June 21, 2024
by Arlen Roth,
Gillian Mackenzie Roth, my darling late daughter, was born Dec. 22nd, 1983. As you parents know, when a child is born, and you see that face, you can never imagine that the universe could ever be without them. She was the most extraordinary girl in the world. She had the most amazing childhood, filled with family, music, art, creativity and of course love. When she was born, I was born, so as you can imagine, I literally died when I lost her. No one can ever lose a child, especially like her. She had a wonderful blossoming career as an actress and a guitarist, and had been doing commercials, etc. from the age of 11 till she died at 14. It was on the way back from an audition in NYC when their car was involved in an accident and Gillian and my wife, Deborah were both killed. 

The tragedy came only two days after “Gillie” had recorded the theme song for her new exciting Nickleodeon show, “The Gunks”, a show about a girl rock band that was loosely based on The Monkees. Gillie was so happy, I remember her leaving the studio, and punching the sky with glee! She was so proud of her guitar playing, but was particularly happy with how they used her singing voice as the main one on the theme song!

The devastation caused by such a tragedy is beyond the imagination of anyone, except those who have unfortunately also gone through such a loss. One can never truly “heal” from having your 14 year-old daughter and wife of 17 years ripped away from you in a blink of an eye. The only thing I could do, and what I HAD to do, was go on for my daughter, LexieRoth, who’s also a singer, songwriter and guitarist in her own right.

It was many months before I picked up a guitar again after the accident in 1998, and even then it had to almost be forced upon me. Lexie eventually started writing a lot of songs and several dealing with the tragedy, which led to her first album, “One Long Blink,” and which is also reflected in some of the songs in her current release, “Lexie Roth.” It took me 3 years before I could go into the studio again, and all I could do was make a deeply personal, all-solo acoustic alum called “Drive it Home.” This album featured many songs made up right on the spot; a kind of “emotional, musical photography of notes” that occured simply as I felt them. Being the kind of player who always “shoots from the hip” anyway, this was just a further and deeper statement of who I was, who I am, and especially who I was at that very moment of raw, musical emotion.

There have been even 4 more albums since then, but my latest, “All Tricked Out!,” the fifth since the tragedy, is a kind of ripping off of the shirt and stating that “I’m really BACK!” sort of effort. Sure there is still tons of emotion to hear and experience, but there is no hesitation to be a bit playful, to show some humor, to show that I’ve musically “moved forward” in not only my playing, but also my life.

For the last 14 years since the accident, it felt as if literally NO time had passed. NOW, it at least feels like time, albeit too quickly now, has started to move forward again, through the time and notes in my music, as well as watching the time and life move forward through my surviving daughter, Lexie. I hope folks enjoy this record, and through the notes I play and sing, hear and feel the indescribable emotions I can’t help but convey!”


About Arlen

Music lesson pioneer Arlen Roth is the quintessential guitarist. An accomplished and brilliant musician — and one of the very few who can honestly say he’s done it all — Roth has, over the course of his celebrated 35-year career, played on the world’s grandest stages, accompanied many of the greatest figures in modern music and revolutionized the concept of teaching guitar.

Roth was voted one of “The Top 100 Influential Guitarists of the Century” by Vintage Guitar magazine.

In addition to being widely regarded as the “King of All Guitar Teachers,” Roth has also toured and recorded with the likes of Simon and Garfunkel (individually and together), Bob Dylan, John Prine, Phoebe Snow, Don McLean, Pete Seeger, Jack Bruce, James Taylor and Duane Eddy, establishing himself as one of today’s most prominent guitarists.

2 thoughts on “Surviving the Unthinkable as a Father and Husband

  1. Hi Arlen.
    My friend Bob Holden has talked to you at dinner with his family in College ville. The Olefson family I believe.
    I have read your story and can completely relate to the pain.
    My father was an artist and athlete and was ended before I had a chance to even know him.
    I am an accomplished guitar player and would like to meet and play together.

  2. This is the saddest story a guitarist will ever read. I love you and your music Alren, your a gift to musicians and guitarist around the world. Your an inspiration to parents who have lost their children as you continue to solider on helping others in life and achieve their dreams. I think and pray for you often. God Bless.

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