The music community lost a much-beloved bright light this week, when Iggy Igloo, a longtime musician, former host of KRCC's "Planet Groove" world music program and activist, died Tuesday due to cancer.
The Colorado Springs native, whose birth name was Jonathan Ellis, was 38. He is survived by his son Kyan Ellis, mother Karolyn "Kate" Muniz and step-father John Muniz, father William Ellis, sister Jacqueline Ellis, and brother David Ellis.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. June 10 at Hillside Gardens and Event Center, 1006 S. Institute St.
"He was a passionate man who gave everything he had to the community he loved," said his mother. "Everybody has stories about how he stood up for people. He was passionate about protecting girls and women in abusive relationships. He protected and he took care of people. He would and has given the shirt off his back or the last morsel of food he had to help others. He was the kindest soul."
Igloo, who attended Doherty High School before earning his GED, lived a colorful and sometimes difficult life. He chose to live on the streets when he was 18, his mother said, and struggled with alcohol and drug addictions. At 21, he had a son, which prompted him to get sober and devote his life to music and social activism.
"He was a musical prodigy from the time he was young," Kate said. "When he took piano and trumpet lessons, they called him a prodigy. He never took guitar or banjo lessons, but he picked it up and played like it was his instrument. He was extremely passionate about music."
He busked on his home streets of Manitou Springs, played in bars and other venues and hosted open mics across the Springs and Manitou, while also making 15-20 albums, about 10 of which exist on Spotify. His songs, such as "You are Not Alone," "Light of Life" and "Love Wins," exemplify Igloo's optimism and open-armed approach to life, said musician Conor Bourgal, who collaborated with Igloo on some of his music.
"It was some of the most direct and simple expressions of love and gratitude you would ever hear," Bourgal said. "He lived on the streets. Sometimes he wrote it to get himself through stuff. He'd comfort himself through poetry and music. It’s outpourings of love and a love of life and people."
Around 2010, Igloo, a licensed ham radio operator, finished volunteer DJ training at KRCC and was eventually offered a position hosting "Planet Groove," a Tuesday night radio show. He developed a reputation for digging up "beautiful musical nuggets from around the world," said KRCC Music Director and music host Vicky Gregor.
"He had quite a following he built from that. So many people loved that show," she said. "He was fearless. He’s somebody who really followed his dreams. Whether that meant living on the street or in some bushes or a camper, he made it work. He was that guy. Tough, but full of his cultural roots."
Those cultural roots, steeped in his Inupiaq heritage, led him to resign from KRCC and spend a year in peaceful protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock in North and South Dakota. He was able to connect more deeply with indigenous people from around the country. And he brought back a message about the preciousness of water, always reminding those who knew him to drink water.
"Even before he opened his mouth you could tell he was on a different plane than most people," Bourgal said. "There wasn't a lot of small talk. It was about art and music and his activism all the time. He was the embodiment of unconditional love, and he didn’t have any requirements for who he was giving love or support to."