Saying that Bill Cochran “took his backstage pass” isn’t just a happy euphemism for his death. As anyone who knew Bill can attest, that was also a very real occurrence during his life on this planet. Bill, who took his backstage pass to the universe on Friday morning, June 15, 2018 — just in time for the weekend — was a music lover who enjoyed 360-degree views of his favorite bands and artists, from sea to shining sea.
Born in Atlanta as William Kelly Cochran on Aug. 21, 1956, he died as Bill in Brunswick, having logged many miles and hours in the noble pursuit of adventure and sonic goodness, stirred up by the likes of the Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic, Col. Bruce Hampton, and so many other artists who saw Bill dancing blissfully near the front of their stage, and often met him later when he somehow materialized in the green room.
Across the expanse, Bill held many different jobs to support his music habit, including newspaper advertising salesman, bartender and entrepreneur. But the job he loved most was that of “daddy,” a role he performed with unconditional love and devotion on behalf of his daughter, Annabelle Cochran, soon to be a high school senior. Bill also leaves behind his brother and sister-in-law, Bob and Cathy Cochran, various favorite cousins, other blood kin, as well as brothers from other mothers, and countless friends, known and unknown, because when Bill met a stranger, it never stayed that way long.
“It’s because I’m selfish,” Bill once said, explaining his inclination to strike up a conversation with that guy on the T-shirt line at the music festival, or the prettiest woman standing by the bar, or just about anyone who made eye contact. “They have something that I don’t have, something I want — their story. Everyone has a story.”
So, at the heart of it, Bill Cochran was a collector of people and stories, and if he wasn’t the most empathetic person in the world, it sure as hell wasn’t from a lack of trying. That was reason enough to love him. As a fully engaged student of people, and the world, and the ingredients that made it all worth loving and exploring, Bill was also great company on any journey, inward or outward.
Bill had too many adventures in too many places to recount here, and some things are best experienced, and (to paraphrase his favorite lyricist, Robert Hunter), perhaps they’re better left unsung in this particular venue. Suffice to say, Bill was an enchanting poet, a talented photographer, an affable rogue, an intrepid risk-taker, an adoring father, a loving son and a faithful friend.
His favorite song was the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple,” in which Jerry Garcia sings, “There is a road, no simple highway, between the dawn and the dark of night.” It’s a road, both figurative and three-dimensional, that Bill knew really well. He once said, with a telling twinkle in his eye through his rakish smile, “The bus came by and I climbed aboard, and it’s been an ongoing story.”
Bill, whose story must now continue outside of this realm, was preceded in death by his parents, Gene and Lois Cochran. But in all likelihood, he was greeted backstage by Bruce Hampton, who no doubt pointed at the newly arrived soul and said, “Bill Cochran, Leo.”
Written by Jerry Grillo
Bill’s wishes for a private send off will be held at sunset … every sunset.