Rock on Rocco!

Tower of Power bassist returns to the stage after liver transplant

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: February 23, 2003

Rock on Rocco!

As a former radio executive and magazine journalist who has dabbled in the record industry over the years, my bias is clear: Tower of Power is the best band in the world, bar none. If you don?t know this, than talk to a professional musician and they will explain it to you.

Many of the musical segues you hear on most late night talk shows are Tower of Power tunes. Bandleaders such as Paul Shaeffer, Max Weinberg and Kevin Eubanks and a cadre of studio musicians know what is hip. It?s too bad the pop star pablum-fueled music industry has yet to get a clue.

My wife and I took a long weekend and went up to Sparks, Nevada to check out the band during a three-day stand at a mega-casino. The show would hallmark the return of bass player Rocco Prestia. Rocco, as you may remember, was one day away from dying from lifestyle-induced liver failure, when a fan-based effort raised almost $200,000 to help pay for a liver transplant.

It was amazing that the transplant team made the decision to move Rocco from number 17 on the possible recipient list to number one after collectively viewing the Rocco fundraising web site. The team of doctors were of the opinion that if this guy has this kind of community support then the procedure would be well worth it. I have a growing appreciation for the Internet and web sites such as these.

Welcome to the future. You?re staring at it right now.

In these uncertain and somewhat un-happy times, when the stink of war is in the air, it is refreshing to know that if people who care work together, they can save a man?s life.

The weekend was in celebration of life and positive thinking. Rocco rocking on stage was indeed a dream come true. He thanks the Lord for getting by with a lotta help from his friends. He played better than he did May 30, 1970 when Tower of Power first played on stage 33 years ago on a bill opening up for Jimi Hendrix . I was there for that too.

I am not a casino-type person and the only ?gambling? I have ever really done was playing the stock market while it was popping, buying AOL when it in the mid-forties only to have it drop like a set of keys, then threatening my former broker with a major shoe job.

Walking through the neon lit tombstones of slot machines you see row after row of people, usually smoking and drinking trying to bust the bank in an effort to make a pipe dream come true. The metallic sounds of coins hitting the pan, the bells, the whistles of controlled pandemonium causes a sensory overload stupor.

They control the casino environment so you never know if it?s night or day, summer or winter, Wednesday or Sunday. They contrive a time out of mind environment to get you to throw caution to the wind and risk your hard earned money in order to hasten a dream of hitting it big. Most people lose and lose big.

I see an eerie parallel between the movie set casino environment and the situational ethics taught on network TV and rap videos. The politics of hedonism and escapism seems to be the American philosophy de jour nowadays.

There seem to be levels of players: From those who toss in a few coins just for the fun of it to the beat down broken people in Velcro strap shoes who pound the same machine for 24 hours, addicted to the maniacal idea that they are going to hit a progressive jackpot and win millions. Then their life will have meaning.

This to me is sad if not downright pathetic. Folks shouldn?t go out like that. Gambling can be a dangerous addiction.

What seemed paradoxical to me was that many friends from throughout the West Coast, those folks with frequent the Tower of Power message board on their Bumpcity.com web site, came with a joy, an affirmation of life enthused with the knowledge that through faith, altruism, kindness and a degree of agape love, folks can work together to save a man?s life.

These are complicated times, the economy is in poor shape, the threat of war is looming just over the horizon, and a pall of fear in the air. Don?t lose sight of the positive by immersing yourself in negative behavior.

Together we can honor cherish and affirm life.

Just ask Rocco. He is ready to tour Europe with Tower of Power next month.

My only regret is that I cannot go with them to hurl Oakland insults to the cowardly French people in person.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a national columnist and a screenwriter.

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