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A singer’s voice lives on

Laguna Beach singer/songwriter Joey Petrovich died in 2003, but his memory and his music live on through concerts and scholarships.

Every June since his death a group of friends and former bandmates hand out a $1,500 scholarship to a Laguna Beach High School student who they hope will continue Petrovich’s socially conscious singer/songwriter tradition. Money for the award comes from private donations as well as an annual memorial concert put on by his friends.

This year’s Joey Petrovich Memorial Concert will be held today at 8 p.m. at the Sandpiper Lounge, 1183 S. Coast Highway.

Concert organizers said they hope Petrovich’s legacy will live on in future generations.

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“It’s not just about the past, it’s about the future with this scholarship,” Petrovich’s friend and former band mate Drew Weaver said.

Petrovich, the front man for The El Caminos in the 1980s, was 44 when he died of pneumonia on Dec. 26, 2003.

Sam Rohloff, a friend of Petrovich, said Petrovich had a brand all his own. He was boisterous, confrontational and quite often drunk.

He also had a huge following of local fans who knew and loved his music and requested it by name at gigs around the city, Rohloff said.

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Even more important, Rohloff said, Petrovich took a stand with his music. Whether he wrote about televangelists, immigration or just about being lonely, Petrovich let his opinion be known through his music.

“He had no problem standing up behind a mic and saying how he thought it was and how it should be,” Rohloff said.

Weaver said despite Petrovich’s knack for being cynical, he wasn’t an angry man. He was annoyed with many of the problems in the world — not angry.

He was always trying to make things better, Weaver said.

“A person like that has standards, and he put his foot down in music,” Weaver said.

Rohloff and Weaver said Petrovich’s biting social commentary was often a way of opening up a dialogue that otherwise would never have happened.

Rohloff said when they look for a high school student to give the scholarship to, they look for someone who channels the spirit of what they believe Petrovich stood for.

“It’s for a kid who has the same kind of conscious, cynical view of the world,” Rohloff said. “Someone who knows what should be laughed at and laughs at it out loud.”

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This year’s recipient of the scholarship is soon-to-be graduating senior Nicole Williams. Williams, 17, is an art student as well as a musician and plans on attending Laguna College of Art and Design.

Williams said she’s been playing guitar since she was 12 and writes songs and plays harmonica as well, citing Bob Dylan as an influence.

“Music’s a huge huge part of my life. I don’t know how I would have gotten through these turbulent teen years without it,” Williams said.

Williams said her own music is also filled with poetry and social commentary.

“I write very folksy, acoustic lyrics,” Williams said.

She is also in a band called The Insouls who play funk/dance music.

Former band members with Weaver, Mark Fontana, Mark Sproull, Billy Sherman, and Mike Kramer will play together in honor of Petrovich tonight.

Tickets for tonight’s show are $10 at the door. Rohloff and Weaver have produced a compilation album of Petrovich’s best songs called “Why You and Not Me?” It will be available at the show for $10.

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