Scott Hutchison was a boy when his parents gave him a nickname. When guests would come to their home, Scott would get nervous. In his shyness, he’d make himself small and back away, shaking like a ‘Frightened Rabbit.’
When he grew up, Scott began a solo project with that name. Rather than hiding from what he was, or the pain and sadness and anxiety and depression he felt constantly, he wore it on his sleeve. He wrote about it. He sang about it. He made it okay for millions of people who struggle with it every day. He validated it and helped to make it real.
Last Tuesday night, he tweeted this:
Be so good to everyone you love. It’s not a given. I’m so annoyed that it’s not. I didn’t live by that standard and it kills me. Please, hug your loved ones.— Scott Hutchison (@owljohn) May 8, 2018
And then, this:
I’m away now. Thanks.— Scott Hutchison (@owljohn) May 8, 2018
The following day, Scott vanished. He couldn’t be found and friends hoped that he was just taking some time off the grid. But by Wednesday, everyone was really worried. They put out the word that he was missing. It was retweeted across Scotland. It was picked up by other bands and other artists. Everyone was on the lookout.
We have no news to report on Scott’s whereabouts this morning. Your support so far has been incredible and all we ask is you keep him in your thoughts, keep an eye out and keep sharing his picture online. Thanks for everything. Your kindness and positivity is keeping us going G— Frightened Rabbit (@FRabbits) May 10, 2018
On Thursday, he was found. Gone from the madness of the world at only 36 years old.
He was a poet and an ally and a dreamer. He was dirty-minded and quick-witted and he served as a mouthpiece for pain and hope and despair and deep, passionate love. He was gentle of spirit and spry of thought all at once and now he is lost to us in the way that those magical artists often are. They burn too dark for the world. They burn too bright for the world. They burn and burn and burn for all of us.
And then they are gone.
Like many millions of his fans, I felt the music of Frightened Rabbit in my bones. Something about it, since the very moment I heard it, connected with something deep and broken inside of me. I always say that people are more broken than they tend to admit, and many friendships are forged when you meet someone who is broken in the same way you are. Frightened Rabbit put that feeling to music. Scott’s voice soared as he lay himself bare on the altar of truth that all great art springs from. He shouted his sadness from the rooftops and somehow, it made my own sadness a little easier to bear.
I saw them live, several times. First in Los Angeles with friends who also loved the band. Then, in Boston. By myself. I don’t have any friends out here who know Frightened Rabbit, and when they’d come to town, it was a special event. It was a reprieve for me, to be there in the very same room as that Scottish band surrounded by so many people who truly loved their music. I’d just drink it in for a few magical, protected hours. I’d close my eyes and stand there in the dark and let the songs wash me away. And it was always in medium-small venues with die-hard fans where we all knew every lyric to every song. Sometimes, we’d be invited to sing along. Sometimes, we’d stand in silence and listen. It was all good. I never saw a bad show. They’d often save the upbeat anthem ‘The Twist’ for the encore, and you’d be sent home on the joy of that song. Of hearing one of my favorite lyrics — “Lift your dress enough to show me those shins” and you’d walk home in a giddy daze. Full of emotion.
Let’s pretend I’m attractive and then
You won’t mind, you can twist for a while
It’s the night, I can be who you like
And I’ll quietly leave before it gets light
You twist and whisper the wrong name
I don’t care and nor do my ears
Twist yourself around me
I need company I need human heat
I need human heat
Behind all of that sadness, behind all of the desperation and misery and loss and grief was a profound hope. Almost a fool’s hope. But it formed the basis of everything Frightened Rabbit was. Of everything, we all might be. I remember with tears in my eyes Scott being interviewed by a little girl and she asked if there was anything about America that he still didn’t understand and he said that he didn’t understand how Donald Trump had so much support. But he said that he had ‘hope’ for America to sort it out. And that he had faith.
The hope was the best part of Frightened Rabbit.
It was personified in Scott Hutchison.
And now it’s gone.
The name of Scott Hutchison, a rather plain name that’s easy to forget, will be whispered into the wind and will blow away. By midday today or tomorrow, the story of his passing will have been pressed away by more concerning issues. The latest mad tweet from a politician. A provocative video from an unapologetic bigot. The new diet we all need to be on.
And Frightened Rabbit will be a footnote in the annals of musical history. A small, quirky band that was here for a minute and then gone. Whatever happened to them? I don’t know. I think the lead singer killed himself? Oh, that’s too bad.
But I’ll say that Scott Hutchison’s life was more important than that. I’ll say, first hand, that he helped save me during a time when that was in doubt. That he helped me carry on when everything in my being wanted to lay down and quit. That he helped me feel known. That he connected to people like me in a way that only truth and music can do. I’m crushed by the passing of this beautiful man.
I hope you’ll take some time today, and hopefully in the days to come, to listen to some of the music that he created. To hear him ‘Sing the Greys’ as one of their albums was aptly named. He may have trembled like a frightened rabbit until the very end, but he shook the foundations of the earth with his honesty.
Thanks for singing your truth, and in many ways, our own truth back to us, Scott.
You will be missed.