William Clarke: Now That You Are Gone
"Let's see where do I begin, says Clarke-Lodovici. "Well, let's start out with him going to the doctor because he was bleeding from his arm. The doctor said to Bill, 'Please remove your sunglasses.' Bill did. The doctor said, 'You have a drinking problem, don't you.?' Bill didn't deny it. The doctor asked me to leave the room. Bill said to him that I should stay because I knew everything about him and he didn't want anything hidden.
"The doctor told Bill he had about a year left of his life to go if he didn't stop drinking. In fact, I remember the doctor asking him why he drank. Bill said that he was basically a very shy person and that drinking helped him face his fans when he was playing. The more popular he became, the more Bill drank...He was now in front of thousands, not just little local bars.
"When we left the doctor's office, Bill decided that he would quit the hard stuff (a fifth of Whiskey per day) and just drink beer from then on. That was hard for him, but he did it. Well, he actually started getting sick, like getting pneumonia and just different ailments that he never had before. He joked about the alcohol killing the germs and that was why he was getting sick now. Anyway, he continued touring with his band. In 1995 Bill had a gig in Indianapolis, Indiana. His band members called me and said, 'They can't wake Bill up.' He had actually fallen out on stage just before the show.
"The paramedics came and took him to the hospital there in Indianapolis. They called me and said that Bill might not make it and I needed to fly out there right away. I did.
"When I got there Bill was in a terrible shape. Shaking, he was going through withdrawals. It was the most horrible thing to see someone you love going through this. He was delirious. I never really knew what DT'S [delirium tremors] meant until I saw it for myself...the person actually is delirious and they tremble from shaking so much. They actually had to strap Bill into the bed because he became violent. It was terrible. His fans would come to the hospital and I would have to make sure to keep them out. All I did for a week was pray and cry. They told me to stay next to him because he could die. I did.
"After a week of Bill being totally out of it, I mean he would look at me and ask, 'Who are you?'I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The doctors said that his withdrawal was worse than a heroine addict would go through. Well, he made it through. Charlie Musselwhite and Smokey Wilson were very supportive to me when I was there with Bill, as were many fans.
"On the last CD that Bill put out there is a special thank you to the Wishard Hospital. Well, that is where he went through this for a week. We took a plane homeno cocktails on the plane. He finally got rid of the monkey on his back...booze!
"He had quit touring for a few months just to get healthy. He dropped about sixty pounds and was playing better than I had seen him play ever; he could do anything he wanted on the harp now. He even told me that. [The Hard Way was recorded before Bill had quit drinking]. He became this very spiritual man, so happy to be alive. It was as if he had 'just been born,' as Bill said to me. It was wonderful. He began touring again. From what his band members told me and fans, he was better than ever. His last tour was for six weeks from the west coast to east coast. When I saw Bill I said that he looked better than ever and even about ten years younger! He said he felt great.
"Bill had a gig up in Fresno, CA. after about a week of being home from this last tour. I was with Bill on this gig. This was his last gig...He bled to death because of a doctor who didn't take proper care of him. It was proven that the hospital was at fault for Bill's death in a lawsuit against them. This was so horrible. I just know that we all have a time to go and that it was Bill's time. So sad, though, to loose a man who had been through a lot in his life. He struggled with many things but became a great Blues musician nevertheless.
"I think that if you could ask Bill his greatest accomplishment in his life it wouldn't be the fact that he won Handy Awards, was known as one of the best out there or anything else, Clarke-Lodovici explains. "It would be that he didn't drink anymore. I'm sure that if Bill were here today he would agree with me.
"There was such a change in this man, it was as if he was preparing to leave this earth. I know it sounds weird, but I believe this. He became very good friends with a preacher, who was also a harp player. He would come over and pray with Bill...this was a shocker! This preacher, who was only in his late forties, died a couple months after Bill. Never found out what happened.
"Not that many people actually know what happened to William Clarke, but this is it. Bill was the best husband to me and a great father to our kids. I never met anyone so honest, loyal, humble...I think that he made me a better person too. He was a wonderful man, husband and father. I do miss him a lot still."