Radio personality Dave (Bookie) Bookman, a champion of Canada’s indie music scene known for his quick-witted interviews and encyclopedic knowledge of the industry, died on Monday at 58.
Mr. Bookman suffered a brain aneurysm, said Megan Bingley, general manager of Indie88, the Toronto FM station where Mr. Bookman most recently worked.
Listeners and musicians shared tributes to the bushy-haired host on social media, pointing out his influence at various stations, including over two decades at Toronto’s rock pillar 102.1 The Edge. There, he interviewed Coldplay as they were just rising to fame and frequently reconnected with Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters.
Mr. Bookman dedicated much of his life to the airwaves. Some of his earliest days were spent at University of Toronto campus station CIUT-FM, where he co-hosted High and Outside on weekday mornings before taking the reins on his own long-form interview program Don’t Look Back in 1989.
“It was dealing with the indie-rock music scene of that particular day,” said Ken Stowar, current CIUT program director and station manager whose own program led into Mr. Bookman’s show at the time.
“We were dealing with a very large busker scene and I recall Barenaked Ladies and musicians such as that, were still playing out on the street. It was stations such as CIUT that were giving bands like that attention.”
Mr. Bookman wasn’t satisfied with merely talking on the radio though – he also made his own music, fronting the folk act the Bookmen in his early years and later Midi-Ogres, a play on the word “mediocre.” He also worked as a buyer at the A&A Records location at Bloor and Yonge streets in Toronto for a time.
Dave Bidini, a band member of Rheostatics and his co-host on High and Outside, said Mr. Bookman was a “proud Jew” who eagerly introduced him to many aspects of the culture. Mr. Bookman was also a resilient professional raised by a father who was a gunner in the Second World War.
“All the Bookmans are so wonderful and full of heart, but they’re pretty tough too, in their own right,” Mr. Bidini said.
“Dave kind of honoured his family’s legacy really by making it in a deeply perilous industry. Being a radio announcer, that’s a tough life, but Dave was never out of work for very long.”
Mr. Bidini credited his friend as a “pioneer of modern radio” for his early adoption of mixing sports and music conversations into the same program.
He said Mr. Bookman’s welcoming personality won over notoriously private musicians; David Byrne, Elvis Costello and Jeff Tweedy were known to set aside time for interviews whenever they visited Toronto.
“You didn’t have to spend a lot of time with Dave because he left such a deep impression,” Mr. Bidini said.
“Dave really never pretended to be anybody other than who he was.”
Other bands, including Sloan, the Lowest of the Low and the Pursuit of Happiness, offered their own tributes on social media.
Indie88 host Josie Dye highlighted Mr. Bookman’s interests beyond music in a post on the radio station’s website. She said he was a passionate fan of The Young and the Restless and Gilmore Girls, and would celebrate the shows like he did with the hottest new band.
She also described him as a “crusader of the independent,” who helped build the buzz around acts such as Billy Talent. The Toronto band’s lead singer, Ben Kowalewicz, tweeted about Mr. Bookman’s influence, calling him “the kindest soul I ever met and a power point in my universe.”
Fellow Indie88 radio host Matt Hart offered some insight on Twitter as he digested the loss of a friend: “Hug the ‘Bookie’ in your life; that irreplaceable, inimitable spark of a human you mistakenly think is immortal.”