Jimmy C. Hall, Jr. a/k/a Mondale "Mondo" Vers
May 9, 1950 - August 22, 2001
photo by Henke Photography
On Wednesday, August 22nd, 2001, singer/songwriter Jimmy C. Hall, Jr., known to thousands of music fans as Mondo Vers, died suddenly and unexpectedly from a massive heart attack in Baraboo, Wisconsin at the age of 51.
Jim (J.C.) Hall was a renowned and respected veteran musician, and the composer of hundreds of songs loved by fans all across the Midwest, performing with Gordeux-Huber-Hall, Yancy Derringer, THE ... VERS, and theXpairOmentals, among others.
Standing 6' 6" tall and with a personality larger than life, "Mondo" was an outrageous character whose antics belied his talent and sensitivity as an artist. Words cannot express the loss felt by his passing.
One of the things that Ive learned in my time on Planet Earth is that love and hate are practically the same thing. Theyre both passion, the difference is just a matter of polarity. I loved Jim Hall like a brother, and sometimes it seemed as if I hated him like one. The fact is, I never hated him, although he frequently made me mad enough to spit flame. September 24th, 2000 was (I think) the 314th time we had broken up, but who's counting?
He and I complimented each other so well because we were symmetrically opposite in nearly every way. He was tall, I was short; he was outspoken, I was quiet. I played the guitar parts that he couldnt, he sang the vocals that I couldnt, he had a talent for talking right off the top of his head that I didnt have, and I had a inclination for patience and diplomacy that he didnt have. In many ways, we were the missing pieces to each others jigsaw puzzle.
He once said that he and I were like Mick and Keith (of the Rolling Stones), and that no matter how mad we ever were at each other, we were impossible to split apart because the experiences linking us together were greater than either of us or the two of us put together.
He used to lie like that a lot. But for him, it wasn't lying. He experienced the world a bit differently than the rest of us. It is said that we have two sides to our brain: one side is rational, logical, mathematical; the other side emotional, abstract, artistic. Clearly, Jim Hall lived almost entirely on the artistic side, for he was a true artist as measured against any great artist in history.
When he related his side of any story, truth to him was the truth of his emotions. He used his talent of imagination to express the truth he felt, and in this respect, he told his truth more accurately, passionately, and with more detail than anyone. The fact that he had created some details in the process was something that came so naturally to him, he couldnt help it.
I dont think I ever met anyone that commanded everyones attention so well just by entering a room. It wasnt just his physical size (although that aspect did give people something tangible to focus on), it was something that is hard to describe. Even if he didnt say a word (admittedly a rare occurrence), people instinctively sensed that they were in the presence of something larger than themselves, truly out of the ordinary, and they were right. People experiencing him for the first time were immediately in wonder and amazement, and the more anyone got to know him, the more astonished they became. His humor, his creativity, his passion, his verve, his energy, his animation, his unique perception and ability to express his view of the universe and everything in it left us all in awe.
As a performer, he was wild, full of power, energy, charisma, emotion, and humor to a degree unlike anyone Ive ever known or even heard about, much less had the pleasure and privilege of working with.
And when it came to being a songwriter, he was the true item, the real deal, and the rest of us were lying frauds trying to fake our way through what he had a true, God-given talent for. The rest of us try to construct original songs by starting with an idea, a riff or a phrase, and then use our logical minds to fill in all the remaining blanks with what weve heard before that will fit, until we think weve got something that nobody else has written before, when in the back of our mind, were really trying to hide our frustration at the fact that, down deep, we really believe that its all been done before, and all were actually doing is rearranging someone elses refried boogie.
But Jim Hall as a songwriter was the very definition of inspiration. When he wrote a song, it started because he felt something very strongly. He then sat down, and wrote his song from beginning to end as if it were already memorized, and only needed writing down. It flowed from God-only-knows-where through him as a complete thought straight to the paper, and the result was entirely, amazingly, stunningly unique. Within the context of the millions of songs that have been written since the invention of music itself, his songs were every bit as original as he was, and every bit as genuine.
He loved kids (he never quit being one himself) and his songs were his own children, his legacy, the mark that he left upon the world, and a lasting inspiration to those that knew him and enjoyed his music. He fathered over 200 songs, and no one ever told him to use a condom.
He should have been a rock star and songwriter as wealthy and famous as any of the great ones. He should have been filthy stinking rich profiting from his wonderful songs, but Jim Hall, like many great artists, did not receive his proper due within his lifetime.
Our only consolation to this obvious injustice is the fact that Im sure he wouldnt have been able to handle being rich nearly as well as he coped with not being rich. Im certain that if he had become wealthy off of his songs twenty years ago, like he should have, he wouldnt have lived anywhere near this long. Something else would have killed him long before this, and the people who knew him best also know this is true. Jims relative poverty was, therefore, actually a blessing in disguise for him and for us.
Due to his lack of financial success, he also felt that he had failed in measuring up to his father. With no disrespect for Jimmy C. Hall, Sr., his father didnt have the talent that Jim Jr. had for writing music and entertaining people. Jim Jr. inspired everyone who knew him to enjoy life, show love for each other, and look at things from a different, more sensitive, more passionate point of view. To pull ourselves out of the grey and see things in color. To live life with fire and verve, and not be afraid to say what we feel. He did this better than anyone.
Those who would say that he wasnt a success, based on arbitrary mathematics, must buy their ammunition at Goodwill. Success can be measured in one of two ways: one, by how much you aquire in your life; and two, how much you give to others. He was astonishingly rich in those intangeble things that arent any good unless theyre given away. He made all the rest of us richer in ways that money alone can never accomplish, and we all owe him a debt that we can never repay.
But I believe that we are all parts of a collective spirit that is immortal. We put Jim Halls mortal remains to rest now, as we all will be laid to rest some day. It is our duty to him and ourselves at this time to realize how much of an impact that his spirit had on our lives, how much he was a part of our experience on this earth, to etch his memory into the finest stone, and allow his spirit to fuse with ours, where he will live as long as we do. It is our duty to realize how much he really did contribute in enriching our lives, and take pride in the fact that he is now, more than ever, a part of everyone who knew him.
It may be a cliche to say that well never forget him, but Jim Hall is the most unforgettable person Ive ever known. Id like to think that now hes in Rock and Roll Heaven, swapping lyrics with John Lennon, singing harmony with Elvis, freaking out Jim Morrison, smoking heavens weed with Jimi Hendrix, and getting laid with Janis Joplin. Heaven is undoubtably a much more fun place, now that hes there, and it is truly a greyer, colder, less fun world down here without him.
Were really going to miss you, Jim, J.C., Jimmy Clayton Hall, Junior, Mondale Mondo Vers.
Were really going to miss you, man.
Some of his son(g)s:
New York's In Heat
Never Gonna Be That Old
More Rock 'n' Roll
I Hate My Idol
I'm So Mad (I Could Break My Arm)
Five Year Love
Come On Back
She's A Dog
Out Of Range
When You've Got Some Love
See You Again
Ono (Time To Teach The Lambs to Fight)
Was She Ever There?
Running Into The Breeze
Any Day Now
(I Can't Get No) Medication (written with Charlie, Zoid, Lance, & Gabe)
Broken Hearted Vice (written with Charlie)
and many, many others
Zoid still plans on producing a CD album of Vers-era music, to be called "ReVers."