Faye Hunter, from iconic ’80s North Carolina band Let’s Active, passes at age 59

dmenconi@newsobserver.comJuly 22, 2013 

What you had yesterday is only memories; what you will have tomorrow is your dreams and what you will do today, let it be love. – Santosh Kalwar

Late Thursday night, Faye Hunter posted that quote to her Facebook page. Apparently, it was meant to be her final message to the world. Hunter died Saturday night in Advance, near Winston-Salem, victim of an apparent suicide. She was 59 and will be best-remembered for her time in the 1980s Winston-Salem band Let’s Active.

“I’m not shocked, but I am surprised about the timing,” her friend Jamie K. Sims said Sunday night. “She’d been talking about this for quite some time. The past three or so years were really bad.”

In happier times, Hunter was the original bassist in Mitch Easter’s group Let’s Active in the early 1980s. The trio of Easter, Hunter and drummer Sara Romweber was part of a wave of Southern underground pop that eventually took R.E.M. to mainstream stardom and the top of the charts in the 1990s.

“Faye was Mitch’s girlfriend, and they were the perfect rock couple,” said former Winston-Salem Journal music critic Ed Bumgardner, who sold Hunter her first bass and showed her how to play it. “She was an incredibly cool, sweet, kind person, always gracious. Also cute as a bug’s ear. Everybody fell in love with Faye at least once.”

Hunter was a key player on the first two Let’s Active releases – 1983’s poppy mini-album “Afoot” and the brilliant 1984 full-length “Cypress” – which were both fascinating combinations of sunny pop sensibilities and dark undercurrents. She also contributed to 1986’s “Big Plans For Everybody” before departing the group, adding impeccable harmonies, on-the-one bass work and the occasional lead vocal.

“As soon as we got the band together, it felt like we really had a thing,” Easter said. “That version of Let’s Active didn’t last long, which was the sad part, but it was great while it did. I remember Faye being interested in playing bass, deciding to do it and following through. She was always good and got better. A natural who could take things and run with them, which was a thrill to be around. Also a big animal person, and anybody who loves animals so much has got to be o.k.”

On Sunday night, Hunter’s status as an important part of North Carolina’s musical ecosystem was in evidence as remembrances lit up Facebook upon news of her death. Peter Holsapple, co-leader of Let’s Active’s Winston-Salem peers the dB’s, described her as “the big sister I never had during my teen years,” and numerous people posted pictures and YouTube links – and lamented that they’d been unable to help her.

“It’s sad that it takes something like this to see how many people care,” Bumgardner said. “Faye didn’t think anybody remembered her or cared, and nothing could be further from the truth. I think she’d be shocked to see how far this is resonating, all over the world. A core group cared very deeply and tried to reach out, help her climb out of the hole she saw herself in. She tried, but it didn’t happen.”

Hunter gave a rare public performance in May at Winston-Salem Centennial, a musical celebration that reunited many of the key acts from Winston’s ’80s underground-pop glory days as Comboland. But in recent years, she struggled with job woes and the stress of care-giving for her elderly mother.

“She’d become physically worn down, very thin and having physical problems from the stress of working and care-giving,” Sims said. “Faye was thinking about leaving, but ... I guess this is the only way she could figure out how to do it.”

Funeral and memorial service arrangements are still pending.

Menconi: 919-829-4759 or blogs.newsobserver.com/beat

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