Friends and family of former Elk Grove resident Hank Harrison gathered on June 18 to celebrate the life of this songwriter and former manager of The Warlocks – a band that would later become known as the Grateful Dead.
Harrison, who died in Galt aged 81 on January 23, was also credited as the father of Courtney Love, lead singer of popular 1990s alternative rock/grunge band Hole. Love is also well known as the ex-wife of legendary alternative/grunge rocker of the same era, Kurt Cobain, who was the late singer and guitarist of Nirvana.
As she stood behind the podium in the packed room at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Galt, Harrison’s longtime partner Catriona “Triona” Watson called him “the best friend and mentor” and a extremely passionate about writing.
“Hank loved life, he loved to live, but most of all he loved to write, and his writings are still alive, some published and still for sale, many yet to be published – but we are working on it,” she said.
Harrison’s writings included both nonfiction and fictional books and poetry, and he contributed to newspapers, magazines, and journals.
His books cover topics ranging from the Grateful Dead and the San Francisco counterculture movement of the 1960s to medieval Arthurian literature and hang gliding. He had a long-standing fascination with the subject of the Holy Grail.
While not addressing his celebration of life, Harrison is the author of the 2017 book, “Love Kills: The Assassination of Kurt Cobain,” which presents the argument that Kurt Cobain’s cause of death Cobain in 1994 was murder as opposed to his reported suicide.
As a controversial book, which followed a long-standing strained relationship between Harrison and Love, it alludes to Love as possibly being involved in the alleged “assassination” of Cobain.
On a table at the invitation-only event were yellow roses and a collection of Harrison-related memorabilia, including a copy of “Love Kills,” which was prominently displayed on a plastic stand.
As a permanently active writer, Harrison left many complete and incomplete writings and miscellaneous notes behind upon his death.
Among Harrison’s partially completed works was a letter, which was intended to be read to friends and family at his own celebration of life. He originally wrote the letter in 1983 and updated it in 2011.
Part of that letter – which was read by Watson at the June 18 event – reads: “The brain is born with great potential, and life is the sand that grinds it down. Everything I left for posterity, the words, the letters, the books, the collections were meant to uplift the man from the depression that comes from knowing that life is just an experience, that ‘it has no meaning apart from the meaning that we attribute to it.
“Each of us relies on the next, and the human in the end stands alone.”
Although Harrison wrote in his letter that he had not developed a belief in God, Watson provided his own comments on this subject.
“While Hank always maintained a detachment and, in some cases, an aversion to organized religion, he was a very spiritual being – a fact that was evident in his day-to-day dealings with other inhabitants of Earth,” he said. she declared.
Harrison has spent many years helping others. He was well known as a generous person who devoted much of his spare time and money to improving the lives of people and animals.
Working with Watson, Harrison rescued many animals, including cats, dogs, and horses.
Harrison has also shown compassion for homeless people. He let many such people live in his house temporarily to help them improve their lives.
In addition to Watson, other speakers shared their memories of Harrison.
Among those speakers was Gregg Matson, a resident of Elk Grove, who describes himself as a huge fan of Harrison’s writings.
“I bought every (Harrison’s book) I could find, and I read them all, and some of them multiple times,” he said. “And this guy is a very good writer.”
Highlighting Harrison’s outgoing demeanor, Matson recalled Harrison’s visits to his Elk Grove home for evening “jam sessions” with older musicians.
“He didn’t know anyone there, (but) those of you who know Hank know he didn’t mind at all,” he said. “He got to know everyone there, and everyone got to know Hank. The rest of us were playing music and (Harrison) was reading his latest book. And it was just a fantastic addition to our little ones (gatherings).
Another friend of Harrison’s, Tema Abend, of Sacramento, described Harrison as someone with “incredible stories and an incredible spirit”.
“His spirit, to me, was just amazing,” she said. “I didn’t even know until (during his celebration of life) that he had a master’s degree (degree in psychology from San Francisco State University). But I know that (his thoughts) were constantly spinning, and he was always thinking about the future.
Lodi resident Mike Darney recalled meeting Harrison at a gas station, noting that Harrison approached him after seeing a Grateful Dead “Steal Your Face” sticker on his car.
Darney mentioned that although Harrison never became financially wealthy from the Grateful Dead, he believed that Harrison was wealthy in other ways, including from Watson, his animals, his home, and his friends.
“I think in a weird way (Harrison) wished he had (monetary wealth) and I think (he wanted to be) a little bit more famous,” he said. “But in the end, I hope he knows none of that matters. It’s fool’s gold. What matters is your family, your friends, your pets of company.
David Eyes, who had been a friend of Harrison for over four decades, pointed out that many of Harrison’s writings included the theme of “man’s eternal quest”.
“(For example) he would take you back to (his) book about hang gliding, to Leonardo da Vinci,” he said.
Eyes, who lives in Santa Cruz, also opened up about the breakdown in Harrison and Love’s relationship.
“It always, always pained me that to follow the course of fame that she did, that it ended up leading to kind of, you know, an irreconcilable bad scene,” he said. “They were actually a pair, cut from the same cloth, and that could have been the breakup of that relationship. Maybe there is only room for one of them in the room.
Love, nor his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, were present at the celebration of Harrison’s life.
Harrison has often said that one of the biggest disappointments of her life was never having the opportunity to meet her granddaughter.
Among the crowd at the June 18 event honoring Harrison, there was only one member of the Cobain family who declined to comment for this article.
Also in attendance was Kathy (Harrison) Revak, Harrison’s only sister, who made the trip from Lathrop to the event, which was also streamed live on the internet to a number of viewers.
In the event’s memory book, Revak shared some of his favorite memories of spending time with Harrison.
“(Helped me) orient myself to the ‘big city,’ San Francisco and SFSU as a new psychology major,” she wrote. “And I have to be with her new baby, Courtney.”
Revak also addressed his brother’s thoughts on religion.
“Although he does not believe in traditional religion, bless him and hope his molecules bring peace and guidance to us all,” she wrote. “Peace!”