On June 3rd friends and family of Rickey Taylor, aka Rickey the Pirate, gathered as they had done in previous years at the Down and Out Bar to celebrate the birthday of their favorite Downtown shipmate. Although some knew Rickey was suffering from cancer, not everyone could suspect that this would be Rickey’s last birthday celebration. Before the month was out, Rickey would die, leaving his friends and family, mostly Downtowners—a definite feeling that one of the pieces that makes Old Downtown so magical, had gone with him.
Honesty, love and incredible optimism, despite his economic condition, Rickey the Pirate seemed to always have something fun to say, or positive advice to give. He was a proud workingman who paid for his life, selling items with his own image, $5 at a time. Each time meeting and greeting downtowners, he became a master at uplifting our spirits.
At 67, he didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink, he sold pictures and although he managed to keep the slur, and his skin in some areas was as broken as his teeth, with his gate, seemingly labored, still the words, “I love you” and “God Bless You, ” could be heard from his raspy stutter. And then, right when you’d least expected it, his signature pirate cry! ARRRGGGGHH! Sometimes maybe even twice.
TheGRAWN interviewed Rickey the Pirate in October of 2013 to learn that for 30 years he’d walked and slept on these streets until help from DLANC participants helped take him away from homelessness.
At the Rainbow Hotel, Rickey had a safe place to sleep, a place where his mother could visit, and a place to produce his own TV show for Big Is Good TV.
Best of all, Rickey’s new home offered a closet to store his prized outfits and $1000 GATOR shoes he still suited and booted, to mirror his early days in the music business.
Rickey could sang. From becoming the youngest child musical director of the 75-member youth choir at Holy Life Missionary Baptist Church, his mother, Floria Taylor, ever proud of Rickey, had raised a child into a man who possessed an incredible magnetism on and off stage. “They love me”, Rickey had said. “I never lost a talent show”.
As an adult music sensation Rickey Taylor, found himself singing and dancing on countless stages on tour, including opening for James Brown, with backing band, Rolls Royce (Car Wash) in the 1970s.
“Buy my pictures” and “I’m hungry”, were the words heard most in recent years from Rickey the Pirate, all the while making sure his face and body stemmed from happy poses full of facial animation. As he sold his own image on street portraits, photographs, and t-shirts over the years he became a beloved downtown icon as seen on YOUTUBE, NBC, CNN and most importantly walking amongst the happiest people swashbuckling around the streets of Old Downtown day and night. Until we sail again my old friend…good bye and God Bless.