You Know Damn Well: Bruce Corbitt 1962-2019

January 25, 2019

Bruce Corbitt, singer from Warbeast and Rigor Mortis, died today. He was 56 years old. He had just had his 56th birthday a month prior.

Bruce is a friend of mine, someone I have shared beers and many tears with.

I first met Bruce at the initial incarnation of the Housecore Horror festival in Austin, Texas in 2013. I didn’t know who I was or what the hell I was doing with my life. Drunk in a Graveyard was new, fresh, and we were learning a lot of hard lessons in those first couple of years. Housecore Horror 2013 changed so much of this.

We met Phil Anselmo, and met so many others from the Housecore Camp – Corey Mitchell, Bruce Corbitt, Mike Williams.. people whose music and writing had shaped much of who we were. These people became friends, became readers of work, and we shared a community that I still now struggle to put into words, but rather is something I can describe only in feelings: Texas heat, the smell of old beer cans and leather vests, a sweaty hug, screaming the lines to our favourite horror films, a Patron hangover, the ever present smell of cannabis, the smell of the fake blood from the Gwar show.

2013’s Housecore cemented my desire to return in 2014. Supported by Corey Mitchell, Kim Kelly, and the Housecore camp, Drunk in a Graveyard returned as press, and it was Corey who urged me to take up photography, as I had always assumed I was too stupid to for it. Corey was the one who told me I was wrong, and I bought my first DSLR camera. I was baptized by fire and shot the Housecore Festival 2014 and while I shared beers at a sushi joint in Austin, I found out that Corey Mitchell had died.

Someone who had supported my writing, urged me to take pictures, urged me to make that at the time ridiculous purchase of a DSLR camera, was gone in a small moment.

I don’t remember the flight home.

It was Bruce who reached out to us after Corey’s passing to put together a tribute video of Corey’s friends, to create something to leave for Corey’s children. Scott and I wrote words in tribute, when our grief was so raw and white hot I could barely speak. How do you explain that someone you had only met in person a handful of times had had such an effect on you? The thing was, Bruce got it. He really understood, and from the conversations I had with him, he was hurting as well. How could we not be hurting?

In this time of loss, Bruce comforted us with his words, with his effort to create something meaningful, to use grief to transform and build.

This is simply the person that Bruce was – all of his feelings and love went into creation, went into his music, went into friendship, and this genuine kind hearted nature that seemed so at odds with the heavy metal persona he exuded on the outside.

Who the fuck was I? Some nobody part time journalist full time asshole from Canada and Bruce took time for me and my grief. I didn’t realize it at the time how much that meant until I have experienced grief and loss where that same support was not offered. Sharing in grief brings people together, and this is very true here, and especially for this tight knit community of the Housecore crew.

When Bruce was diagnosed with cancer, my heart hurt. I know far too many young people who have died from this disease. I’ve sat at the hospice beds of many who have been there and then left this world in a moment. I hate this disease.

I hate the smell of the Cavi wipes at the hospice, I hate the angles that cancer carves into the face of those it strikes, I hate the IVs, I hate the chemotherapy drugs so toxic you cannot touch them, so toxic you cannot fathom what they do to the insides of those who have to take them, I hate the burns from the radiation. I hate the sad frowns on the faces of hospice nurses, I hate crying until my eyes swell shut, I hate standing at funerals and reading eulogies through blinding rage. I hate cancer, and I hate that it is these good people that it takes from us.

I hate the smell of it, and hate the way it cuts down people who have done no wrong, and it is quick and brutal and horrible.

My friend Josh wrote a poignant post on Facebook regarding Bruce’s cancer and I share it here:

“You can bet your ass that cancer NEVER beat Bruce Corbit. Hell fucking no. Cancer probably just took the worst ass-whooping it has ever had when it decided to fuck with motherfucking Batman.
I grew up listening to that man’s music and was VERY fortunate to be able to work with him and call him a friend later in life. I feel so goddamn lucky for that.
….

Bruce’s mortal coil may have been shed, but you better believe that the spirit of that man, all of his accomplishments, and his legend will live on until the stars burn out. You know damn well it will.”

Cancer killed Bruce Corbitt’s body, but it didn’t kill the man he was and is. It didn’t kill the gesture of friendship he made to this Canadian nobody that truly made the difference in my life.

Small gestures are the things that people remember. People may forget what you have said, what you have done, but they will never ever forget how you made them feel. In one of my darkest times, Bruce was there for me, there for us, and now I write this post, with tears streaming down my cheeks and I want to say to those out there who are hurting right now – to the Corbitt family – to the Housecore family… if you need anything, I am here. Far away, but here.

And I promise you that I will not remember Bruce as a thin faced shadow of his former self. I will remember him as the powerhouse vocalist, the kindhearted soul, and the deeply grieving friend that he was to me. The only comfort I find here is the knowledge that he is no longer in pain. Bruce changed my life, and I hope that someday I can do this for someone who needs it and repay that favour.

Love you man. Rest well, rest easy and rest in power.

I conclude this post with a line from the poet Rumi,

“Now that you live here inside my chest

Anywhere we sit is a mountaintop

-Robin

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