Remembering Jim Burns

James H. Burns and Steve Vertlieb at Sardi’s.

By Steve Vertlieb: It was four years ago on June 2nd, 2016, that I lost one of my dearest, most cherished friends. What would normally have been among the happiest nights of my life … receiving a cherished life achievement award in Louisville, Kentucky … was tempered forever by the sobering reality that a friend and brother, who had for years championed and lobbied for my trophy, had passed away suddenly mere hours before I was to receive it. Here was my heart aching remembrance of Jim Burns as I wrote it four years ago today.

My win for the 2016 Rondo Hall Of Fame Award the other night was, is, and always will be tempered by the heartbreaking news and realization that my beloved friend and brother, Jim Burns, has tragically passed away at age fifty four of an undisclosed illness. Jim was one of the best friends that it’s ever been my honor to have. He was a cherished pal, confidante, and brother. Jim and I would speak for hours on the telephone, catching up on the latest news, talking, and always, always laughing.

When I nearly died just six or so years ago during major open heart surgery, Jim was ever on the telephone, and always sending me supportive e-mails and love. Jim pushed hard for my lifetime achievement award at the Rondo’s every year, and it was Jim who joyously announced my win for the Hall Of Fame by awaking me from a deep sleep just two months ago to inform me that I’d been elected to the Rondo Hall Of Fame.

My elation on Saturday morning in Louisville, Kentucky, was abruptly shattered when David Colton (the head of the Rondo Awards, and former editor of U.S.A. Today) gave me the terrible, terrible news that Jim has passed away on Thursday, June 2nd. Jim…I love you. I shall always love you. I cannot believe that I’ll never hear your voice, or your terrible jokes ever again. I cannot believe that I’ll never again know the happiness of reading your prolific commentary on the arts. Your work was sheer poetry. It was beautiful, haunting, and evocative. Your last years were tortured, and I hope that you found a degree of comfort in my love and respect for you, and in our profound bonding and friendship.

I dedicated my Rondo Award to you in my acceptance speech in Louisville Saturday evening. You always wanted to win a Rondo but never had an opportunity to do so. You were one Hell of a writer. May it bring you a degree of solace to know that David Colton dedicated this year’s Rondo Awards ceremony to you. I love you, Jim. I miss you…and I cannot believe that I will never have an opportunity to speak with you again. God Bless you, my friend. God Bless you, my cherished brother.

Sleep well, Prince Jim. Sleep throughout eternity in the knowledge that you shall always be loved….both by me, and by so many adoring friends and fans.

[Editor’s note: Here are links to all the posts Jim wrote for File 770 during the last six months of his life.]

JAMES H. BURNS POSTS

3 thoughts on “Remembering Jim Burns

  1. Steve, don’t do that to me! I’m scrolling down through 770 and I reach your title, and for a second I thought that the artist whose work is hanging in my dining room had passed away overnight. In these terrible times, I didn’t need more bad news – thankfully you were talking about another Jim, whose loss I agree was tragic.

  2. Right, Steve wasn’t writing about the speaker for Focus on the Family.

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