Murray Goff, an icon of the Jacksonville music scene known for his larger-than-life personality, professionalism and tremendous musical talent, died Oct. 3. He was 71.
His wife of 28 years, Michele Akra Goff, called his passing a tremendous loss to the community.
“He was a very unique, faithful, beautiful person,” she said. “He had a great personality, and he loved to perform.”
A keyboard player, singer and composer, Goff performed for generations of fans. He provided the soundtrack for countless parties marking milestones in the lives of local residents: birthdays, anniversaries, wedding receptions and much more.
In addition, he performed around the country and at local bars, restaurants and country clubs.
In performance, he was known for not taking a break. He often went out into the audience and sang to people and frequently remembered individual fans’ favorite songs.
“He was the consummate professional, no doubt about it,” said Michele Goff. “He truly was, and everybody loved him.”
Goff’s repertoire included an astounding 3,000 songs, and he could perform any style of music from the 1930s to the 2000s: rock n’ roll, country, pop, blues, jazz and more.
He could perform songs made famous by Glenn Miller and The Rolling Stones, Elvis and George Gershwin, Cab Calloway and Brooks & Dunn.
And though he began playing piano at the age of four and was classically trained for more than 12 years, he didn’t set out to make music his career.
Joseph “Murray” Goff Jr. was born July 28, 1949, in Jacksonville, where he grew up on the west side, graduating from Paxon High School in 1967.
As a young man, he had a passion for America and its history and aspired to be a U.S. senator. He majored in political science at Princeton University, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1971, and served as a page in Washington, D.C.
But possessing ethics that some have called “impeccable,” he was disillusioned by the lack of morals he witnessed in the political world. He changed course and became a real estate developer and broker and did well until impacted by the economic turmoil of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
At last, he decided in 1985 to follow his talent and establish a career in music.
TURNING TO MUSIC
Goff began performing as one half of a duo and later formed his band, The Murray Goff Connection. For years, he performed at various venues throughout the Beaches. Such was his following that he could set a respectable fee for his performances.
“He never sold himself short, and he was worth every penny that he charged,” said Michele Goff. “He was known not to be the cheapest guy in town, but he didn’t want to be. And it worked for him because he delivered.”
From 1998 to 2008, Murray Goff devoted three days a week to delivering customer service seminars with wife Michele for First American Title. But he saved the other three working days for his music.
In addition to performing the works of others, he composed songs himself. In 1979, he wrote “The Ballad of Bobby Bowden.” The song had started out as a kind of lark conjured up during a party at a time when the legendary Florida State football coach was considering a move to LSU. It went on to become a hit with Seminole fans.
Goff also wrote “Here Come The Bulls” for Jacksonville’s short-lived USFL team and “The Year That Next Year Came” for the University of Florida’s football team on the occasion of its successful 1984 season.
“Murray’s attitude was like, ‘I’ve got the best job on the planet,’ because people were always throwing accolades his way,” Michele Goff said.
Though he had long since abandoned his political aspirations, Goff continued to have an interest in politics. He was involved in establishing the First Coast Tea Party. When then-candidate Donald Trump visited Jacksonville in 2016, Goff acted as emcee during the event at The Landing.
He also performed his music on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
Ever the composer, he also wrote two patriotic songs, “Stand Up” and “God Save The U.S.A.,” the latter of which Michele Goff compared to a prayer.
“It seems to be a little more timely right now,” she said, citing unrest across the nation.
MURRAY GOFF REMEMBERED
News of Goff’s passing sparked a tremendous reaction online.
“I am personally surprised at the outpouring of messages coming at us from all angles,” said sister-in-law Margaret Bulin. “I mean, I knew he was popular and well-known, but it’s bigger than I thought it was.”
In addition to his wife, Goff is survived by sister Diane Maury (and husband Ron), daughters Hillary Moribito (and husband Tim) and Shelby Goff, nine grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by parents Eunice Goff Harrington and Joseph Goff Sr.
Goff’s final performance was for his grandchildren. At his home in Sawgrass on the weekend before he died, he played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and other children’s favorites.
“He loved his family, he loved his country and he loved God,” said Michele Goff. “And his fans; he loved his fans, too. That’s what he was all about.”