Shirtless Curran with a guitar around his neck playing a concert in a venue covered with graffiti on the wall.
Jack Curran performs in the band Fifteen in 1991. Credit: Murray Bowles

Jack Curran, beloved musician, filmmaker and friend, passed away on Sept. 9 in Aberdeen, Washington. He was 56 years old. Jack was born in San Gabriel, California, to Merry and James Curran. Early in life, he excelled at bicycle motocross racing earning trophies in many competitions. He later adopted skateboarding, quickly mastering dynamic skate park terrains, vert ramps, and street skating.

In the mid-1970s the family moved to Benicia, California. Jack and his younger brother Paul later joined the punk scene centered around 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley. In 1988, he formed the band Fifteen, playing bass (and later second guitar) with guitarist and vocalist Jeff Ott. The band embraced many of the mainstream rock influences eschewed by their peers. 

Fifteen’s lyrics were more likely to be tightly written poems rather than sloganeering protest songs. Along with a steady diet of love songs, the group sang of homelessness, addiction, environmentalism, spirituality and alienation. The band consistently encouraged their listeners to find humanistic ways to live beyond consumer-driven values. This ethos defined Jack throughout his life.

Influencing countless musicians, the band developed a dedicated following. Fifteen rarely turned down the chance to perform at benefits for the causes they believed in, especially Food Not Bombs, an organization dedicated to serving food to homeless people.

Curran plays on stage with his band
Curran at a 1992 show. Credit: Murray Bowles

Jack contributed to two albums, Swain’s First Bike Ride and Buzz, while contributing lyrics to Choice of a New Generation, as well as a self-titled 7-inch EP. These releases influenced countless independent bands during the early 1990s punk revival. Curran toured with Fifteen on one European and two U.S. tours, playing alongside bands such as Fugazi, Scared of Chaka, M.D.C., Down By Law, and Jawbreaker, to name a few.

Following his departure from the band, Curran studied film at San Mateo Community College and went on to direct 924 Gilman Street: Let’s Talk About Tact and Timing, the first documentary chronicling Berkeley’s famous punk venue. 

Friends remembered Curran as the “Cheshire Cat of Wisdom,” usually available for coffee-fueled late night talks on just about anything. Anyone who knew Jack was aware that his most important love was that of his cat, Rosebud.

“Jack was the best kind of friend, one you could talk to about anything at any time, with no judgment. He could always make you grin with his keen-witted sense of humor, clever nicknames, and inside jokes. “When will I ever get another opportunity to say ‘Cowgirl up’ in conversation?,” recalled Todd Pritchard, a longtime friend who also managed t-shirt and record sales for Fifteen.

Jack is survived by his mother Merry, his father James, his brother Paul, and his sister Rachel.

Shine on.

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