Mar 212012

When my Dad passed away, he left a collection of old records – mainly from the ‘big band’ era of the ‘30s and ‘40s including: Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Fats’ Waller, Duke Ellington and, of course, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.

Plus, those great vocalists, including: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Patti Page and Dinah Shore – along with vocal groups like the Ink Spots and the Andrew Sisters.

They left a legacy … respect … towering talent … a state of mind that reached out for the new, that others would later build on – links in a chain handed down from generation to generation.

“America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music”. Glenn Miller

Yet, looking at those old ’78’ records, I knew that there was a great story behind every one of these artists. If we consider them pioneers; who did they see as pioneers? Like Isaac Newton’s famous quote … did they see themselves as ‘standing on the shoulders of (musical) giants’? And, what compelled them to play and develop their signature style of music?

When our weekly group plays down at EJ’s in Baden, people come up all the time with requests from the ‘50s / ‘60s … current stuff … rock, country and various genres

I asked our ‘Almost Every Thursday Night’ band (whose members have drifted in and out over the past 6 years) to give their own short assessment as to why they play – including Matt, EJ’s proprietor, who says he’s always enjoyed live music and he knows many of his patrons who walk through his doors love that hometown sound.

‘I’ll tell you about the magic, and it’ll free your soul /
But it’s like trying to tell a stranger ’bout rock and roll.’

Lyrics, ‘Do you believe in Magic?’

So, to paraphrase band members – in alphabetical order:

Larry: ‘It’s when singing or playing, you get to share what’s in your heart – what they see is me.’

Mac: ‘It’s about maintaining a connection with the audience and my commitment to that connection is critical … beyond a common social interaction.’

Morris: ‘The challenge of learning new songs, more or less on the spot, keeps it interesting and fresh.’

Paul: ‘It’s a part of life … old days and good remembrances … the love of beautiful instruments.’

Richard: ‘It’s about reminding yourself that the worst thing that can happen is that you break a guitar string or something; but for most of the world, it’s life or death every day. It’s the freedom to express who you are.’

Terry: As a seasoned professional with 50 years experience, ‘he says he loves music and simply likes to share with others’.

Will:In his 20’s and easily the youngest of the group, this virtuoso says that ‘he grew up with the classic rock tunes played by his parents and distains commercial radio today. He says that it’s not often one has the opportunity in life to communicate to others without saying a word.’

So, because I had grown up with them; I agonized over what to do with my dad’s record collection. I was certainly appreciative the music’s quality; but not the scratched, and sometimes cracked condition, of his records. I think he loved the mere physical presence of them, as a tangible reminder of his youth. And I love them because they reminded me of him.

Eventually, though, I decided to trade them for some ‘greatest hits’ from my own generation.

What made that decision easier was the realization that my Dad was a practical man and I’m sure he would have agreed with getting what I wanted. Ironically, because of ‘iTunes’, I’ve also have access to all the great classics of my father’s era. And, because of my dad, I know exactly what to look for.

Music has been described as having the power to supply happiness and freedom to those who make it and those who listen to it. Today, because of music’s magic, my dad and I live on … links in a generational chain … wondering who’s next?

Fred Parry                         (2012)

Feb 172012

“In the town where I was born

Lived a man who sailed to sea,
And he told us of his life,

In the land of submarines.”

— Yellow Submarine by The Beatles


I used to listen to tales of the high seas – actually Canada’s own Great Lakes – from sailors in my own family. These vast bodies of waters are more than capable of turning “the minuets into hours,” as Gordon Lightfoot’s song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, so aptly puts it.


I was first acquainted with this vastness as a small boy when some uncles and cousins took me out on their commercial fishing tug. As it was still early, (for me at least), I was still asleep and didn’t wake up until daylight – only to discover that there was no land in sight! I couldn’t believe that there was this other side of life – up to then unbeknownst to myself – that was now all around me. At first I was frightened, but as I began to rub my eyes and wake up, I was re-assured to see my relatives all around me, industriously working their fishing nets.


They had a good laugh at me stumbling all around the swaying deck!


I managed to get to my uncle Norm, who was busy separating unwanted fish from the netting as the boat’s machinery slowly wound in the trawling nets. Suddenly, I jumped back.  It was coming right for me! — A massive snake-like lamprey eel, writhing with twists and turns, its sucker-shaped mouth full of razor-sharp teeth! Just then, my Uncle hooked it free and slit it apart with a razor sharp knife … all before I could catch my next breath!


He then looked at my shocked expression and teasingly said, “I guess that’s one delicacy you won’t want for supper tonight, eh Freddie?”


Such was the beginning of my pre-school education. To me this world was fascinating and I was only on page one of the first chapter of my life! As I looked around the deck, I realized that these men held the keys to learning so much more.


The best of times were when they used to regale others with their tales of life on the open waters. From this I learned that, as hard as life can be at times, it always had its lighter side.


Like the time, just after a storm, they were out trawling their nets and came across a guy in a life jacket, bobbing up and down, miles from shore. As they gingerly manoeuvred the tug alongside, my uncle Earl hollered down to him, “Where’d you come from?”


“Toledo” spluttered the man. “… boat capsized and sank!”


“Oh, where you headed?” Earl asked.


“Erieau!” was the exasperated reply.


“Erieau?” replied my uncle as he looked up to scan the far away northwest horizon and the thin smoky blue outline of land. Stroking his chin and nodding in agreement, he finally glanced down to the hapless man, still floating around in the rolling waters. “Well, keep going”, he yelled out cheerfully, “you’re heading in the right direction!”


I still smile as I recount that story … wondering if the poor man thought they would ever pull him out (which they did, of course), but not before they had a good yarn to spin.


So, this is how I learned my many life lessons which, in later life, enabled me to appreciate the art of really living. These men faced a hard physical and unpredictable existence; yet they wouldn’t have changed it for anything. They took pride in the work they did, and their life became a metaphor for free-will and independence. While my Grandfather was in his late 80s, he passed an Engineering exam. A newspaper reporter interviewed him and asked, “When are you going to retire?”


‘Pip’, as he was affectionately called, had been a farmer, a fisherman, a railroad engineer and a coal stoker. He said, “Why should I retire? My health is good and I enjoy what I’m doing. The only thing that would kill me is a forty hour week!”


So maybe, ‘life is but a dream’, like the popular children’s song, when you “row, row your boat gently down the stream,” – whereby troubles are seen, not for what they seem, but for what they truly are.


Fred Parry

Fred Parry /

Jan 162012

Looking back, I spent most of my adult life working with one organization. And I was fortunate: both for being part of a ‘can do’ work culture, and by being surrounded by very talented people.

That was one reality. Now that I’m on my own: I realize that it was also like living inside a bubble – both of my making and of others. Like being part of a big family, the expectations of yourself and others were pretty well defined over time – your potential and your talent. Things you can do, the things you can’t … the whole known world, as it were, was known about you. Intuitively, of course, you knew there was more.


“Why in the world would anybody want to put chains on me?

I paid my dues to make it.”   

— Easy by Lionel Richie


No matter if you react against or accept this reality; you still have to deal with the consequences.


“Everybody wants me to be what they want me to be,

I’m not happy when I try to fake it.”


But now anything is possible. I feel I can survive just being me. I’ve hopefully matured over the years, and I’ve had time to reflect, and I can better appreciate the feelings of others. It’s like a rebirth. Being free is a gift I give thanks for every day. Free to be yourself and free to help others along the way.


“That’s why I’m easy… easy like a Sunday morning.”


More importantly though, I realize that we can’t make it by ourselves. And that’s the real freedom – the realization of how much we are really loved.


It’s a new year … may your life reflect that to others.

Fred Parry

Fred Parry(

Dec 192011

When I first heard the lyrics to John Lennon’s hauntingly beautiful ‘Happy Christmas’ (War is Over) in 1972, it spoke to my heart in many ways and has since become a Christmas classic. Its message still resonates today.

‘And so this is Christmas, And what have you done?

Another year over, A new one just begun’

The question posed here (and for what follows) is not what ‘they’ have done; but what ‘we’ have done. It also suggests that it’s a question that matters year- long, not just at Christmas.

And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun

The near and the dear ones, The old and the young’

To me, this verse is about the love of family and friends. It’s a gift: one that’s so easily taken for granted.  Former teacher, Abigail Shearer, once said after 90 years of Christmases: “On Christmas Eve, as I sit and reminisce, my memories will not be of Christmas concerts and sleigh rides, but of warmth and companionship, of loving and being loved.

And so this is Christmas, For weak and for strong

For rich and the poor ones, The world’s so wrong

We’re all in this global boat together. ‘The rain falls on the just and the unjust’ – the high and low. And, most would admit that we’ve been abundantly blessed – call it grace, opportunity, timing, happenchance – and not just because we worked harder or somehow deserved more … lest we forget, or even brag.

And so this is Christmas, For black and for white

For yellow and red ones, Let’s stop all the fight

‘We Day’ annual rallies for the Canadian charity ‘Free The Children’ (locally sponsored by RIM), has reached over one million students, who are given the objective of taking one action – both locally and globally – so poor communities may never need charity again. By changing their perspective from ‘Me’ to ‘We’, North American and UK students have been involved in raising $10 million for 500 organizations plus two million community service hours, to help children break out of future poverty cycles – setting the example at home and abroad.

Bah! Humbug! Some say, that the scattering of these seeds of hope is wasteful because some recipients will take unfair advantage. And, we know what the lack of good and honest stewardship can do – even to the world economy. Yet, should we turn our backs on the worlds’ little ones … ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’? While there’s life, there’s hope!

A very merry Christmas, And a happy New Year

Let’s hope it’s good one, Without any fear

Here is where Lennon puts his finger on the pulse of life’s real issue; because the opposite of love is fear, not hate. When we’re fearful, we are anything but peaceful; but we can choose to change our responses.

War is over, If you want it

War is over, Now…

With less need in the world, maybe there would be more peace – as British primatologist Dame Jane Goodall notes, “… learning to live in peace with ourselves, between communities, between religions.

In ‘A Christmas Carol’, published in December 1843 (Dickens’s great social critique), his main character ‘Scrooge’, is shown a ragged and cowering poor boy and girl – representing ’Ignorance’ and ‘Want’, respectively. He is told to mostly beware of the boy; because he represents ‘future doom’ – unless there’s some kind of intervention.

As of December 2011, injustice, hunger, poverty and oppression still exists – including 2 billion people without safe drinking water daily, 250 million child labours and 300,000 child soldiers.

So, it seems we still need the ‘sympathizing heart’ of a Dickens. Without the hope of Christmas, or, whatever is the belief of your understanding, the future would be bleak, indeed.

Christians believe ‘… a little child shall lead them’. Lead them where? To ‘Joy’ and ‘Peace on Earth’ – for now, forever. And, although, it seems like we’re getting nowhere, in time our love will show.

Are we there, yet? You tell me.

And so, this is Christmas…

Fred Parry                                                       (2011)

Nov 192011


Just a short note to readers re: my planned activity for future posts.

Since September, I’ve had the opportunity to write a monthly newspaper column – ‘Music in Me’ – and as such, I submit it every 3rd week in the month. (I’ve been simultaneously releasing it to the blog.) It just means that you can expect a regular submission, at that time.

In addition, I plan to continue to write non-music related submissions exclusively to the blog – from time to time.

I’ve also been working on a short story format that will hopefully be released in the near future. Whereas, the normal blog post is approx 600 -700 words, this effort would be in the range of 1200 – 2000 words. (I hope I don’t scare any of you off!) It’s the normal way of things for a writer to branch out; and I’m quite excited about the possibilities of developing various themes, in more depth.

In any event, I wanted you to know that whatever the format, I will continue to put quality over quantity. My mentor, D.G., has assured me that as long as I continue to write my essays with honesty, and as much skill as I have, it will only get better the more I do it.

I believe that; and, if you’ve stayed with me this long, I trust you will appreciate the end product in new ways.


With much gratitude,

Fred Parry (from Canada, November 19, 2011)