The keyboard ace for bands such as Jive at Five and Blue Molly who died Saturday of an apparent heart attack is remembered as a terrific friend and versatile musician.
Much-beloved West Michigan keyboard player David “Raff” Raffenaud passed away suddenly at his Fennville home on Saturday, leaving a legion of musicians and friends mourning his death.
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The affable, veteran keyboard whiz for bands such as Jive at Five, Blue Molly, Cabbage Crik, The Schrock Brothers, Iowa Rose and many others was 65, and had performed for a big crowd the night before at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, according to longtime friend and bandmate Mark Schrock.
“It just caught everybody off guard and it was totally unexpected,” Schrock said of Raffenaud’s death of an apparent heart attack.
Schrock had played with Raffenaud in various bands and combinations of musicians for 40 years, performing “a whole lot of gigs in a whole lot of different situations. My favorite stuff was just listening to him play the piano at the end of the night. He’d play the piano and I’d sing or play the violin. That’s how we started playing together.”
A Holland native, Raffenaud and his wife, Krista, lived across the street from the Schrocks in Fennville, and Raffenaud was like “a second Dad” to Schrock’s sons. Raffenaud also was an institution of sorts at the annual Wheatland Music Festival, joining other musicians every year as part of the Sunday morning gospel performance.
“He was a talented person in so many ways. His style was just ‘Raff.’ He played very, very emotionally. He put it all out there,” Schrock said. “Everybody called him ‘Uncle Raff.’ The thing with Dave is he took a genuine interest in what people were doing and who they were. He took the time. He knew how to be a friend.”
Grand Rapids singer Molly Bouwsma-Schultz, a longtime friend and bandmate of Raffenaud’s in Blue Molly, which played its final concert in January, was devastated by the news. “My heart is aching,” she messaged Local Spins.
TRIBUTES TO A ‘ONE-OF-A-KIND, GENUINE-ARTICLE, REAL-DEAL GEM’ OF A GUY
Indeed, tributes to Raffenaud from other musicians flooded Facebook as word spread about his passing.
Singer-songwriter Rachael Davis noted that “the Michigan music community lost one of its best today. (Raffenaud) was a one-of-a-kind, genuine-article, real-deal gem of a human. He left us too soon and our hearts are heavy with grief tonight for this great loss.”
Raffenaud is survived by his wife, Krista. A memorial service will be 1 p.m. Wednesday at Grace Episcopal Church, 555 Michigan Ave. in Holland, with the Rev. Jennifer Adams officiating. The visitation will be 5-8 p.m. Tuesday at Langeland-Sterenberg Funeral Home, 315 E. 16th St., Holland. Memorial contributions may be made to Grace Episcopal Church or the Saugatuck Center for the Arts children’s programming. (Get more details at the funeral home website.)
In addition to working as a self-employed carpenter and at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, Raffenaud was “in the thick of the music scene for a long time,” playing a wide variety of music, Schrock said. That’s why his final concert will be treasured by those who were in attendance.
“He had a good last gig,” he said, “and lots of people got a chance to hear him play.”
Speaking of gigs, Schrock anticipates that musicians will also organize a tribute to Raffenaud “somewhere down the line. It’ll be a big jam.”
Email John Sinkevics at email@example.com.
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