Nov 132011

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!) In the end, it was a great example of the power of music to bring us all together.


They say music is the universal language and so my Mom bought him a toy guitar – which he loves to use – especially when watching music performed on TV.  To engage his passion and have fun too, my wife and I took him to Castle Kilbride’s outdoor Summer Concert Series in Baden. The classic rock band definitely 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, clutching his tiny guitar, in a way that made our little toddler beam with joy – music bridging the generations.


And, this past summer, Kolton and I had been splashing around in a Hot Tub – ‘practicing’ for his group swimming lessons, which we started this Fall. After the hot tub, the cold reality of a large public pool was quite a shock for both of us. Fortunately, the encouraging smile, fun songs and water games provided by our swim instructor, Mary Kaye, kept Kolton’s resolve afloat.


I can’t tell you who’s getting the most out of these musical-related arrangements, Kolton or me; but to echo the closing line from the movie Casablanca,” I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”


And yet, who knows what he’ll remember of our time together, many years from now?


 As a young boy, I was enrolled in piano lessons given by a wonderful elderly lady, Mrs. Kirkwood, who was very patient and encouraging. As she made her tea in the kitchen of her grand Victorian home, I sat down at the piano, opened my music book (probably for the first time that week) and struggled through yet another strange tune. I didn’t know what I was playing; but it sure wasn’t ‘For Eloise’. 


Almost immediately, I hear her voice wafting through the corridors, “I don’t think ‘we’ practiced much this week, Freddie?”  Yikes, eight years old and busted again. Talk about ‘learning how to swim’, I surely lacked focus.


She made me realize, though, that I had a God-given talent (Where else would it come from?); and that she was on a buried treasure hunt. Wow, I had talent? ‘Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news’!


Her gift of caring ultimately gave me something of immeasurable worth. During times of celebration and times when I felt I had nothing, I always had my music. In fact, I’ve had a lifetime of precious musical moments – thanks to someone who cared. That’s why I believe there’s a reason and a season why people come into our lives – equally important – why we come into theirs.


“Everything I know … I know only because of love.”    

                                                                  – Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace“


My wish for Kolton is for him to always encounter that special kind of teacher … that special kind of person, really, who’s excited about what he can do … filling his cup to overflowing. Music and love will find a way.  

Hey Eloise, this one’s for you!



Fred Parry                                                                                        2011

Nov 052011

A word about Andy Rooney, (of ’60 Minutes’ TV fame) who recently past away at 92.

“A writer’s job is to tell the truth.” (Andy Rooney) 

He said he had a knack for putting down on paper, what most people would have wanted to say. And, for the most part, he did. Not many of us can do that so well.

As a writer, I valued his advice; and tried to act on his suggestions.  I believe it made me a better writer. And, the truth of the matter is, I just loved the guy.

So long Andy … ‘thanks for the memories’!

Fred Parry                                                                 

Nov 032011

Hi all … and please consider this memo a Twitter-like message. (Actually, I did register a Twitter name; but it was close in make up to someone else of the same name, I thought it would become too confusing for readers of this blog.) Besides I can get in more characters this way!

Firstly, I wanted to say is that I’m finally getting out from under a lot of unrelated stuff; and, in fact, setting it up so that I can more freely write.

Secondly, you may have noticed that I wrote (what I thought was) some timely political articles – a first for me; and I noticed a couple of things:

a)    The number of hits went down (I must have touched a nerve with some. And

b)   More people than ever have signed up for the RSS feed (to be automatically sent new postings).                                                                            

So now, I’m in a bit of a dilemma … do I carry on and disappoint some who might be expecting more of the same? Or, do I revert back to the type of writing I have always done.

I guess the answer that seems to be coming to me is … both.

Now, that I think about it, I’ve always been spurred on by a sense of justice between us as individuals; and I guess, by extension, groups of people everywhere.

Maybe, I’m not the one to comment on such divisive issues like the ‘Occupy’ Wall Street-type movements. (There are other more informed writers out there).Yet,  I must admit, when I see someone like Joan Baez coming up with new lyrics for a old protest song (or as she calls it … a “making a point” song); it sure strikes a chord with me.

Someone’s Starving Lord, come by here / Someone’s freezing Lord, come by here / Someone’s dying Lord, come by here / Oh Lord, come by here.’

(Sung to the tune ‘Kumbaya’)

Oct 122011

It seems clear that some people don’t understand the Wall Street protests that are going on now in New York City … and indeed, with similar protests in cities across America and around the world. They seem to share some of the same hallmarks: the rich getting rich and the poor getting poorer. Of course, to the financially well-heeled, it seems as perplexing as ever. As they look out their smoked glassed condos or downtown office suites they say, “What recession? If it were all that serious, wouldn’t they’d be marching people off to jail for causing this economic mess in the first place?”


In America, most people understood that the financial bailout of the banks and investment firms, and the rescue of the auto companies, were all to avoid a total economic collapse. But now those same banks, Wall Street firms and (in general) Corporate America are thriving.  As executive bonuses continue to rise, their collective response to tax payers seems to be, “Let them eat cake.”


And talking about leadership: what is the government, the congress, the senate, or either political party doing – other than not talking to each other? One thing for sure, with a Presidential election looming next year, these same politicians will be pulling everyone’s patriotic heartstrings just to get elected… and then what?


If there is one thing for certain about this grassroots protest, it is that politicians and business would do well to understand that it’s not going away. No one knows what direction or shape it will take next; it’s standing up for American values against injustice– anyone in the world can relate to it. Even as the protests’ physical presence drifts away – as it must with winter snows soon to set in– their point has been made.


Just like a Hollywood movie before the screen fades to black and the musical scores rises up, the familiar words of that old Broadway tune is playing again in everyone’s heart:


If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere … it’s up to you New York, New York!

Fred Parry

Fred Parry

             Fred Parry                                                     2011




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: