Victor Bailey, RIP

It is with sadness that I report that Victor Bailey passed away today. I first had the opportunity to speak with Victor in February 2014. I had been trying to connect with him in order to do an interview for some time. I’m not sure what finally caused him to respond to this stranger pestering him about Weather Report, but after he did we had a good hour and a half conversation. Back then he was still in relatively good health. His legs were failing him, so he used a scooter to get around on. I found him to be an extremely articulate and passionate man. When we talked, I initially joked that he was probably tired of talking about Weather Report. “No, actually, not in this day and age,” he said. “I’m a professor at Berklee College of Music and it needs to be talked about. You’ve got a generation of kids now who say they are fusion fans, and they don’t know who I am. They don’t know who Weather Report is. Some of them know who Jaco is. A couple of kids know “The Chicken.” It’s like playing saxophone. You learn some Coltrane, or you learn some Charlie Parker. If you play bass guitar, you learn something by Jaco. Kids don’t know who that is, don’t know who Weather Report is.”

Of course, Victor came into the band following Jaco’s departure. Those were big shoes to fill for sure, but he looked at it differently. “I don’t think I every really looked at it like I was filling somebody’s pair of shoes,” he once said. “I felt like I was making a new pair of shoes.” I always considered Victor to be a combination of Alphonso Johnson and Jaco. I mentioned that to him and he said, “Absolutely. Thank you for saying it. Nobody ever says that. Everybody always, when they mention influences, says Jaco, but Alphonso is in fact just as much an influence on me as Jaco. And he was an influence on Jaco himself. A lot of what Jaco did, with the fretless, with effects, with chorus and delay and distortion, some of the phrasing… a lot of the things that he did, Alphonso was a direct predecessor to it, and it never gets mentioned.”

Victor was one of Joe’s favorites and he’s the only musician with the distinction of playing in all of Joe’s bands: Weather Report, Weather Update, The Zawinul Syndicate, and the WDR Big Band with Joe Zawinul. When I spoke with him in 2014, he said, “Oh man, listen, I’ve had a blessed life. I’m not even religious at all, but if there’s a god and people are blessed, I’m blessed. I’ve done exactly what I wanted to do my entire life and continue to do so. And nothing anybody says changes anything. No criticism, no… anybody… I have always done and continue to do exactly what I want to do. I’m a really lucky guy.”

Below is a video Victor made a few months after he told me that. He will be missed.

5 thoughts on “Victor Bailey, RIP

    1. Sean Sweeney

      I just heard the news about Alphonse, and came to this site—only to discover that Victor had also passed. I saw him play two or three years ago at Shapeshifter Lab, in Brooklyn, run by Matthew Garrison. He and the band were wonderful. This is sad.

  1. Kevin B.Butler

    I actually grow up with Vic. The guys use give him stuff about always practicing and not coming out to play ball or swing out with the girls. Well GRHS look who laughing now. I haven’t been in touch with him in some years. followed his music and bought his CD’s, feel a little sad that I didn’t keep closer contact, but life moves in different directions and we all got things to do . But man did Victor every DO HIS THING. I’ll be loving his sound till I’m out of here. Sorry I wasn’t closer here was a good friend, a better musician and great talent. Love to his family Doc and Brenda.
    Peace and love always Kevin B. Butler Sr.

  2. Sherlynn Allen-Harris

    I am so saddened to learn of Victor’s passing. I just heard this week that he had made his transition. I have always followed Weather Report, however, I had the occasion to meet Victor back in the day when he toured with Sting. At the time Omar Hakim was the drummer with Sting for the tour. Anyway, Omar’s uncle George was a friend of some folks in my family. He introduced my friends and me to Omar when he played with WR in Cleveland. Later, after Victor joined Sting, they played here in Cleveland. I spoke to Victor and I found him to be charming and funny, and really humble. That was a special moment for me. There are some special occasions that become fixed in our minds. This was one of them. Victor was such a talent. He will be missed. Prayers to his family, friends and loved ones.


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