Despite his advanced age at 78,Gean West continues to play shows with the same frenetic pace that made Peacock Records owner Don Robey compare a young West to James Brown.
That's not all he does, either. In addition to performing with the Relatives, West leads a congregation, performing duties as pastor at the God's Anointed Community Church of God In Christ in West Dallas. Sadly though, as it does to all men, age has caught up with West. In the last 10 years, he has struggled mightily with heart problems.
His most recent episode has been the most trying yet for West. Complications from a stent insertion have caused an artery to be blocked in West's neck. West has been recovering at Parkland Hospital the past couple months to build up the strength to go through with the surgery to correct the blockage. To make matters worse, West's kidneys now require dialysis.
Facing steep challenges is nothing new for West. His story is one of redemption and second chances. In 1952 at the age of 16, West served a five-year prison sentence. Upon his release, resolved to be a new man, he made a home at the pulpit. Since then, he has never looked back. In 1970, Gean West, along with his brother Tommy, formed the Relatives.
The Relatives could be described as a crossover project. The vocal stylings of West dressed the Relatives' sound as a soul act and the lyrics are deeply rooted in the brother's gospel backgrounds. West's lyrics had an added focus on themes of race and social injustice. The sound has been described as psychedelic, by both the band and its audience. The Relatives are a unique band for this reason. Unfortunately, The Relatives never received much fanfare outside of the Dallas area during their early days and they broke up in 1980. But in 2009, led by West, they began playing regularly again and releasing new music.
So with West's recent struggles, the Relatives' young guitarist Zach Ernst has taken it upon himself to help his injured frontman in his time of need. While West has been bedridden at Parkland, life has continued to move on with expenses and bills piling up. The current situation has made West helpless as he is unable to attend to his responsibilities, both with his church and the Relatives.
This included missing a September 5 show in Fort Worth. It was the first time the Relatives ever played without West since their founding in 1970. Ernst has refused to allow his frontman and bandleader return to life out of the hospital to only struggle with finances after just having survived life-threatening complications. Ernst has taken up a collection for West to help pay for bills that have fallen to the wayside during this recovery period.
"Gean is too proud to ask, but I've seen all he's done for everyone over the years, including myself, and if I can help him in his time of need, I will," says Ernst, whose wedding West officiated. "While he's been in the hospital he has been unable to attend to both the band and his church in West Dallas. Life happens and I don't want to see him come out of all this only to struggle, you know?"
Donations are being taken at a page Ernst has set up at GoFundMe.com to help West out. Once West has made a full recovery his plan is to continue playing shows and finish work on the Relatives' third album, which is halfway complete. Most crowd-sourced ventures are done to help with a tour or album. Very rarely is it done to help continuing the life of the artist himself. It is even rarer for the artist in question to be a living legend like Rev. Gean West. If you can, please donate as it is going toward a great cause.