Last week’s cover story on the ailing David McKnight, a former journalist turned street musician (who passed away last Tuesday, after our story had been sent to press), generated lots of remembrances from people who’d encountered him over the years.
“Excellent tribute to David Proctor McKnight in this week’s INDY,” writes Bill Newton. “The best one I can remember in memorializing someone, in fact. Made me feel like I was there with you on Hillsborough Street and when you visited him. I didn’t really know him, but I have seen him perform over the years and in recent years would visit with him while at the Durham Farmers Market. I called him the sage of the farmers market. About three years ago, he made a new friend at the farmers market. Our great-granddaughter would go with us from time to time when we babysat her. She loves music and loves to dance. We were there with her once when my wife asked David if he could do ‘Wheels on the Bus.’ She is six now and doesn’t go with us much, but when she does she will miss him, as will most of the children who go to the farmers market. Thanks for the beautiful article.”
Ian McKee, who graduated from Riverside High in Durham in 2003, says he knew McKnight “through dozens of interactions over our years spent in passing on Ninth Street. As I got older, I would buy him a beer at Dain’s and get to know him a little bit. I knew very little about his life and past, but I was always struck by his amazing humility, contentedness, and goodwill for all. I believe that David’s life shows us how incredibly little material wealth matters and how much it truly matters to be a good, kind, humble person.”
“A beautifully written article,” adds Lisa Lewis. “For several years, I spent many afternoons with David when he came to Mitch’s Tavern after playing on Hillsborough Street. I would greet him with, ‘Oh, pain in my ass,’ always getting a laugh. I threw his creamers to him baseball-style. I only missed once, hitting a beer tap and spraying him and one other. He laughed and laughed. We were always talking about politics and baseball. I know of no one who got so much pleasure from life. There is some fine fiddling going on somewhere, and may he be in a better placeand I hope there is some baseball there for him.”
Commenter Anne 1 writes that she went to Duke in the early nineties and worked at Brueggers Bagels on Ninth Street. “David was there first thing every morning, before anything else on the street was open. He never asked for anything more than a cup of water. I’d ask if he wanted a coffee or a sandwich, and he always shyly turned it down. I remember going outside on my lunch breaks to the sound of his fiddle floating up from somewhere down the street. The city of Durham eventually chased all the homeless people out of the area. Yes, there were some aggressive panhandlers in the area, but David was never one of them. He disappeared. I always wondered where David went. About ten years later, I had a job at N.C. State, and found him again on Hillsborough Street. It was clear no one was home; he usually just shuffled up and down the street carrying his violin. I saw this in my news feed this week and sobbed. I realized all those years, he touched so many souls, and I never asked the man for his name.”
Finally, Jack Le Sueur, who was quoted in the story, writes with a correction. Contrary to the article, “Pattie and I were not married in the seventies when we performed with David as Triangle; our wedding was in 1982 (and we’re still married).”