In 1985, I was a newly-minted freshman at Berklee College of Music in Boston - 18 years old, just off the boat from New Jersey. One of the first people I met was Eddie. He was fourteen years older than I was and had gone back to school to learn arranging. To a kid like me he was a gargantuan presence. He'd been a professional musician for over a decade, and was already moving on from the things I hoped to do one day. I used to go over to his little apartment in the Back Bay and bring records I liked, or play songs I was working on. He would explain to me what was good and what was crap, always with respect. He saw something in me as a musician that few people saw then, and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. One day at the little apartment, he took out his copy of "Randy Newman Live at the Bitter End" and said: "I've met very few people who could truly appreciate this, but I think you are one of those few. " It was a life-changing experience.
After college, ten years passed before I saw Eddie again. By then I had started touring and playing my songs, and I would show up in Atlanta from time to time to do a show. We would see each other occasionally, and exchange an email or a phone call once in a while. I was in L.A., he was in Atlanta, and we didn't see that much of each other. But I always felt that so much of what I had become was due to the attention Eddie showed me when I was young and green.
In 2008, when I was working on my latest album, I asked Eddie if he'd be interested in doing a string arrangement for one of the songs. "I don't have a lot of money," I said. He said not to worry about it. The arrangement he sent over a week later was a thing of beauty, like all the work he did. The tune was called "St. Christopher" and it was the tale of a man facing hopelessness and loneliness with only that fabled patron saint of travelers to help him through. Eddie always told me how much he loved that song. Now I think I know why.
May you rest in peace, Eddie Horst. And wherever you are, I hope Saint Christopher is riding shotgun tonight.