Entertainment | Drugs

Rock legend Joe Walsh returning to Hawke’s Bay pā site of epiphany

It will be Walsh’s third pilgrimage to the site, which he first visited while touring in 1989.

Rock legend and former Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh is returning to a pā in Hawke’s Bay where he had an epiphany that led him to break his addictions.

It will be Walsh’s third pilgrimage to the site, which he first visited while touring in 1989.

A public event with entry by koha will see Walsh speak about his life and recovery from addiction.

Rock legend Joe Walsh is making a third, and possibly final, pilgrimage to a pā site on a hill above Hawke’s Bay.

The former Eagle and solo artist whose songs include Rocky Mountain Way, Life’s Been Good and A Life of Illusion, had a life-changing epiphany at Ōtātara pā, in Taradale, on his first visit in 1989 and has returned twice since, in 2004, and 2015.

He makes his third return visit next month, on April 21.

Now 76, Walsh first visited the pa site in 1989 while touring the country with New Zealand band the Herbs.

Setting him on the path

He was heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol at the time and said that while sitting on the hill overlooking Hawke’s Bay he had a vision that he credited with setting him on the path towards sobriety.

He returned home with a different mindset, which eventually led him to give up drugs and alcohol - which he said was the hardest thing he had ever done, but also the most rewarding.

“I was in trouble,” he told a large crowd at his last visit in 2015.

“When you get successful at something, and you’re young, it’s easy to lose your perspective. It’s easy to forget what you were doing that got you successful. And that happened to me,” he said.

All are welcome to the ‘Joe Walsh Sunday’ event.

“I started experimenting with alcohol and drugs and I got dependent on alcohol and drugs, and very slowly alcohol and drugs will convince you that you can’t do anything without it, and that is what happened to me,” he said.

Following his epiphany Walsh became active in charity work and has performed in a number of concerts to raise money for charitable causes, as well as personally contributing to charities.

A break from touring

According to Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Ōtātara pā is one of the largest pā sites in New Zealand. Its hilltop location close to natural resources meant that ownership was often contested. When Ngāti Kahungunu expanded into Heretaunga from the north they attacked the pā and assumed a position of dominance in the region. The site has been a historic reserve since 1971.

Local community leader Denis O’Reilly, who has a long affiliation with Walsh and helped organise next month’s event, said the event had been a long time in the making.

“It’s a break for him [Walsh] after an intensive year touring. He just loves it here. I figure that because of our ages it will be his last visit so I want to make sure it’s a good one,” O’Reilly said.

“There is a crew of recovering or former users who go up Ōtātara every Sunday as a commitment to maintain their sobriety and I want to keep fostering the notion of Ōtātara as being a special place for healing and recovery,” he said.

He said Walsh’s last visit was hugely popular and a video of the speech he gave on his addictions has been viewed more than 315,000 times on YouTube hits.

O’Reilly said everyone is welcome to the event, which is titled ‘Joe Walsh Sunday - Celebrating Life with the Legendary Eagles guitarist’.

Entry is by koha.

Frankie Stevens will act as MC and there will be performances by local students and artists.

“The usual form is that at some point Joe will have a korero and perform a couple of numbers. We will have an electric piano and guitar on hand. Anticipate kapa haka and waiata as well,” O’Reilly said.

- Stuff