Today marks the second anniversary of Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter’s death. “Kid’s” passing was felt in both the Expos and Mets communities, as well as across baseball as a whole, but it affected one man in particular in unique ways.
Montreal musician Annakin Slayd grew up idolizing the greatest of Expos, and from Carter’s final day as a big leaguer through Expos rallies to honoring Carter’s life and legacy, Slayd has experienced interactions that could truly be described as more than memorable, venturing into the magical.
Earlier this week, Slayd took a few moments from a hectic editing schedule to speak with us about the process of creating Kid, how that song has touched the Carter family and what the legendary Expos receive means to him today.
To you, the loyal and learned B&C reader, we are proud to conclude Gary Carter Week with our interview with Annakin Slayd:
Gary CarterÂ was your childhood hero, so when news spread that he’d passed away, how did that day play out for you?
We all knew that he wasn’t doing very well, I followed the progress very closely whenever I could get an update about him. There was one clip of him, with a club that managed in Florida that he went to visit, and he kind of rolled around in a cart, and he was completely unrecognizable. It was not Gary, it just seemed like somebody completely different, and it was very difficult to watch. And in my head, I thought he clearly doesn’t have long, and when he finally did pass, when I had heard that he was sick I had plans to write a song for him, but when I had started writing and recording, it was more of a “Get better, Gary” song, andÂ kind of sat on it and never finished it. When he died, I can make this as a tribute to him, so on the day he died I scrambled to re-wrote the song and re-made the song so it was more of a tribute to him like the one you see now.
And (making the song) helped in a sense because in a strange way I was so focused on doing the song and the video that I wasn’t dealing with the mourning aspect of it, the fact that I’ll never meet him again, he won’t be a part of our history anymore, how close he was to me as an idol and he’s gone now. I remember once I finished the video and put it out and people started playing it, I heard Warren Cromartie go on the radio talking to Mitch Melnick here in Montreal about Gary and Cromartie just completely broke down on the air, couldn’t control his emotion, and I just lost it at that point. That’s where it really hit me that I’d never see him again, never meet him again, never will see him wearing an Expos jersey again, it was difficult.
Years later now, I’m so happy that I made that song because it touched a lot of people and it’s something that I can hold on to about him and for him and just the outpouring that I’ve gotten from his family, I could never have imagined that I would have gotten that response from them. They just sent me a Christmas card and a New Year’s card from the Carter family. Those kind of things, you look at it and it’s likeÂ “Wow, Gary Carter’s family is sending me Christmas cards.” It’s surreal and it’s sort of satisfying. Just a quick story — I was at an event last year where they were naming a park here in Garyâ€™s name, and his family was invited, so Garyâ€™s widow Sandy and his daughter Christy were there. I said hello, I had met Sandy once before and she was very gracious with me, but I had never met Christy. And Christy gave me a big hug and she said “I want to thank you so much because my daughter is three and sheâ€™s just learning how to plug the computer into the television so we can watch videos on YouTube. Sometimes Iâ€™ll find her starting to connect the computer and Iâ€™ll ask her what sheâ€™s doing and sheâ€™ll say ‘I want to watch grandpaâ€™s video.'”
And sheâ€™s talking aboutÂ Kid. (Christy) said “When I see her do that it makes me so happy to know that this video is a way for her to understand who her grandfather is and sheâ€™ll always have this video to refer to”. She couldnâ€™t hold it anymore, she started crying and it was a very emotional moment and it made me feel like that was all worth it, making that video was worth it, and if I helped them at all through their grieving process, thatâ€™s more than I could have imagined. It’s just very satisfying and I’m happy to know that.
How much has that song helped to raise for the Gary Carter Foundation?
I actually presented them with a check that same day. I mean, it’s the music industry and people don’t buy mp3s anymore, so it was just a little over $200. People can pirate, obviously, they can even record the audio off of YouTube now, you basically don’t ever have to buy a song, so I didn’t expect to make a lot but I also didn’t want to make something and put it on iTunes and make it look like I was trying to profit off of the Carter family. I wanted them to know, so though I knew I wasn’t going to get a lot, the little that I got I wanted them to know that this was for them and for (Carter) and had nothing to do with me trying to profit at all, so I didn’t want that to go through anybody’s mind. So I was happy to present them with a check.
Of course, the Canadiens honored Carter at the Bell Centre, were you there the night Youppi! emerged onto the ice in the spotlight wearing an Expos jersey and #8?
I was definitely there, and it was a really nice moment. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Youppi! thing, but I suppose it was a way to have somebody out there because the tribute was so last minute they couldn’t bring somebody, an actual person out (chuckles). Having Youppi! there as a symbol of the Expos was nice, I would have rather somebody representing the Expos be there in person, but they did what they could and it was great. I actually think the greatest thing about that tribute was the fact that the players were all wearing “Carter 8″ jerseys during the practice, and I remember somebody saying, I think it was from ESPN the Magazine the article that I read, that they could not recall another scenario a team honoring a player from a different sport in that manner, that they would wear jerseys of a player from another sport in the warm-up. I thought that was one of the things that Montreal does well, we’re known, especially the Canadiens, are known for their ceremonies that think outside the box, they do original things, so I thought that was the coolest thing, all the Canadiens skating around with “Carter 8″ jerseys, that was pretty cool.
That picture. The one you “stayed up all night drawing,” exactly how much did it mean to you when you spoke with Carter later and discovered that he had the same photo hanging in his home?
The funny thing about that story is that it’s a two-part story. I was pretty good with my hands as far as drawing goes, so I was a little kid and I thought “This is Carter’s last game and he’s retiring and I’m going to miss him. What can I do?” So I copied this picture of him that was very famous from spring training and my dream would be for him to see it and acknowledge it, so before the game I went down and got as close as I could and he was making the rounds with the media and shaking hands and he saw it and said he really liked it. I don’t know where I got the bravery, but I yelled out “Can you sign it?!” And, of course, there’s the whole story of him saying after the anthem, and during that time when the anthem was being performed, I happened to be right behind him and all the media were lined up taking pictures, so that picture of my sign behind Gary was in the local paper the next day. And you can still find it, if you Google that picture, it’s everywhere, and that’s kind of cool.
The thrill of that was just beyond belief, but then five or six years later, I went to this rally and again I got the bravery to go up to him to say “Hey, I’m the kid with the picture you signed the day you retired” and he said “Oh, yeah! That picture, I have that picture in my office right behind my desk.” I was a little older then, I was in college but I was still like wow, especially back then, I think now celebrities and famous people are more accessible and they respond in ways on Twitter and things like that, but back then they were still bigger than life, it was hard to even get close to them at all. So to think that you actually, sort of, had an impact on this person who you thought was almost god-like, that your little gesture or the little sign that you made is actually a part of their life, in a very small way, but that he walked into his office and saw that picture and was essentially thinking of me. That idea, it was crazy to think of at that time, and it blew me out of the water. And, of course, it’s very similar to doing the video now and having the impact on the Carter family. At the end of the day, that’s what art is. We as artists, we want to impact people’s lives and we don’t want to change the world, but if we’re making you think in some way emotionally or metaphysically or something like that, then we’ve done our job as artists. That’s the way I’ve always thought of it.
It’s been well documented what Carter meant to you as a child, but today as a successful man, what does Kid represent for Annakin Slayd?
In the music industry, there are a lot of people who take where they are for granted, they lack a sense of humility, a sense of graciousness, class, a lot of those words that we throw around very casually. But in the music industry, and a lot of the arts, there’s a lot of ruthlessness and I’ve always approached it as I’m not going to be a shark or a crab in the bucket, I’m not going to lose my humility, I’m going to be classy, I’m going to smile at everybody, anytime a kid asks me for an autograph or a picture, I’m never going to say no or avoid them.
I remember I went to this school once, and I talked to the kids for a little bit about music, and after, that entire room, which was filled with about 200-300 kids all swarmed me asking for pictures and autographs. My manager, who I was with, said we have time to sign a couple and then leave, but I saw them all there and I said no, I stopped everybody and said “Listen, we’re going to do every single one of you, one at a time and we’re going to get it all done. And I swear, I thought of Gary in that moment because I feel like that’s what he would have done, I felt like he would not have just walked out on those kids, and he’s known for that here in Montreal. He was known for being the person who would stay forever and sign autographs, take pictures and shake people’s hands, his reputation was that type of classy, giving of his time person, man of God, of course, that reputation has lasted. When I think about him, I want to be the same, I know that I can’t be because he’sÂ got aÂ singular thing you can’t duplicate, but it motivates me to be that person instead of the kind of person that I could possiblyÂ fall into, especially in the hip hop world, which is just filled with so many bad characters. And I just don’t want to be one of them, and I think that’s because of Gary.