Sixteen years since he put his music career on hold, former Replacements drummer and reputable songwriter Chris Mars is releasing his first new track today as a tribute and fundraiser for his one-time bandmate Bob “Slim” Dunlap. The single, “When I Fall Down,” is now available for $.99 via Mars’ painting and publishing website. It’s scheduled to premiere today on 89.3 the Current at 11 a.m.
Probably better-known these days for his underworldly paintings than he is for his music, Mars said he has been writing and recording all along since his last solo album, 1996’s “Anonymous Botch.” None of his recent songs have been heard in public, though, outside of soundtracks to short films that have shown in museums or film fests.
Then came the sad news that has been on the mind of many Twin Cities musicians and fans since February, when Dunlap, 60, suffered a severe stroke. The guitarist has endured several different complications since then and remains hospitalized. Mars visited him again last week and said he’s still in pain but making progress. He was fit enough to talk up “Bound for Glory,” Woody Guthrie’s biography, which Dunlap apparently read in his teens and still takes inspiration from.
The inspiration for “When I Fall Down,” Mars said, simply came from “thinking about [Slim] a lot and what he was going through.” The main hook, “I don’t make a sound when I fall down,” reflects the quiet grace Dunlap has shown to friends and family during his ordeal.
“The idea for the song comes from thinking about those among who exhibit unwarranted drama relative to small things, and here was Slim going through something really profound, and the bravery he showed when I saw him,” Mars said. He decided to release the song to help the Dunlaps a little on the financial front, but he also saw it as another way to let Slim know “people care and are thinking about him.”
Indeed, they are. Word is the Replacements’ former manager Peter Jesperson, now a vice-president at New West Records in Los Angeles, is starting to line up other musicians to cover Dunlap’s songs for a tribute collection. “Slim is really excited about that,” Mars said. So are the rest of us.