Jesse Malin suffered a rare stroke. He’s determined to walk and dance again

JesseMalin_photobyKatrinadelMarIMG_0065-90 - Credit: Katrina del Mar*

JesseMalin_photobyKatrinadelMarIMG_0065-90 – Credit: Katrina del Mar*

The last Saturday in March at Webster Hall in New York, Jesse Malin was doing what he’s done a thousand times before: jumping off the stage and wading through a sold-out crowd to the back bar, which he climbed to the top to lead a vocal of her song “She Don’t Love Me Now.

Malin’s piece that splits the Red Sea with his microphone – he asks for two 50ft cords at each show; “the extra linguine”, he calls it – is a signature of his gigs, and that’s how he wants his fans to see him right now: walking, strutting and dancing to and from the stage.

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Just weeks after the triumphant concert at Webster Hall, a 20th anniversary celebration of his solo debut, The art of self-destruction, Malin suffered an extremely rare spinal cord infarction – a stroke in the back – while dining in the East Village. Gathered with friends to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Howie Pyro, the former D Generation band member and Malin’s best friend, he felt a searing pain in his lower back region that slowly migrated down his hips, through her thighs and into her heels. . He collapsed on the floor of the restaurant, unable to walk.

“Everyone stood above me as in Rosemary’s babysaying all these different things, and I was there not knowing what was going on with my body,” Malin said during a phone call from her room at an NYU rehab facility.

Immobilized and numb, Malin was carried by Murphy’s Law singer Jimmy G from the Italian restaurant down the hall to a nearby apartment, where an ambulance was called to take him to Mount Sinai Hospital. It was May 4, and the notoriously physical and energetic entertainer – his first dive on the public stage came at age 14 on national television during a Saturday Night Live performance of Fear – has since been paralyzed from the waist down.

“It’s been the toughest six weeks I’ve ever had,” he says. “I’m told they don’t really understand it and aren’t sure about the odds. Doctors’ reports are tough, and there are times in the day when you feel like crying, and you’re scared. But I keep telling myself that I can do it. I can get my body back.

Such unflinching optimism has been Malin’s calling card. He calls it “PMA,” or positive mental attitude, from the Bad Brains song “Attitude,” and he’s been preaching it on stage and in interviews for decades. But he admits the PMA has been difficult to summon since his abnormal medical emergency.

“It’s almost like a joke. Like, ‘Are you talking about all that PMA? Well see how you handle This,’” he says. “They took me outside for the first time the other day in a wheelchair, and I went into the hall and I could see the sun shining through the glass, and I I just started bawling. I felt like I was watching myself in this movie. I didn’t know this person. By the time I got around the corner, I found myself in a park and I just breathed the air.

After two weeks at Mount Sinai, where he underwent various spinal procedures, Malin was transferred to his current rehabilitation center at NYU on May 18. Her days consist of three rounds of physiotherapy and rehabilitation, with the short-term goal of teaching her how to move her body without using her legs and performing daily tasks. When he is released later this month, he will be in a wheelchair and will need to move from his current walk-up apartment to a new ADA-compliant apartment with an elevator. It won’t be cheap.

Malin – like so many working musicians who experience catastrophic events – lacks the financial means to support himself for long-term care and outpatient rehabilitation, despite years of touring and album releases, and d have health insurance. On Wednesday, Malin’s manager David Bason and a group of friends launched a new campaign through the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund to raise money for the singer. Fully tax-deductible donations, which can be made here, will go directly to Malin’s care.

Malin has mixed feelings about the whole thing. During his career he has been a strong supporter of New York City and the rock & roll community around the world and, as a rolling stoneDavid Fricke of wrote in 2015, “putting his money where his heart is, investing in the rock & roll soul of his neighborhood” with popular bars like Niagara and Bowery Electric. It produced annual benefits for the Joe Strummer Foundation and Music and Memory; performs at regular Light of Day Foundation concerts; donated proceeds from its pandemic livestreams to food banks, Save Our Stages and out-of-work bar staff; and organized benefits for friends in need (he started a series of star shows when Pyro was battling liver disease). But he is reluctant, even embarrassed, to ask for help himself.

“I always felt that we had a voice with these microphones and with these guitars and with these rooms to help each other out. But it’s very hard for me to pick up and be that person,” he says. “I don’t want to be a burden, but I’m learning. Just lying here and not being able to walk is very humiliating.

Malin is also losing money because of a summer tour he had to cancel after his stroke. At the time, he told fans on social media that he suffered a serious back injury, but declined to elaborate.

“I didn’t want to go to extremes. And now it’s just time to let people know. Even though I really believe this is a temporary state, I’m not going to walk out of here tomorrow with a leather jacket and a cane and hang out at the bar. It’s going to be a lot of hard work and a lot of wheelchair use,” he says. “There’s something liberating about the truth that this is happening to me right now.”

Ironically, Malin is also enjoying some of her most recognized creative hits right now — with a song that encapsulates the hoped-for outcome of her situation. “New York Comeback,” a song he co-wrote with Lucinda Williams, who suffered her own stroke in 2020, was number one on Americana radio last week.

“Even though it was the hardest time of my life, there were gifts,” Malin says. “I knew I had great friends, fans and great people in this world, and I see a lot of them – although I really would have preferred a birthday party than finding out about it that way.”

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