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Longtime Chicago radioman Jim Nayder brought ear-aching music from his Annoying Music Show to Weekend Edition for many years. He died on Friday at the age of 59. Host Scott Simon has this remembrance of his friend.
Jim Nayder was a sweet soul and a cockeyed wit in a world with too little of both. He said annoying music wasn't bad, so much as good songs recorded by big stars who should have known better.
When I once met Leonard Nimoy, he lifted his eyebrows with Vulcan disdain to ask, "Why won't that annoying man let me forget my own singing?"
Our producers vied to work with Jim. He had 10 funny lines for each one we could fit, and he always sent cheap, funny, annoying flea market gifts the next week.
Annoying music became Jim's signature, but he did that show mostly to support another program he did for 21 years on WBEZ in Chicago called Magnificent Obsession, a program for, not just about, people battling addiction. They told their own stories — no experts, no analysis, but the open beat of real human hearts.
The show aired before dawn each Sunday, when people — like Jim, who were struggling to get control of their lives — might switch on a radio for company and solace in a long, dark night.
"If you've reached the point where you know you are addicted to the point where it controls your life," Nayder said, "you sort of lose track trying to figure out why. It's like why did I get cancer? It serves no purpose. The energy has got to be used to stop drinking. It's as simple as that."
But staying stopped is a struggle that never ceases. Jim will be missed by those of us who loved him, but also remembered in a lot of laughs by listeners. And even as he lost his own battle with drink, Jim Nayder did shows that gave others the grit to keep going.
"Someone in addiction often describes that magnificent obsession for that drink to like trying to catch a lover," Nader said. "So you end up listening to love songs in the head of someone ensnared by this."
The song that comes to mind, he said, is from the musical Phantom of the Opera, the "Music of the Night":
Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams
Purge your thoughts of the life you knew before
Close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar
And you'll live as you've never lived before