Sep 282011

I can’t honestly say that I grew up in the U.S.A.; but by living in a country right next door, I can honestly say that I grew up steeped in the American culture … especially with music. And, other than having a few relatives living there, that came through loud and clear – whether on radio, TV, and film – their ‘pop’ culture was, especially for my ‘Zoomer’ generation, ours! (For me that meant Elvis, Ricky Nelson, the Four Seasons ‘Jersey Boys’ and Chuck Berry … just to mention a few .)

Yet, there was always a difference: somehow, we Canadians didn’t buy into everything ‘Made in America’.

Then came decades of change like the ‘British Invasion’ (with the Beatles leading the way), the Vietnam War, the ‘Cold War’, the Peace movement, environmental groups like ‘Greenpeace’, the women’s movement, Global Warming, the Berlin Wall coming down etc, that changed everything. Suddenly, and for evermore, this was a global thing, where we all grew up and matured – together. 

Canada more effectively developed its own voice. This was facilitated by Canadian educator and philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who famously summed up our then (and current) situation as “the global village” – due to the increasing speed of the mass age in which we live, it forces us all to be responsible (more critically informed) towards each other. And, because of the World Wide Web which he predicted, the global medium is still speaking to us every day.

And with every twist and turn, the music reflects (and sometimes) leads this awakening – we are all in this together. John Lennon once said, “Don’t put your faith in leaders or parking meters”. It’s also been said that it isn’t people who start wars, its governments.

Some of my favourite Canadian singer / song-writers that have successfully informed the world view include – to mention a few: Gordon Lightfoot’s (Black day in July) … ’In the street of Motor City is a deadly silent sound and the body of a dead youth lies stretched upon the ground / And they really know the reason … And it wasn’t just the season’.

Neil Young’s (‘Keep on rockin’ in the free world) … ‘There’s colours in the street, Red, white and blue, People shufflin’ their feet, People sleepin’ in their shoes’.

 Joni Mitchell’s (Big Yellow Taxi) …  ‘Hey farmer, farmer, Put away the DDT now, Give spots on my apples, But leave me the birds and the bees, please’.

The Guess Who’s (American Woman) ‘I don’t need your war machines / I don’t need your ghetto scenes’.

And Leonard Cohen’s (‘Democracy) ‘It’s coming to America, the cradle of the best and the worst … and it’s here they got the spiritual thirst  … I love the country but I can’t stand the scene. / I’m junk but I’m still holding up this little bouquet / Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.’

(As it turned out later, ‘Democracy’ played a perfect counterpoint to Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’: ‘Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry / Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye’.)

Is there reason for hope? I think so. The music plays on with U2 and many others.

Back in the 60’s, John F. Kennedy said, “Let the word go forth … the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans… “. Where are those Americans now?    

Still, some of us remember the advice (and hope) of John Lennon’s song Imagine: ‘You may say I’m a dreamer; but I’m not the only one / I hope someday you’ll join us; and the world will live as one. And, from the Beatles song ‘Revolution’: If you want money for minds that hate, all I can tell you brother is you have to wait”.

     “Battle lines being drawn / Nobody’s right, if everybody’s wrong.” – Buffalo Springfield

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken…”

So our ‘global village’ in the 21st century has come a long way.  Is it enough? Not really. Yet, locally … at the source … people say you can only do what you do; but in our hearts, we know we can do more.

In 1994, Nelson Mandela said, “And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others”.

I’m writing this. You’re reading it.

Who’s next?

 Fred Parry                                         2011 

P.S. I just heard a great song from Steve Earle and Del McCoury Band – ‘Pilgrim’ – on YouTube, that sums it all up perfectly for me:



Sep 162011

With this series of articles, we’ve been reviewing the lyrics from the music of our lives. Many may not

realize just how pervasive music is with us. If you don’t think so, try thinking of just one of your favourite

songs …  right now. Can you also remember what you were doing and where you were, when you first

heard it? You see, this is true for everyone and it starts early.


How early? Well, this summer I brought our 2 year old grandson Kolton, to the New Hamburg library, for

a program called ‘Splish Splash Music Fun’ – one of the many family programs offered at the

branch. It was fascinating watching the little ones interact with each other to both music and lyrics

under the skilled guidance of our musical leader, Adele. The adults were brought into the fun too, as we

held hands walking in a big circle laughing and singing. (And, of course, who could forget singing into the

magic microphone!)


Afterwards, Adele told me that some children might be a shy at first; but if you don’t force them, they

will participate more and more. In the end, it was a great example of the power of music to bring us all



Another way to encourage young Kolton’s confidence and communication skills happened when my

Mom bought him a toy guitar – which he hasn’t put down since his birthday 3 months ago! My wife and

I took him to Castle Kilbride’s outdoor Summer Concert Series in Baden; and the classic rock band got

little Kolton (and all of us) singing and bouncing to the beat.  At the intermission, I introduced him the

lead singer Tommy – who seemed to relate to Kolton, with his tiny toy guitar, in a way that made our

little toddler beam with joy.


So, I can’t tell you who’s getting the most out of this musical arrangement, Kolton or me; but to echo

the closing line from the movie Casablanca, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


For example this summer, Kolton and I have been splashing around in the very hot, ‘Hot Tub’ –

practising for our swimming lessons starting in the next couple of weeks. And, I don’t know ‘Kolt’; but

I’m thinking we’re in for quite a shock. Oh well!


Katharine Hepburn once said: Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only

with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.”  


Fred Parry                                      2011                            

Sep 052011

For decades, acknowledged as one of the greatest electric guitarist ever, is the legendary American blues guitarist and singer-songwriter B.B. King – winner of everything the music industry and governments can bestow on an artist – including 15 Grammy Awards, the American Presidential Medal of Freedom … and my youngest daughter’s enduring adulation.

Now this legend had come to town and was soon to be on stage, with me anxiously sitting in the audience. But, this was no ordinary outing for me … having had a ‘family’ connection to the event. In fact, I was on a mission that had started earlier in the day.

“Do you think he would?” The incredulous look on my daughter’s face was filled with expectations mixed with apprehension. With an optimism conditioned by experience, I said, “Well there’s only one way to find out”.

I happen to know the nightclub owner, Ben, through work and enjoyed a good business relationship. I was pretty sure he’d be at least 50/50 in favour of my idea of getting her guitar signed … but as for BB himself…?

My daughter and I quickly turn off the highway at New Hamburg to buy a permanent marking pen for Mr. King to sign. (Remember, we’re going for broke on this project!) Coming home we get the guitar; and as a last minute bit of inspiration, I suggest that she write a personal note to him – which she does – sealing it in an envelope.

I explain all this to the owner who seems so-so about this, but he calls in his manager who, after hearing the story, just rolls her eyes. 


“There’s no way!” she said, as she explains that during the show he might throw out some souvenir guitar picks or after the show, autograph some official photos; but as to actually placing his signature on someone’s guitar …?

Her voice trailed off; but I knew she was probably right. It just seemed too commercially crass, even if I knew our intentions were honourable. And because of that, I pressed on explaining who was asking – a young girl with a dream.

“Well, all we can do is to try.” I offer – to which the owner nodded to the manager, who patiently secures the guitar and leaves.

Later, as I was nursing a drink in the club, I asked myself what was I thinking?  “50/50?” It now seemed like a one-in-a-million long shot!

Suddenly, my concentration was broken as the opening rhythm and blues ensemble had finished and the B.B. King orchestra started playing.  Then it happened! From somewhere off the stage … a soul-bending, guitar wailing sigh, the likes of which I’ve never heard before. As I scanned the stage, I can see that Mr. King has walked from the wings to centre stage. Was this what people must have experienced when they first heard Jimi Hendrix’s play? From his first reverent bow to his stellar musicians, the audience was never released from a magical spell all night long.

The next day, the manager explained when she tentatively presented it to him back stage after the show; he just raised his eyebrows and looked dubiously at her and the guitar. Reading his mind, she suggested that it was from a young fan and that maybe he could read her letter. He did. Asking for the specially supplied pen, he reflectively signed it … never saying a word.


To Brooke,

Best Wishes,

B.B. King


I asked my daughter what she had written in the letter; she could only recall that, in addition to telling him how much she admired his music, her only other wish was to be old enough to attend one of his concerts when he returns.

Slipping the letter into his shirt pocket, he patted it down as if he had found something of immeasurable value – and himself, being a father, indeed he had.  For me that night, the music only played in the background to the real magic between B.B. & B. – two very special people, who hit the right note with me.

Fred Parry

Fred Parry   2011