, after they played it to him last summer. What was “brilliant” Tommy told The Chiswick Calendar, was how Jason Elliott and Andy Cook, who manage the studios now, got behind the recording, with all their father’s old colleagues and employees. The song is a tangible expression of warmth and love from his music community.
Tommy is studying at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music, at their base in Fulham.
“Dad taught me everything I know about music, without forcing anything on me.
“He was a brilliant dad. We were a very close family.
Images above: Flowers outside their house after David died; David with Tommy and Jake
“When I first started at uni I was given a tour. It was the first time I’d been out of home for months and months”.
Talking to the woman who showed him round, the conversation inevitably turned to Covid. He felt compelled to tell her his father had died from it.
“The way her face fell, I’d never experienced anything like that. It’s something that everyone feels affected by.
Reading his peers expressing their frustration on social media at the boredom of lockdown was hard for Tommy at he beginning.
“At first it really bothered me. I thought ‘you don’t know how good you have it. I’d give anything to be in lockdown with my dad’”.
Images above: David, Robyn, Tommy and Jake at Glastonbury 2019
Robyn is very grateful that David got to see Tommy play at Glastonbury in 2019, 40 years after he had played there himself. Tommy won ‘Best demo of the year’ and got an hour’s set on the acoustic stage. In the same year he’d also played at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and the Albert Hall.
“It was lovely that David got to see that.
“David got ill before the first lockdown. He went into hospital on 26 March. The day he went in was the day the tsunami hit London. He passed away on 9 April.
“He was a much-loved member of the community. He was kind, he helped people. He had a lot of friends and a fantastic relationship with his two teenage sons, which not all fathers manage to do”.
A family thing they used to do together was to make David’s version of Limoncello, which is what Jake is now developing as a business. www.cellochiswick.co.uk
Both boys in their own way are carrying on their father’s legacy.
One piece of advice David used to give Tommy has found its way into the lyrics of one of his songs.
“I used to play football at Rocks Lane on a Friday night and I was quite hot headed. Dad always used to say: ‘do your talking on the pitch’.
“He was very good at not getting too caught up in stuff that didn’t really matter”.
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