Nate Nicholson, the popular lead guitarist of the Quad-City band Funktastic 5, died Thursday at University Hospitals, Iowa City.
Arrangements for Nicholson, 50, of Davenport, are pending at Trimble Funeral Home, Moline. Last month, a benefit was held at East End Bolders Club, Moline, to raise money for Nicholson, who was battling cancer, and his family.
In January, he was diagnosed with stage 4 B-cell lymphoma due to anti-rejection medication for a lung transplant. His family learned the cancer had spread to his brain.
In 2008, Nicholson had a double lung transplant; lymphoma is a cancer commonly caused by the immunosuppressants required for the transplant, according to a gofundme.com page at help-nate-rock-his-battle-w-cancer.
Nicholson underwent an aggressive form of chemotherapy in Iowa City for a week at a time, typically every other week. People at Q-C Rock Academy in Davenport, like many, were shocked to hear of his passing.
Greg Hipskind, academy director, said Friday that Nicholson looked good on Tuesday and Wednesday when he came in to teach.
"You'd never know he was a chemo patient," Hipskind said. "He was always bald anyway. He had lost some weight."
Hipskind said Nicholson had about 25 guitar students each week. He was a Rock Academy instructor for the past four years, and taught at Griggs Music for 15 years.
Hipskind said Nicholson's wife, Tammy, called him with the news of Nicholson's death.
"He was the nicest guy you'd ever meet," said Hipskind, a drum teacher. "You'd never guess he was a shredding guitar player."
On Thursday, Hipskind posted on the academy's Facebook that Nicholson was one of the Quad-Cities' "most loved guitarists."
"Nate was truly a gentleman and talented to the bone!," posted Diana DeMarlie. "Funk played at our daughter’s wedding and he was an absolutely joy to work with ... the man, the talent & the joy he spread will be missed by many."
Craig Bentley, a singer and guitarist with the Funktastic 5, said Nicholson love music and playing guitar "more than anything else." the two performed together Aug. 4 at River House, Moline.
"That was his life," Bentley said. "He wanted to be a musician from early on."
Nicholson formed Funktastic 5 in 2003. He also played with Phyllis And The Sharks.
"He did a lot of side gigs," Bentley said. "If anyone needed a sub, they could count on Nate. He was a pleasure to be around.
"It is difficult to think about Funktastic 5 without Nate, especially since it is his band," he said. "We have dates booked for 2019. We want to continue playing contracted gigs.
"I've been playing guitar for almost 30 years," he said. "Playing with Nate over the last 10, he made me a better musician. To have an opportunity to play with and off of another player like Nate makes you better."
Bentley said Nicholson's recovery from a transplant was solid until December when he lost weight and began having very bad headaches. That's when the lymphoma was detected.
"Everything was going really, really well," Bentley said, adding Nicholson and his family learned about six weeks ago that his had spread to his brain. Still, he continued performing, Bentley said.
"He lived for playing," Bentley said. "The thing about Nate, a real testament to him is he never wanted to cancel, even when he was going through initial treatments for chemo."
The band is uncertain about its future, but will play Saturday for a scheduled wedding reception.
"To not play right now would be antithetical to what he believed," Bentley said. "I talked to the bride and she said she understood if we needed to cancel.
"No, Nate would not want that."
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