by Jim Nintzel
Like many of the victims of the Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson, Ron Barber has a way to go before he recovers from his wounds.
Barber, who was shot twice in the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, suffered nerve damage that has left him without sensation in his left leg below the knee, except when he feels pain. He’s in physical therapy to learn how to walk with a brace and hasn’t had the strength to return to his job as district director for Giffords’ office.
But he didn’t let that bum leg stop him when he was invited to bring his family onstage with Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Alice Cooper and more than a dozen other musicians to sing “Teach Your Children” at the end of last week’s benefit concert at the Tucson Convention Center.
“There was no hesitation on my part,” Barber says with a laugh. “That’s one of my favorite songs, and it’s the perfect song to end the evening with the message that we’re trying to send out. To be singing it onstage with Crosby and Jackson and Nash and all the others? It was really cool.”
“Teach Your Children” was the final song of a star-studded concert for Barber’s Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding, which will support victims of the shooting massacre, as well as programs to discourage bullying in schools and assist the mentally ill.
There were many spectacular moments during the nearly five-hour concert: Jackson Browne and Jennifer Warnes on “Golden Slumbers.” Soul legend Sam Moore pulling the audience into “America the Beautiful.” David Crosby and Graham Nash jamming through “For What It’s Worth” with Keb’ Mo’ and “Long Time Gone” with Nils Lofgren. Nils shredding through the Beatles “Any Time At All.” The exuberance of Ozomotli, who had previously refused to play in Arizona following the passage of SB 1070, the state’s immigration law. Calexico and Mariachi Luz de Luna teaming up with Jackson Browne on “Linda Paloma.” Joey Burns’ love letter to the heart of Tucson during “Crystal Frontier.” Jackson Browne on the keyboards for “Doctor My Eyes” and guitar for “I Am a Patriot.” And Alice Cooper’s maniacal set as the show reached its end: Cooper exhorted the audience to sing along on “I’m 18” and “School’s Out.”
“If you don’t know these songs, you never went to high school,” Cooper hollered.
After Cooper wrapped up his quick set, nearly all of the musicians who had been onstage during the show came together for the finale of “Teach Your Children,” with Barber and his family gathering around a mike at one end of the stage.
Barber is kicking around ideas for another benefit concert, depending on who’s available in the future, but he’s not ready to go into showbiz full time.
“I have to tell you, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life,” Barber says. “I don’t know if it’s in my future. My future is with Gabby. As long as she can work and she will have me, I’ll be there.”
Aleksa Brown snapped some photos during rehearsal: