5 August 2016, Joseph Allison Funerals, Essendon, Melbourne, Australia
Rach’s journey began forty-seven years ago. She just missed out on reaching 48. Too young. She had more to do and had dreams left unrealised, notably her biggest dream of getting to the US. Just like a Facebook timeline, anything said here today will give but a glimpse into Rachael’s life and experiences. It wasn’t all for us to know. For those who played a part in her story, especially those here today who have travelled from up the road, across town and from interstate as well as friends and family I’ve had contact with in the past few weeks who couldn’t be here, I know Rachael would have been grateful and really happy that you cared for and remembered her. There have been many messages from friends in Queensland, NSW, ACT and country Victoria as well as from Texas and LA.
Rachael Ann Warren was born at Footscray Hospital and spent her early years living in Boronia, North Melbourne and West Melbourne with her family and enjoyed family holidays around the surf club at Ocean Grove. She spent her primary and high school years in Canberra, specifically Duffy Primary, Holder High and years 11 & 12 at Narrabundah College. She made some great friendships at high school, some that endured until her final days and I’d like to acknowledge the support offered from her friends in the SMILES group in recent times.
Rach’s love for music was obvious from a very young age and it really took off in her teens. She was mad about Duran Duran, Adam Ant and INXS and went to as many concerts as possible with her friends. This defined her as an 80’s girl but she’d never be stuck in the 80’s rut like many other people I know. Rachael’s infectious passion and knowledge of music rubbed off on everyone she encountered. While at high school she began writing music reviews for the Canberra Times and then as soon as school life was over she took off to Sydney.
Forgive some of my scant detail in dates and places and happenings. I know that Rach worked with bands, venues, promoters and record labels in Sydney throughout some exciting times for Australian music and touring international artists. A fervent fan she remained a diehard champion for the artists and people she worked with who earned her respect.
In one of my last visits to her in palliative care, I sat with her in a somewhat shocked state and I told her what I knew about her. I told her that I knew her to be dedicated, loyal, reliable and a hard worker who we could trust and depend upon and that many people spoke highly of her passion and her work ethic. I told her that she was clever and funny, compassionate and caring and that music meant the world to her. I paused. I wasn’t sure if her eyes closed meant she was asleep or that she could or couldn’t hear me. “Go on” she said. I let a little laugh slip out and went on to tell her some more. I knew her to be a great problem solver and a fighter, a brave and courageous woman, who stood up to the shit. I told her that I knew of some of her physical, mental and emotional pain that she’d suffered over the years. I told her that I knew she’d been let down. Ultimately I knew that it wasn’t only people who failed her but the health system had failed her despite the fact she tried really fucking hard.
There were many people and events that brought Rach much joy, and animals. Joe Strummer, her much loved cat was six months old when Rach moved in with Helen. It was about seven years ago when she responded to an ad for a housemate, which specifically said ‘must love cats’. Rach said she ‘LERVED’ cats and that she had four kittens! Helen said she couldn’t have four kittens because she already had four cats so Rach arranged for the re-homing of three of them and Joe came with her. Rach and Helen’s relationship wasn’t all smooth-sailing in that first year, but Joe seemed to be the glue that held them together. I’d like to acknowledge the deep connection that Rachael and Helen shared over seven years of living together, as friends and confidantes. Helen asked for the pink rose to be brought here today in memory of the countless pink roses Rach would ‘find’ or pick for Helen whenever she left the house. I’m happy to know that Helen will be looking after Joe Strummer the cat for the rest of his days.
Rach continued working and volunteering in the music industry after moving to Melbourne in the late 90s. She worked on many Meredith’s and Golden Plains festivals, continued to tour with bands and built a stack of connections and long-lasting friendships. Some friendships waxed and waned, some dropped off and some ended with a giant FUCK OFF. Some of those were re-kindled again. I know she had a few really close friends who stuck with her through thick and thin. You know who you are and I thank you.
The twenty years she spent volunteering at 3RRR were arguably her happiest. She loved 3RRR and many of the people she worked with, she considered family. You meant the world to her and your contribution to her life was matched by the contribution she made to so many aspects of the station, volunteers and staff. As a mad supporter of the Mega-hertz footy team and the Community Cup, her head is now resting on her team’s scarf. I’d like to extend a personal thanks to Bec Hornsby, Dave Houchin and Donna Morabito who helped me orchestrate the production of the compilation cd in memory of Rachael, as a gift to her friends – at a recommended volume of LOUD. There was so much music which could’ve been included on the compilation, it was a daunting task and the ones that made the final cut are a mere representation of her love of music, the genres and the artists.
Rachael drew much of her strength from both music and her tattoos. Frida, Amy, Joe, Henry, Chris and others - they were a reminder to her of the strength and the rage that’s sometimes needed when kicking against the pricks. Let’s not let her strength, courage and bravery diminish the sensitivity, vulnerability and hopelessness she experienced throughout her life. She lived with mental illness, grief, loss and significant physical and emotional pain, reluctant until the end to declare the full extent of her illness and I know this because of the degrees of shock and disbelief expressed by people in response to the news of her death.
In the past couple of months Rachael and her mum Sue managed some quality time in each other’s presence, supported by Bob which provided great relief. Her last weeks in palliative care she was tenderly cared for by the nursing staff and received visits from her aunts Rhondda and Barbara and friends. I read out many of the messages I’d received from her friends on my last visit. She bounced her leg in response so I knew she could hear me. I played a few songs friends had posted to her timeline and read some passages from a book on Hindu goddesses. As I left her that day, on what I thought would be her last day, the cd which Donna compiled was playing.
There had been a concerted effort in the past couple of weeks to get in touch with Henry Rollins. Rach had spent countless hours/days looking after him on I don’t know how many of his visits to Melbourne and they became friends. The following message arrived just after I got home after my last visit.
Rachel, hey. It's Henry. I feel lucky that we had so many chances to visit with each other over so many years. It was always great going all over the city, even when it was so hard to get parking. I have been thinking about you a lot over the last few days and what always comes to the front of my thoughts is how you always looked out for me and how you meant it. I can only hope I was a fraction of that for you. You were always real and I always got it. People can often let you down but you never did, ever. Like I said, I have been very lucky to know you. Hang in there and let the people around you take good care of you. You are in my thoughts and of course will continue to be. Big hug from me, Rachel. Henry
I texted the message to Rhondda and asked her to read it out to Rachael as soon as I received it. By this stage, she was unresponsive however I know Henry’s words would have meant the world to her.
Rach slowly drifted away over the next two days and passed away peacefully just after midnight after a big windy storm swept through. I said out loud that night, “I think this could be Rach’s storm” and loved the idea of her stirring up a storm to take her soul away.
Henry’s message has been put inside her coffin. Maybe it will be her rock ‘n’ roll passport to the other side, as if she needed one. I have a funny vision of Rach’s ‘passport’ from Henry Rollins being shown to Bowie, Lemmy, Amy, Joe Strummer, Prince and other fallen musical icons to which they’d respond with open arms and big grins, calling out “Hey Rachael!”
In memory of one of the rockest chicks ever who dedicated her life to music.
23 September 1968 – 26 July 2016
1. Queen Bee Taj Mahal
2. Back to Black Amy Winehouse
3. Don’t Change INXS
4. I Hear Motion The Models
5. Rusty Cage Soundgarden
6. Hard Rollins Band
7. I love Rock n Roll Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
8. Alive Pearl Jam
9. Everbody Moves Courtney Barnett & Dave Faulkner
10. The Killing Moon Echo & the Bunnymen
11. Hurt Johnny Cash
12. You Can’t Always Get What You Want Rolling Stones
13. Don’t Fall in Love The Ferrets
14. Get Up, Stand Up The Wailers
15. Rock the Casbah The Clash
16. Rapture Blondie
17. Girls on Film Duran Duran
18. Greg! The Stop Sign!! TISM
19. I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care) Motorhead