Honeydogs frontman Adam Levy reveals the heartbreak of son's suicide

Daniel Levy, 21, took his own life in January

On his walk, he laments how many families cover up a suicide, and how communication shuts down.

"Suicide is still treated with a great degree of discomfort," Adam says. "While it is a very horrible, tragic thing, there's a lot of misunderstandings about it that create a haze for people, and false assumptions about why people do that."

Nearly 13 out of every 100,000 young adults between the ages of 20 and 24 committed suicide in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and among that group, males are six times more likely to take their own lives than females.

Daniel Levy at Christmas, 2010; with Adam at high school graduation, 2008; with sisters Esther and Ava, 2011
courtesy of Adam Levy
Daniel Levy at Christmas, 2010; with Adam at high school graduation, 2008; with sisters Esther and Ava, 2011
Adam Levy at home with daughters Esther and Ava and nephew Isaac
Jayme Halbritter
Adam Levy at home with daughters Esther and Ava and nephew Isaac

Location Info

Map

First Avenue

701 1st Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Details

The Honeydogs play an album-release show for What Comes After with Rogue Valley and Farewell Milwaukee. 18+, $10-$13 ($1 from each ticket goes to Four Winds Hospital), 6 p.m. Saturday, March 10, at First Avenue; 612.332.1775.

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Once back inside, Adam takes out his iPhone and shows a photo of a drawing done by Daniel that'll end up in the program for the memorial service. It's a haunting, grotesque image of an emaciated, naked figure with a cloud of demons swirling out of its head. The work illuminates his son's dispair, but also shows an uncanny level of sophistication.

Rather than stay on this topic, Levy gathers his family around a YouTube video created by Daniel's friends, who called him Dan, featuring a montage of epic skateboarding moves. It's called "Dan Levy—Dirty Maneuver." Filmed around Upstate New York between 2008 and 2010, the clip shows a range of emotion, from frustration when his wiry frame scrapes the pavement to utter elation after landing a series of complicated tricks.


The memorial for Daniel Levy at the History Theatre in the McNally building could only be described as a production. More than 200 friends and family come out. Adam Levy is in a black tuxedo with a bowtie, but some of the supporters come in spiked leather jackets.

The dark, hushed ceremony contains tearful eulogies by Delton, who reads letters from Daniel's friends; Noah Levy, who cuts the tension by speaking in his nephew's voice ("Uncle Noah, you got a big old nose") and likening it to a New York cabbie; and a stoic Adam Levy.

"Daniel saw the long-term solutions as inadequate Band-Aids, and at worst, as a terrifying, permanent, living nightmare," Adam says. "This reflects not the failures of compassion and boundless love of those around him, but the shortcomings in our understanding as a society and as a world of his plight, and so many like him who have seen suicide as the final peace."

Several musical interludes break up the service in the darkened, hushed auditorium. Among them, Kill the Vultures' Alexei Casselle, who had enlisted Daniel for artwork in the past, gives a spoken-word piece with his daughter resting on his shoulder, and Semisonic's John Munson sings Nick Drake's "Way to Blue," a song by another talented artist who succumbed at a young age to mental illness. After it's over, the empty auditorium is littered with crumpled tissues.

The crowd, with several Honeydogs and Levy's other musical collaborators mixed in, gathers and embraces in the lobby, then gradually disperses. A smaller group continues for a potluck at the UBS Forum in the Minnesota Public Radio studios. Then, as the sun goes down, an even smaller group heads to the historic bar at W.A. Frost & Company on Cathedral Hill.

After a draining day, Adam still wants to sit down and be in that beautiful room and talk and reflect and compare notes. This is the time of night for easy relationships, Noah says. He has Adam's ear for a bit, and is glad that they've been communicating more. Cocktails populate the table, except Adam's got a club soda with lime.

"I've been sober for eight months," Adam says. "I hate to think what would've happened if I'd been not present for this. I would've been a mess. I would've crawled deeper into that hole. Not that I didn't think about it when the news broke. Boy, a glass of wine would've sure tasted good. Long-term, I knew I'd feel better if I soaked it all up and confronted everything I was feeling rather than go to that oblivion place that can be so easy with drinking."

The final song on What Comes After is the string-enriched "Turned Around," and Levy admits that there's a lot of his son in the song. "There's no maps where we're goin'/There's books that been written but they're not showin'/The rules we've been breaking, the paths we've been taken/The love we've forsaken...we're alone/Our GPS is down, does it mean this is the end/Turned around again/We're turned around again/Lost and found again." Though its lyrics express fear for the future, by listing every piece of the struggle ahead they also hint at this trying time's final solution: acceptance.

The Levy family is establishing the Daniel J. Levy Memorial Fund for mental health research on depression and schizophrenia. Please send contributions to:

Daniel J. Levy Memorial Fund

c/o Adam Levy

2832 18th Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55407

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1 comments
Elizabeth
Elizabeth

Thank you, Adam, for being willing to talk about this deeply personal pain.

 

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