Erika D. Smith

A fitting tribute for Tower Records’ Russ Solomon? This artist has the perfect idea

This is the legend of Russ Solomon and Tower Records

Russ Solomon, the music-loving visionary who built a global retailing empire and the most famous company in Sacramento history, died Sunday night. He was 92.
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Russ Solomon, the music-loving visionary who built a global retailing empire and the most famous company in Sacramento history, died Sunday night. He was 92.

It was back in September that Russ Solomon made his way over to 18th and L streets to claim his spot on Sacramento’s Walk of Stars. He got a personal plaque of glittery black, purple and gold, and unveiled a matching one already set in the sidewalk.

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It was a nice gesture, for sure. But given that this isn’t Hollywood, it has always seemed an ill-fitting honor. A knockoff of the real-deal Walk of Fame that wasn’t quite authentic enough for the defiantly original Sacramentan, who, before his death on Sunday night, turned a tiny business selling jukebox records into the celebrity-backed behemoth that was Tower Records.

No, what Solomon deserves is something big, something personal, something distinctly Sacramento. He deserves a mural – and, apparently, he’s about to get one.

Bryan Valenzuela, a local painter and musician who is probably best known for his work “Multitudes Converge” inside Golden 1 Center, has signed on do a massive portrait starting at the end of April. He’s working with David Sobon, founder of the successful Wide Open Walls mural festival.

Sobon says he started thinking about commissioning a mural only hours after hearing that Solomon, 92, had suffered a heart attack while drinking whiskey and watching the Academy Awards. He calls Solomon and his wife, Patti, “really good acquaintances.” And like everyone else of a certain age, he talks about getting lost among the bins of a Tower Records store.

“He added so much to this community,” Sobon said.

The plan is to put the mural on the backside of the Tower Theatre on Broadway. The details are still being worked out, with Sobon leading the negotiations, but as the place where a 16-year-old Solomon began his entrepreneurial career under the name Tower Record Mart, it truly is the perfect location.

And if that isn’t cool enough, Valenzuela plans to incorporate quotes from fans about Solomon and Tower Records into the mural itself. Over the next few months, Wide Open Walls will be collecting them on Instagram at @wideopenwalls916_.

“We want to take some time to respect Russ and the grieving process,” Sobon said. “And we want to take time to listen to the stories and incorporate the quotes.”

Or as Valenzuela put it: “It brings a sense a community into it.”

This is the power of a mural over, say, a static star on a sidewalk.Art is personal, not recycled. And for Sacramento, in particular, where a talented group of young creatives are finding legions of new fans for whom to express themselves, art has become increasingly communal.

It happened just this past week as Sacramento artist Maren Conrad wrapped up her mural of “Lady Bird” in honor of the highly acclaimed film’s Sacramento director, Greta Gerwig. Throughout the process, people came to watch the artist work and share their love of California’s capital city.

It’s fitting that another mural of Greta herself, also sponsored by Wide Open Walls, is in the works.

The best of Sacramento deserves to be immortalized in paint.

A new “Lady Bird” mural in downtown Sacramento is finished and ready for viewing at 16th and I streets. The Greta Gerwig film was nominated for five Oscars. Sacramento artist Maren Conrad, 37, designed the mural, and it was finished about one day

Erika D. Smith: 916-321-1185, @Erika_D_Smith

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