It is with profound sadness that I announce the death of my brother Angel Rissoff. I would like to thank all who came out for his funeral. It was a sendoff that he would have enjoyed. Angel had been battling cancer for the last 16 months. He fought this disease with dignity and determination. Unfortunately, he ultimately lost the battle. Despite the grim prognosis when he was first diagnosed, he never gave up. His outlook was positive. There were of course ups and downs, side effects from the drugs, and the knowledge that he faced an uphill battle. Thankfully, he was able to maintain his independence and quality of life almost to the very end. Indeed, I was able to see his last performance in May. He sounded and looked great. The fact that it was at first unclear whether he would have been alive in May made the event that much sweeter. Nevertheless, his condition then deteriorated to the point that he could no longer perform, inasmuch as his condition fluctuated day to day.
Angel was a Jewish kid from the Bronx. He was a product of his time. He was born in 1948, and raised on Howdy Doody, the Lone Ranger, baseball cards, comic books and the Honeymooners. Music was in his blood. He lived my father's dream, which was to be a singer. At an early age, he became consumed by the music of Chuck Berry, James Brown, The Flamingos, Sam Cooke, and Little Richard, to name a few. When he was 18 he left home to pursue a career in Rock and Roll. He initially moved to Florida, becoming a part of the South Florida music scene, first with The Kollektion and then The Blues Image. As the house band for the popular Thee Image club, The Blues Image shared bills with the leading rock acts of the time, including Jimi Hendrix and The Doors. His passion never abated. More recently he was a member of Little Isidore and the Inquisitors, and Kenny Vance and the Planotones. He also had a successful solo career. He collaborated with Gene Cornish, Eddie Brigati, Johnny Gale, Seth Glassman, John "Ratso" Girardi and others.
His career was not without pitfalls. Those who follow Facebook know that his last post on Wednesday celebrated his 27th anniversary of sobriety.
He was the proud and loving father of Emily, who was the light of his life. He was also blessed to have Johunta Klasson in his life the last 4 years. Her love and support was critical in his struggle battling this disease. He was also blessed to have doctors and support staff at Sloan-Kettering whose care and compassion guided him through this ordeal. Dr. James Harding and Dr. Xiomara Rocha-Cadman were there to shepherd him through his treatment. They truly are doing God's work. If anyone wishes to make a donation to any organization in Angel's honor we would request that it be Sloan-Kettering.
A few paragraphs do not sum up a life, but offer a glimpse into how it was lived. His life was characterized by honesty, integrity, humility, and malice toward none. The posts online echo these sentiments. These are traits that too often are in short supply today. While he was not a religious person, he was a spiritual one. At the funeral, my friend David spoke about the story of Jacob, who reportedly was never buried, implying that he never died. The rabbinical interpretation was that he never died because his teachings, and impact on others, was eternal. As a brother, father, friend, and musician, his impact lives on in us, and hopefully those who come after us. Through his music he brought joy to so many.
Through the power of recordings, YouTube, and social media, he will live on through his music, which may be the ultimate tribute.
A memorial jam will be held in the near future. We will post the date and place once it has been finalized.
Many of you may not have known, but for the last year or so, my dad has been battling liver cancer. Very early this morning, his body finally gave up. This is the last picture we took together. On Tuesday I had a cold and called out of my internship, so I made us tea. I stayed home yesterday too. I never thought I’d say thank goodness I got sick.
Today has been so weird. I’m waiting for a text from him or something saying this is all a joke and he’ll be home tomorrow. But I know I have to accept the truth that he was suffering and now he’s at peace. Despite drama we encountered, family or otherwise, we had a really good relationship. He was always there for me and listened to whatever problems I had. Whether it was playing catch at the park, playing music on the piano and guitar (respectively), or sitting in the living room reading books or watching tv, we had fun. It was impeccable timing that I left Trader Joe’s in October and got to spend more of this past month home with him. We’ve done a lot of laughing and crying in this time because we knew the day was coming.
No amount of preparation could stop the pain when it finally happens, but I’m glad to say I don’t have any regrets. His music will live on in the hearts of many fans. Heaven has gained another Angel. Literally and figuratively.
Even though I have never met Angel in person, he lived in The Bronx and I live in North Central Indiana, I feel I know him from Facebook, our phone calls, texts, emails and most of all his music.
I became aquainted with Angel several years ago through our mutual friend, Ratso Gerardi. I was and still am Ratso's webguy. A couple years ago I became Angel's webguy also.
Part of my job was to create posters for the gigs Angel, Mike Marble and Ratso (Mars Project) would perform. I would portray the guys as characters from movies, TV, current events, etc. Angel would always get a big kick out the these. I have posted several below.
I love all of Angel's music but this is my favorite.