A musician’s suicide: ‘Gar would be alive today if there wasn’t a pandemic’

Gareth Kane, who played bass guitar for David Keenan, died by suicide in October 2020

Gareth Kane, who played bass guitar for David Keenan, died by suicide in October 2020

 

On January 13th last year, just over 13 months ago – though it feels like a different era – David Keenan played his first sold-out show at the Olympia Theatre.

The Dublin concert, titled Alchemy and Prose, is available on YouTube. It is bottled lightning, a singer-songwriter on the cusp of something big, just three days after the release of his debut album, A Beginner’s Guide to Bravery.

It feels like a period piece given all we know now.

That night was also the best moment in the professional life of Keenan’s bass player of five years, Gareth (Gar) Kane. He took his redundancy from Vodafone a year earlier to pursue his dream of being a full-time musician. He also played in the band Harry Hoban and the Brothers Kane, with his brother Gerry and Harry Hoban, whom he met at Ballyfermot Rock School in 2001.

Gar with Gareth Quinn Redmond.
Gar with Gareth Quinn Redmond

“His dream was to play the Olympia Theatre. I am glad he got that,” says Caroline Kane, the woman who was his partner for 14 years and wife for six. The couple have three boys, aged seven, eight and 12. “He didn’t even have a drink. He was floating. He couldn’t sleep that night. He was so excited. He couldn’t believe he actually got to do it.”

Shortly afterwards, Keenan announced a three-month European tour for March. Kane, at the age of 39, talked excitedly of going on the road, seeing new places, conquering new audiences.

Then came the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We went out for a last meal in the Dundrum Town Centre before the lockdown. We thought the lockdown was going to be for about two weeks. Everybody thought that. Then it started going into months. I could see him slowly but surely decreasing, and I was saying to him, ‘Jesus, you need an outlet.’”

Gar had suffered from depression.

Gareth (Gar) Kane was the bass player for David Keenan.
Gareth (Gar) Kane was the bass player for David Keenan

In 2013, before they got married, he had a depressive episode that did not end in hospitalisation. He got healthy and fit and threw himself into the music, but it was a close-run thing. “After we got married he seemed to be okay again, and he was doing great. I said to him, ‘Gar, we can’t go through this again. I can’t do this again.’ He told me it wouldn’t happen again.”

The tour was cancelled.

Deprived of their livelihoods and their way of life, musicians have been through the cruellest time. “He was meeting up with his friends two to three days a week, rehearsing and having a jam. He was on fire in January. I never seen him so happy. He had a vision of going on to do greater things with David Keenan. To go from that to where he went, it makes no sense to me,” she says.

Gar with Gavin Glass.
Gar with Gavin Glass

The weeks turned into months. The country went through various stages of lockdown, but the prospect of ever returning to live performing remains remote a year later.

On Monday, August 16th, Gar left his house with a bottle of whiskey in his hand. He had not been drinking for months. His brothers followed and talked to him, telling him his life was worth living. His sister-in-law, a mental-health professional, went with him to hospital.

“We were convinced that he was going to be kept in. They rang me and told me that he wasn’t suicidal enough. I said, ‘What would you deem to be suicidal enough?’ They let him out. They didn’t even wait for somebody to collect him. My daughter [Lauren] found him wandering the streets in the lashings of rain, standing with his head outside the bus stop like a lost soul.”

At the time Caroline was recovering from a serious operation. Her husband was given two sleeping tablets by a doctor, and he slept at his brother’s house. He spent two weeks at a mental-health clinic afterwards, as doctors tried to balance his medications. He appeared to be doing a lot better and was released, but once home he started to complain about the amount of tablets doctors had him on. “He said to me, ‘Is this it for the rest of my life? I can’t live for the next 40 years with all these tablets.’ I said to him, ‘It’s not going to be like that, Gar. They are just trying to see what suits you to get you back on track’.”

Gar with Gavin Glass.
Gar with Gavin Glass

On September 30th he was readmitted to hospital, so ill he could not talk. He was up and down after that. A doctor rang Caroline to say that he was going to be discharged the following Thursday. There was a leak over his bed, and he would be better off at home. When Gar got home he told Caroline the hospital needed his bed for another patient. “He said to me, ‘Have I done the right thing in coming home?’”

Caroline was alarmed that he appeared to have left hospital before he was ready. “I’m not medically trained, but I can’t understand how medical professionals are able to miss this.”

He was “bouncing off the wall” the night before he took his own life. Caroline endured a sleepless night. “I was so tired getting the children up for school and getting out to work. I gave him a kiss and said, ‘I’ll see you later.’”

A few hours later his brother rang her, saying he would drop some clothes around for their three children. At 11.50am his brother called to the door, but there was no response. “I left work early. I had an awful bad feeling,” he said.

At 1.30pm she returned home and found Gar in the attic room that he used to play music.

“He had so much going on in the music industry for him,” says Caroline. “He had so much to live for. Musicians live for the music. It is how they survive. His mother says he was singing from the age of two. He was playing guitar from the age of nine. It was how he dealt with his demons.”

While experts say people who kill themselves usually do so for multiple reasons, Caroline believes the events of 2020 took an unbearable toll. “I 100 per cent know that he would be alive today if there wasn’t a pandemic.” 

Get support:
Pieta House, 1800 247 247, text HELP to 51444.
Samaritans, 116 123, jo@samaritans.ie.
Suicide Or Survive, 1890 577 577, info@suicideorsurvive.ie.
Aware, 1800 80 48 48, supportmail@aware.ie.
Childline, 1800 666 666, text 5101.
HSE Drugs and Alcohol helpline, 1800 459 459, helpline@hse.ie.
Traveller Counselling Service, (01) 868 5761, 086 308 1476, info@travellercounselling.ie.
HSE Crisis Text Service, Text 50808.
St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, (01) 249 3333, info@stpatsmail.com.
Alone, 0818 222 024, hello@alone.ie