It goes without saying that life is a precious gift and we are incredibly grateful to be able to enjoy its beauty everyday. It should also go without saying that a loss of life – a loss of that precious gift – is devastating.
It is with a deep sigh and a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of Jeffrey Borksi.
If you’re reading this, there’s a strong possibility that you knew Jeff. If you never formally met Jeff, there’s a strong possibility you have been in the same crowds, sat at the same bars, smoked on the same corners, and walked the same streets.
Luckily, we live in a modern era where recorded music, photos, and videos can transcend life, and with that, Jeff’s soul can live on through the recordings he’s been a part of, the videos he’s been in, and the photographs that we’ve been lucky enough to take with him. So we’ll forever be able to remember Jeff just as he was – kind, loving, and gentle – but more importantly, we’ll forever be able to listen to the sound of Jeff Borski weilding a bass guitar and laying into those four strings with a flat pick.
I asked some of Jeff’s former band mates and closest friends to share some fond memories and stories of Jeff.
“I don’t remember the day or time I met Jeff. He quietly slipped into my life and became someone who I looked forward to seeing out and have a conversation with. There was always a sparkle in his eye – sometimes of mischief, sometimes of admiration, and sometimes of the perfect one liner that he was about to deliver. Jeff and I held up the rhythm section in Green Piece for 2 years together, and I learned a lot about him in that time. His sense of humor permeated through every practice, especially his remarkable gift of pulling song references from the endless musical library in his head. Or how he would pretend to reference his notebook, when really there was just a giant “A” scribbled on the page. I consider myself very lucky to have had the honor to play, tour, create, laugh, and spend time with Jeff Borski. As difficult as this is to write, I find peace in the idea that Jeff would read through this and be able to make a joke about a glaring grammatical error that is inevitably lurking within these lines. I’ll miss ya, buddy.“ – Ally Nicholson
“Jeff only ever said nice things to me. I used to give him a hard time because he was always very self-deprecating and would always just tell me how talented I was and would beg me not quit the band. He would do this after every single practice. He would constantly play devil’s advocate when it came to decisions in the band and he almost always took my side. I’m going to miss having him in my corner, and I wish I could have another chance to thank him for all the support he gave me.” – Alura Mireault
“Jeff has a lot of qualities but I’ll always remember him most as a human dictionary. I’ll never forget the time the word cloaca randomly appeared in front of us.
I said, “What the hell is a “clow-ka?” Jeff said, “Klō-ā-ka. It’s like a bird’s anus.”
“Why on earth do you know that,” I asked.
“Why wouldn’t I?”, he said.
I’m really gonna miss Jeff and all the things he knew.
This is doesn’t have anything to do with music but I always think of a Jeff when I think of a duck and its anus” – Mike Silva
“I can’t remember when we met, but I always remember him being there. He was the reason why I stayed at the practice space so late. He was the first person that acknowledged me when I’d stroll into Thirsty First’s courtyard before a show. We got to play music together and pick each other’s brains and I’m so grateful that I was able to spend time with him during his life. He was a character. He was the king of pushing your buttons, because he got a kick out of it. And he was good at it. And you couldn’t get mad about it. I’m going to miss the late night talks when I’d drive him home after practice, hearing his awful dad jokes, and just appreciating each other. We always appreciated each other. I’ll miss you Jeff.” – Andy Bechtol
“I possess a great number of fond memories of Jeff over the years; however, there is a group of them that sticks out more than most. He was always an avid supporter of our local music scene and attended many, many shows over the years, but for me, when he would come to every single Arlen show when we were first getting started meant quite a lot. He was always there to listen, praise, and, (probably most importantly) critique. I will never forget how considerate and selfless he was in that way. How reassuring he was for someone who might not even know that they needed that encouragement, but they were certainly the better for it. I will miss never seeing his face in the crowd again. I will miss never again turning to my right and see him plugging away on his bass. I will miss the late nights, the car rides, the arguments and the agreements. Jeff, I’ll see you down the line, and yes, you can put a beer on my tab.” – Breton Lefebvre
“I may have been Jeff’s closest friend. I called him J-Bones. He hated that nickname and started calling me P-Kones in response.
I was in two bands with him, first our trio With Angela Bruce called Safer Streams, which performed loosely structured punk rock, loud and strong. Later he played as the replacement bassist in Arlen after Justin Shariat left the group. There is one other project that Jeff and I worked on together that I believe was the most fun performance art I ever had the pleasure of performing in my life.
We called it The Piano Men.
A few years back before he played with Arlen, he would often hang at our practices, playing Starfox 64 and beating Andross for the umpteenth time. Practice would wind down and we’d all sit around drinking a beer and chatting for a bit and he’d give me “the look” and I would know it’s time to go. We’ve got work to do.
The patrons of Dudley’s would see him enter through the main door and order a drink, and often one would approach us. They would excitedly ask him, “Are you going up there tonight? You doing Piano Man?”
And a confident nod is what they got in reply. He would pick up his beer and confidently stride to the sign up sheet, and jot down those three words. “The Piano Men”
The DJ knew what song to play. This isn’t our first rodeo.
You see, Jeff had this idea one day that we should play Piano Man at Karaoke. It’s a whole inside joke about this tape we found of my pop in the attic, singing Piano Man with confidence and lots of gusto. We played it loudly through the speakers of Jeff’s Cadillac when my pop got home. He would admit it was funny later in life.
When we first played Piano Man at karaoke, we didn’t know what to do during the lengthy instrumental breaks, so Jeff improvised a short stand up routine. I thought it was a great idea and sure enough, we were back on stage a week later doing it all over again. Over time, week to week, we’d discuss it, perfect it, perform it. We worked together and would test jokes on our fellow employees in our row of cubicles. We would boil it down and after band practice on Wednesday, we would try out our new material. For 4 minutes and 30 seconds we were The Piano Men, and I’d act as human segue to his jokes.
“Hey Jeff, I hate bills, do you hate bills?”
“No! In fact I’m getting really good at paying them! I just got a letter from the electric company that said my balance was OUTSTANDING!”
I’m not sure what people liked more, the animated nature in which we sang Piano Man, making short jokes between lyrics, or the stand up routine that Jeffrey put together over time. His creative banter and plucky dance moves always stole the show. I might have been a better singer, but Jeff performed with more heart.
I once heard that he, in my absence, performed the song Tequila at UnchArted. Funniest thing I ever heard. (Editor’s note: I was there that night and it was amazing)
But that was Jeff. His ideas and sense of humor were unique. I’ve never known anyone else like him. He was as Hunter Thompson described his attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta.
“There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”
Farewell, J-Bones. I love you and will miss you always. Next time there’s a karaoke, I’m singing Piano Man for you.
-P-Kones.” – Paul Kenney
“I played in a few different bands with Jeff over the years, so I guess I’ll give a quick story about each, but first, I’d like to say something about Jeff’s character.
We had just formed Partial Credit at the end of 2014 and hadn’t even played a real show yet when I very suddenly found myself with nowhere to stay. Without hesitation, Jeff offered for me to stay with him at his place, a place that I should add was probably a bit too small for even just him. I took over the living room, totally invading his privacy and likely annoying the shit out of him for an entire year. Frankly, I can’t think of many people that wouldn’t have killed me by the end of it, or who would have done that for me at all, really, but that was Jeff.
We played in a one-time Guns n’ Roses tribute band together called Rocket Queens. There wasn’t even one thing Jeff liked about Guns n’ Roses, but he took the time to learn an entire set of their songs just for one show. We ended up stretching it into two, and I’ll never forget how much I loved seeing him in his best Duff McKagan getup.
From that, we were given an opportunity to form another tribute band called Priceless Advice, playing all Nirvana songs. Some of my best memories with Jeff are centered around this project. I would break strings so often and consistently playing these songs that Jeff had to come up with some jokes to fill the time between string changes. My favorite being his world-famous scarecrow joke which I’m not going to bother telling. If you know, you know.
Most notably, we played together in Partial Credit. So, so many amazing memories from this one, but one of my very favorites was the time we learned an N Sync song for a friend of ours that Jeff was dating at the time. It was her birthday the next night and we were playing at Ward to celebrate with her and we stayed up all night memorizing the structure and figuring out my bass and Jeff’s keyboard parts. It was one of the most ridiculous things and one of my most cherished memories with one of my best friends.
If it weren’t for Jeff expressing interest in wanting to play music together one random night back in 2014 (He had seen me play with my old band, Venezuela, many Moons earlier, just before what would become a long break from music), I may not have ever gotten back into music at all and my life would probably be completely different. I’m very grateful for Jeff. I consider myself a better person for having known him and I know that he’ll live on through us forever. I love you, brotha.” – Nick Warren
“It was Paul Kenney’s birthday years ago, I went to the party and Paul said we should jam sometime. We made plans to play the next weekend. He came over and brought Jeff Borski. They both had guitars and I had my drums set up in my living room. We started to play. We soon found that we were really making something that we thought was pretty cool, I said I was following them and they said they were following me. Jeff used to say, I am just happy to be here. He played along, always filling in and keeping me in line and in time. Jeff came up with the name Safer Streams. We would say, do you think people will think of pee or something, and he was adamant it was about something else, so we went with it. During practices, we would take breaks on my front porch, they would smoke and joke and tell stories, I loved listening to them and never stopped laughing. Jeff’s reoccurring joke that was beaten into the ground was: Temper, I hardly know her, or Murder, I hardly know her, etc… He would break it out unexpectedly and so often… we would always say “Shut Up, Jeff” and all 3 of us would laugh. Jeff’s jokes always made him roll his eyes thinking it was so bad but they were just so innocently funny. I always felt so comfortable with Jeff.
I was still learning how to be in a band, how to remember song structures and how to play the same thing again later, this did not make any difference to Jeff (or Paul) so my insecurity always melted away when I was around them. This was the same anywhere I went. I always knew if Jeff was out at a place where I didn’t feel like I could just join a conversation, I could attach myself to his side so I did not feel like a crazy old aunt. Jeff: Smart, quick, self-deprecating, helpful and loving. Always ready to give a hug and talk and walk for hours. I have known Jeff since he was 19 and would see him here an there every few years. During the Outlet Zine /Surrender record nights at 119 Gallery where he would DJ, to random encounters at the Folk Fest, to seeing him at that aforementioned birthday party. Even from the beginning, I knew he was worth knowing.
After our band kind of drifted away, Jeff and I would see each other out, when I was in 2 other bands, he would show up to most of the local shows to support me. He supported his friends in that way all the time. When he started in Green Piece, I was so proud and excited for him. He was part of the fabric of that band, all of his influences are felt in the earliest songs. The first time I saw them, I cried tears of Joy. He finally was in a band that he was so involved in creating, not following along, not playing other people’s songs, his own mark and contribution to original music. This made him glow. I could feel it, everyone could.
I know this was supposed to be about the band, but with Jeff, you get more than a band member, you get someone special, a friend to cherish. Jeff always made me feel like I was home.” – Angela Bruce
Personally, I will never forget when he argued to several of us that (if presented with the task) he could tread water…fully clothed…with his boots on…for several hours…in ice cold water. He argued his point tooth and nail. We all knew he couldn’t do that…even he knew he couldn’t do it, but he never backed down. It was early March and we were walking across a frozen Lake Waukewan in the middle of the night while debating this. We all stopped and made snow angels in the thin layer of snow that sat upon the ice. It was late, it was cold, and there was absolutely no reason for us to be out there, but I will never forget that night.
We are already missing you, Jeff.
I hope to see you again some day.
– Kevin Conway
Photos provided by Coleman Rogers, Alura Mireault, Nick Warren, and Angela Bruce