Remembering Daniel ‘3D’ Deardorff: Musician, mythologist, pioneer for disability accommodations

Concert, celebration of life, conversation on ‘3D’ Feb. 21-23

Posted 2/19/20

When those who loved and cared for Daniel Duane “3D” Deardorff commemorate his life on the weekend of Feb. 21-23, they’ll be paying tribute to a captivating musician, a …

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Remembering Daniel ‘3D’ Deardorff: Musician, mythologist, pioneer for disability accommodations

Concert, celebration of life, conversation on ‘3D’ Feb. 21-23

Posted

When those who loved and cared for Daniel Duane “3D” Deardorff commemorate his life on the weekend of Feb. 21-23, they’ll be paying tribute to a captivating musician, a contemplative seeker of spiritual truths and a pioneer in the field of rights and accommodations for those with disabilities.

Deardorff died on Sept. 19, 2019, at the age of 67, of natural causes stemming from post-polio syndrome, but what those closest to “3D” are aiming to memorialize is what he achieved over the course of that life, including a half-century career as a musician that kicked off when he toured with the band Seals and Crofts as their opening act through the 1970s.

Judith-Kate Friedman, Deardorff’s life partner, is producing the event.

A musician herself, she didn’t meet Deardorff until the third phase of his career, after he’d moved to Port Townsend in the 2000s and became a storyteller and teacher of mythology.  She had no idea at first that the man who would become her life partner had already been a pop musician.

Friedman recounted how Deardorff and his first wife, Joyce, spent their last money to take a road trip from Bellingham to Los Angeles to play some of his material for Seals and Crofts’ management company. Fortunately, the only one left minding the store that day was the management’s youngest daughter, Garni.

“Danny arrived in a push wheelchair, singing and playing the mandolin,” Friedman said.

“Then he laid his hippie charm on her,” added Michael Townsend, an old friend and fellow musician of Deardorff’s. “He was so naive. He thought they might like his music, so he just took off to try and meet them.”

Deardorff’s gamble paid off. Even when he explained that they had no place to stay, Garni and her husband put the young singer-songwriter up for the night, “so that everyone could listen to him play on the lawn the next day,” Friedman said.

That’s when he met music producer Louis Shelton, himself a member of The Wrecking Crew.

The next 40 years saw Deardorff perform throughout the United States and Canada, in Central and South America and the United Kingdom, release duo and solo albums, and produce albums for dozens of other musical artists, including Tingstad and Rumbel, Jim Valley, Michael Tomlinson and Tickle Tune Typhoon.

Deardorff’s musical career also thrust him into the role of a pioneer for disability accommodations, since the Americans with Disabilities Act didn’t become law until 1990 and Deardorff was a survivor of two kinds of polio from the age of 17 months. He ambulated via wheelchair and had a custom-made stage set to put him on eye-level with his fellow musicians.

“People heard his music and thought he sounded great, but as soon as they saw him, some producers were like, ‘We can’t put him on stage,’” Friedman said. “To their credit, Seals and Crofts always said, ‘If he doesn’t play, we don’t play.’”

Deardorff’s successes as a touring artist on this front were recognized when he was invited to perform and speak at the first-ever White House Conference on Disability in 1977, with President and First Lady Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.

Although his touring and producing career continued through the 1990s, the effects of polio sequelae forced him to retire from the music business at the end of that decade.

Rather than closing a door, this transition merely seemed to expand Deardorff’s horizons, as he moved to Port Townsend, authored “The Other Within: The Genius of Deformity in Myth, Culture, and Psyche,” earned the acclaim and friendship of mythopoetic men’s movement leader Robert Bly, and met Friedman through his work.

“We met in 2003 on Orcas Island, at the Great Mother and New Father Conference,” Friedman said. “I was living in the Bay Area, and I had no idea that a random email from a stranger would draw me to a place I’d never been.”

Although Friedman and Deardorff initially bonded platonically over their shared love of music, she found herself returning to the Pacific Northwest, both for concert dates and to teach workshops for Songwriting Works.

At the same time, Deardorff founded the Mythsinger Foundation and began offering courses in myth and ritual, hosting monthly story nights and mentoring younger-generation tellers.

“Finally, we had dinner alone together in November of 2005, and discovered we were both single,” Friedman said. “We fell in love. I moved here in April of 2006, and in November of 2007, we had our wedding.”

Friedman is not the only artist to be drawn to Port Townsend and the Olympic Peninsula. Those ranks also include singer-songwriter Aimee Ringle, Ringle’s fellow storyteller Brian Rohr and PT Songlines founder and composer Laurence Cole.

Michael Townsend already lived in Port Townsend, but he was so taken with Deardorff’s “mythical journey, from performer to scholar,” that he wrote a profile about “3D” for the Jan. 28 to Feb. 4, 2004, issue of The Leader.

These friends — plus Michael’s wife, Vickie Townsend — will be joined at the “Songs and Stories in 3D” concert at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21, by the Grammy-winning composer and instrumentalist Nancy Rumbel, of Tingstad and Rumbel, as well as Jim Valley of Rainbow Planet and formerly of Paul Revere and the Raiders, musicians Tracy Spring, Matt Sircely and Joe Breskin, and the Unexpected Brass Band, who will perform some of Deardorff’s songs and honor the “mythic stories he carried,” according to Friedman.

This concert will be followed by a celebration of life ceremony for Deardorff at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22, and “3D’s Legacy — A Conversation” at noon on Sunday, Feb. 23, with the first two events taking place at the Madrona MindBody Institute at 310 Battery Way in Fort Worden State Park.

To RSVP for these events, call 360-385-1160 or email innernestmusic@gmail.com.

In the meantime, Friedman is left with multiple albums’ worth of Deardorff’s material yet to be released, since the past eight years saw him experience a creative resurgence, thanks in part to advances in musical technology.

A full-length concert video, “Love Dogs: An Evening with Daniel ‘3D’ Deardorff and Judith-Kate Friedman,” recorded live at Key City Public Theatre on Valentine’s Day of 2015, will be the first of these yet-to-be-published projects to be released this spring.

All proceeds from the The Feb. 21 concert will support the Mythsinger Legacy Fund, now being carried forward as a project of Songwriting Works Educational Foundation, to release Deardorff’s as-yet-unpublished works and create a living archive of his teachings.

The artists are donating their performances, and the other expenses of the concert are being underwritten by grants including from the Port Townsend Arts Commission.

“I don’t have words for Daniel’s absence,” Friedman said. “I’m finding out what it’s like to live without my greatest love. Because of all that he lived through, from the polio through his music career, studying myth gave him the language and the context to understand his own life experiences.”

“He had a mythic strength, like a gladiator,” Townsend said. “He taught from his scars.”

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