I grew up in Independence, Iowa – current population 5,957. When I was young, our address was simply “Jennings RR1.” I lived in the country with two loving parents, a witty older brother and your classic dog and cat. The majority of my childhood was spent caricaturing Luke Skywalker, Superman and Michael Jackson. My older brother, Chad, built me an X-wing out of some cardboard when I was five. I ran around with red underwear on the outside of my blue sweatpants when I was six. I had hardly mastered the moonwalk at age seven, but thought I looked pretty damn cool sporting my mom’s silver ski glove insulator on my right hand. As I got older, I slowly transitioned from wearing my underoos to flannel, listening to more Smashing Pumpkins and less Jackson 5 (MJ and Billy get equal play these days).
High school was no fun. I wasn’t good at sports. I wasn’t popular with the ladies. I was a long haired geek who bought a computer instead of a car when he turned 16. My fondest memories are of the weekends away from high school, when my brother Chad would come back from Wartburg College. He’d bring new music, new movies, new information and old friends.
One of those friends was Mike Jensen. Mike was the crazy one. A stocky son of a bitch with wild hair and infectious energy that traveled almost as fast and strong as his singing voice. He was what I wanted to be. He grew up in my town, hung out with the same families and watched Star Wars with my brother. He got in fights with jocks in high school. He was in choir like me, had a hot girlfriend, was caring, but cool and escaped Independence. He was living in Waverly (which seemed like another country at the time) and was in a college band named ‘Sweat Lodge.’ For that reason, reasons unsaid, and the reasons listed above, to me… he was a rock star.
These days, Mike lives in Waverly. He married that hot girlfriend, has three beautiful daughters and teaches music.
Mike Jensen IS a rock star.
Unfortunately, Mike has a few other things going on. A few months ago, Mike started having seizures After countless trips to the physician, it was discovered that Mike has a brain tumor. He’s having that tumor removed today, May 3rd.
Earlier this week Mike asked people if they could send him a note stating “who I am to you.” Part of the risk of his surgery is that he could possibly lose a bit of his personality. And part of his plan for recapturing that explosive energy is to have reading material and reminders of who he is to the people in his life. The few paragraphs above, are what Mike Jensen is to me.
Mike means a lot to a lot of people. His friend Melinda started a TeeSpring campaign, where you can buy TEAM MIKE shirts. All the proceeds go to Mike and his family.
Mike has another friend (and band mate) named Paul. Paul likes to stream the current MN Public Radio music station when he works. They do this thing called “My Three Songs,” where you request a three-song set with an explanation and they read the story and play the tunes. Paul made a playlist for Team Mike and sent it to DJ Barb Abney earlier this week. His letter is posted below, along with the 3 songs.
My three-song set is dedicated to my very close friend and longtime bandmate Mike Jensen, an Iowan who is having surgery for a brain tumor this week (5.3). This dedicated husband and father of three beautiful girls is not yet 40. I’ve been thinking about him a whole heckuva lot leading up to this surgery, and was spurred to write you with this request because I know how much Mike would love for more people to hear his music and to send positive energy his way. I hope you will play it – it will mean a lot!
The first song is a track Mike wrote for our band Spin Spin Coupling’s forthcoming album Vinyl Envy. With members in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Chicago, we’ve been playing together since 2001, but most of us have known each other and played together for 20 years. I think “War” is one of the most dynamic tracks we’ve ever created and seems fitting since Mike is in the midst of battle with this tumor. Here is a link to the WAV file. Sorry – it’s not totally radio-ready, but we weren’t ready for this crisis…it has a long fade and should be cut at about 5:20. I realize this is a bit unorthodox, but if you can do it, that’d be awesome.
We played the opening bars of “Turtledove” by Trip Shakespeare at one of our earliest gigs, which was opening for our heroes in The Flops in Madison, ten years after we saw Trip Shakespeare together at Wartburg College, our alma mater in Iowa. At the Flops show, we had a great chat with Matt and John, who autographed Mike’s LP of Across the Universe.
Finally, while I considered some Sigur Ros, Low, Kings of Convenience, and other more ethereal fare with which we have some great memories, if I know Mike, he would prefer to be able to cruise down a country road right now, rocking out to an old favorite. So, I chose “Stereo” by Pavement, one of his favorite bands, and a song to which we’ve done that very thing several times in the past.
2. Trip Shakespeare: Turtledove
3. Pavement: Stereo