Sterling Magee, Satan of the duo Satan & Adam, has died.

There’s no easy way to say this, but perhaps you’ve already heard: after fighting COVID-19 to a draw, moving from the emergency room to intensive care to a regular hospital room and then being discharged–an extraordinary accomplishment for an 84-year-old, much less one who had lived as hard as he had–my longtime blues partner finally lost his battle to the disease’s lingering aftereffects. He lasted barely a week in hospice, then died in his sleep on September 6, 2020.

I posted the following on Facebook the next day. 

They tell me that Sterling Magee (b. 5/20/36) has finally succumbed, peacefully, to COVID-19 at the age of 84. I have no reason to doubt that. But I do know one thing: Mr. Satan will never die. He told me that himself, many times. When I’d say, “Everybody dies. Heck, I’M going to die,” he’d stare at me, hard, and bark, “You said that!” As though it were a foolish thing to say. A comforting fiction. “You’ll live through it,” was one of his favorite sayings. He said it every time I complained about a former girlfriend or whined about a cold sore. It took me a while to connect the saying with the fact that he’d grown up in Jim Crow Mississippi in the 1940s and that living through it and that was an assertion of indomitability in the face of unfavorable odds. It was his personal blues ethos, drawn from a far deeper well of experience than I’d managed to accumulate by that point in my life. He never held my relative naivete´against me. He just shared what he knew, and schooled me.

And he was right. I lived through it. Every single time. A younger man is truly lucky to have an older man like that in his life. He toughened me up. His gifts were legion and can’t easily be summarized. He could be harsh. But he always sought to pull people out into the light, as he saw it, and back into the circle of community. He was a gentleman in that way, with a kind word and a verbal tip of the hat to everybody he encountered. “Thank you, ma’am, for that beautiful smile,” he’d say. He was a great man. And then, of course, there was, and is, his music. When I put on certain recordings, like “Listen to the Music,” and get that delighted-little-kid look in my eyes, my wife knows what I’m thinking. What I know… Mr. Satan will never die.

Memorial Video: