Doug Furze leaves big legacy

Local musician and community activist Doug Furze passed away Thursday, Dec. 17, after a six-month battle with cancer. He was 50. Furze played with a number of bands, including the Boulas Trio, Blunatics and others. A memorial service and celebration will be Dec. 27 at Lyran Hall in Rockford. Photo courtesy of Kathy Ryan

Memorial service, celebration Dec. 27 at Lyran Hall for musician who passed away last week

By Jim Hagerty

Staff Writer

Even those who didn’t know musician Doug Furze have likely attended an art- or music-related event the lifelong Rockford resident had his hand in over the last two decades. Furze passed away Thursday, Dec. 17, after a six-month battle with cancer. He was 50.

As a musician, Furze played with a host of bands, including the Boulas Trio—a name he chose after his first name, Douglas, was repeatedly misspelled by the local daily—Blunatics and others. Doug performed as an acoustic solo and duo act, teamed with many area notables, for hundreds of performances on just about every stage in the Rock River Valley.

Although he loved to play guitar and sing with his own acts, his baby is Concerts for Charity, a fund-raising organization he founded with friends to help those in need by hosting several festivals where the music comes from a cadre of performers.

Furze’s Catfish John Memorial Music Festival helped raise money to buy guitars for local schools. Hot Fest for Hospice, a day-long concert and salsa-making contest, donated proceeds to Hospice and other charities.

When a fellow musician or friend—and Doug was never short of those—was in need, it was often Furze who rallied to fill whatever gap he could. Doug spread his love through the power of song, regardless of who’d be performing it. He even opened up his home to friends and just about anyone who needed a place to hang their hat.

When Doug was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this summer, it didn’t take long for hundreds to turn out and organize a string of benefits for him, while thousands attended to champion for the man who did the same for countless others in the last 25 years. Shortly after his diagnosis, Furze said if he were going to leave this world, he knew of only one way to go, and promised he would “go out singing.” Doug made good on that promise, taking the stage at each of the benefits in his honor, despite being in extreme pain and, at times, unable to hold down food.

During a Furze-led Blunatics set at Deli Italia Lounge last month—his 50th birthday party—Doug didn’t miss a note and sang in the same jovial tone he’s been charming local audiences with for more than two decades. Most everyone who knew him understands what kept him going for such a strong battle. Furze even kept playing dates at area nursing homes, performing for seniors, doing his last shows just a few weeks before he died.

Furze also worked with the Rockford Area Arts Council, City of Rockford and other organizations to promote and keep the arts alive in Rockford.

The Doug Furze Legacy

As legacies go, charities are remembered for the dream and vision of those who start them. For Concerts for Charity, the vision packs more than an idea and road map to raise a few bucks for those in need. Doug’s vision was as far-reaching as his friendships, which included political figures, fellow musicians, business owners and artists. Doug loved people, and it didn’t matter from where they came or where they were going. He lived for a peaceful today and harmonious tomorrow—one where people could depend on one another and enjoy a few melodies along the way.

Music was more than just sounds to Furze. It brought people together and helped them forget life’s stresses, if only for just a few hours. Although he didn’t sell millions of records, or pack arenas, Doug Furze defined passion when it came to the things one loves and holds dear. He didn’t care if he played for 10 people or 10,000. The show always went on—“As long as the people that are here are having a good time,” he’d say.

A show never went on without a group toast, as Doug often called everyone in attendance to raise their glasses for a “social!”

Furze was given an annual Rockford Mayor’s Arts award in October. Besides his 2001 Rockford Area Music Industry (RAMI) Award for Best Acoustic Performer, Furze was presented with an award for Lifetime Achievement in July.

Doug’s memorial service is Sunday, Dec. 27, at Lyran Hall. A eulogy service will begin at 3 p.m., followed by a musical celebration of his life. Lyran Hall is at 1115 Fourth Ave., Rockford.

From the Dec. 23-29, 2009 issue

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