Jan 202017

A number of us were talking about how it is when people only think  of themselves. The examples given were derivations of a basic truth: everything hidden eventually comes to light.

“The way I see it, he said
You just can’t win it
Everybody’s in it for their own gain”

– Free Man in Paris by Joni Mitchell

Now, don’t get me wrong, we’ve all fallen short of the angels; it’s just that some people never progress beyond thinking only of their own needs. Have you ever had someone, who you haven’t talk to since the last time they wanted a favour, contact you? Their motives quickly become transparent.

Or, the reverse is also true. It’s called, ‘I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine.’ There’s always something expected in return –  the keeping of a protracted scorecard – instead of giving from a generous heart.

I was a free man in Paris
I felt unfettered and alive
There was nobody calling me up for favors                                                                                                                                                 
And no one’s future to decide”

What about borrowing money? My dad had a sure way to figure someone’s true worth. When he was asked to loan out money – he’d do it – with a verbal payback date. So, when the agreed time came (and went) with no offer to repay, or ask for a loan extension, etc., my dad never asked for his money back. Why? He figured he got off cheap just knowing the kind of person he was dealing with… not the same as offering to financially help someone, which he often did.

Another life lesson discussed was mutual respect (or lack of it) that people extend to one another. For example, are they the kind who constantly criticize, condemn and complain? Whereas, informed criticism can be constructive, pointing an uninformed finger of blame leaves you with four fingers pointing right back at you.

 “Who on earth d’you think you are
A super star?
Well, right you are!”

– Instant Karma (We All Shine On) by John Lennon

When young, I didn’t have the discipline to stop and listen, so I’d jump to conclusions – something I wouldn’t want done to me. Where’s the acceptance? Where’s the understanding? So, does any situation give us permission to show less humanity? What type of a society would we have if we routinely made others feel less than they are by not having faith in who they can be?

American President, Theodore Roosevelt, had something to say about intolerance, distrust and fear:  dare to see more good than bad in others.

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better…

The credit belongs to the man who’s actually in the arena… strives valiantly, who errs… comes up short…

Who at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement.

Who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Fred Parry
Music In Me
January, 2017









Dec 252016

They say that “nice” guys, (kind, reliable) finish last; whereas bad guys (selfish, aggressive) finish first. But many psych-experts will tell you – and here’s the really big news – there’s as many good people who get to the top as there are bad people.

The typical belief states that all it takes is hard work to be successful, but how many of us know people who got ahead by being in the right place at the right time? Studies suggest plain luck plays the main part. 

According to ‘Psychology Today’- reviewing, The Luck Factor, a ten-year, empirical-based book by psychologist Richard Wiseman, “We are more like pinballs bouncing around  a machine than captains at the wheel.” Also, “Serendipity smiles upon people who have a more relaxed approach to life. They’ve clarified their long-term goals, but don’t worry too much about the details.”

“It’s not true that nice guys finish last. Nice guys are winners before the game even starts.”Mort Walker, syndicated cartoonist

If it weren’t for “nice” people throughout my life, I would have been forever lost – in so many small and big ways. These people help others in need… before being asked.

“If you get lonely, all you really need is that rainy day love/
Rainy day people all know there’s no sorrow
They can’t rise above” – Rainy Day People by Gordon Lightfoot

Why do they do it? It seems like a sure way to be taken advantage of… like wearing a target on your back. But they don’t see the old “golden rule” as a burden in life, but as a reason for it.

Driving to a car show last summer, my vintage car got a flat tire in front of a rundown hotel. Turns out, my old hydraulic jack couldn’t raise the car high enough to install the spare. One of the hotel patrons came over to me offering to help. And, as if reading my mind, he assured  me that he wasn’t doing it for money. He improvised, with the aid of some carefully placed wooden blocks and between the two of us, it worked.

We had a “man” hug to celebrate our achievement as his wife looked on with indifference. Well, that’s not quite true. She was all for him giving up what she considered to be a dangerous situation, but he wouldn’t see me stuck. I said to her afterwards that she knew she’s hooked up to quite a guy, right? She just smiled and said, “Yeah, I know.”

“People think being alone makes you lonely, but I don’t think that’s true. Being surrounded by the wrong people is the loneliest thing in the world.”- Author, Kim Culbertson

Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends…                                                                                                                                                                                                           Let the cowboys ride, They’ll be ridin’ against the wind
– Against the Wind by Bob Seger

The thing is… everybody thinks they’re a “nice” person. But that still, quite voice within us knows if we’re acting from our heart or not.  The question is: are we listening?

Music in Me The Music In Me July, 2016

Music In Me FredParry.ca
December, 2016








Nov 302016

My family was celebrating my birthday at a fancy, French restaurant. In the corner, was a pianist – an elderly gent – dressed in a tuxedo and weaving his way, non-stop, through a varied selection of show tunes and contemporary classics.

Afterwards, he joined us at our table, where we marvelled at his mastery of music. He told us many people have said that they would give anything to play as he does. He tells them,“You wouldn’t give up six hours a day, practicing for 40 years, to play like me.” And, if you appreciate anything resembling a balanced lifestyle, he’s probably right.

“I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you”  –– Hallelujah by Leonard Cohn

I often think of that pianist when I’m feeling that my accomplishments aren’t moving along as fast as I would like… everything takes time and comes at a cost. So, one must decide if it’s all worth it.

 I owe music a lot. Its melodies and words of wisdom have soothed my restless spirit, gladdened my heart, and made my world happier.

Music was with me as my world changed… where there once was one, there became two; where there once was two, there was an expanding family. My life is happily not my own. The lessons I’ve learned and love I’ve shared can never be duplicated… not even by music. As my youngest daughter discovered, after co-launching a successful Toronto-oriented band, talent was one thing, but the always self-serving music ‘biz’ sucked away her happiness.

“If you gotta play garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck
But if memories were all I sang, I rather drive a  truck…
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well,
See, ya can’t please everyone, so you gotta to please yourself”

–– Garden Party by Ricky Nelson

Now, well past middle-age, I can honestly say – compared to what I could have done – I’ve surely failed as a husband, a father, and friend. I’ve carried out many successes in my life; yet, at what cost to my family?It’s been all about me taking their love for granted… not six hours a day…  but 24/7. My next book?Life for Dummies

If only I could claim to have returned even a tiny fraction of the love given to me.

“And there’s so much time to make up everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way” ––
Wasted On The Way by Crosby, Stills & Nash

As soon as I start hoping to be forgiven for all the time I’ve squandered, I realize forgiveness has come a long time ago.You see, life-sustaining love is often given even when it’s not deserved. So, next time people make you feel down – realize how far you’ve come. Is it further than yesterday? Then you’re a winner already!

If we fall short of lofty expectations, we can celebrate with Leonard Cohen:

“I did my best, it wasn’t much…
And even
though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”

Life’s too short!

Music in Me The Music In Me July, 2016

Music in Me  FredParry.ca
November, 2016





Oct 182016

By now, most people know that Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel prize for literature.The literary world was rocked – first time ever for an artist mainly known as a musician to win. One critic sarcastically offered that Keith Richards should get the Nobel prize for chemistry.

Explaining its rational for choosing Dylan for this honour, spokesperson Sara Danius stated it was, “… for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” She compared his accomplishments to that of Homer and Sappho, whose works were  also delivered orally… “and certainly from Milton and Blake onward”, she said. 

It makes sense. Wikipedia tells us Milton’s poetry and prose reflected his deep personal convictions, a passion for freedom and self-determination towards the urgent and political issues of his day… can easily be similarly regarded. Bob Dylan himself said, “It’s not easy to define poetry.” He’s also been influential to other poets like Leonard Cohn – to whom he said was the best, right after him. Cohn and Dylan both use music to more effectively communicate their works – not that it’s easy.  As John Lennon explained, “It’s like sending a postcard; you’ve not much room to say a lot.” And, Cohn said, “If I knew where the hits came from, I’d go there more often.”

My first introduction to Dylan was in an English classroom. Up to that point, I’ve only ever listened to the music – with the lyrics a poor second choice. I didn’t understand how, but he opened a whole new perspective for me, so that as the Beatles evolved, I was ready for the possibilities.

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”  – Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan

Journalist, Bill Wyman, in support of Dylan, said, “His lyricism is exquisite; his concerns and subjects are demonstrably timeless; and few poets of any era have seen their work bear more influence.

Salman Rushdie tweeted “From Fran Orpheus to Faiz, songs and poetry have been closely linked. Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Great choice.

Finally, I feel I can add my own two cents worth to the conversation. 

My ‘Music in Me’ column, blog and book were created out of a need for self-expression. So, I’m lucky to be living at a time when there are so many ways to get your words out. Which is good, because, as Dylan has said, “I’d go crazy if I couldn’t write.”

When asked if the committee was broadening the definition of literature, Darious said, “Perhaps, the times they are a-changing.” But, as The New York Times succinctly put it, “He finally got the prize because he re-arranged the way we all think.” 

One thing for certain… at 75, Dylan will acknowledge this latest award in the same skeptical way. As he’s said before: “Having these colossal accolades and titles, they get in the way.”

Music in Me The Music In Me July, 2016

Music In Me FredParry.ca                
October, 2016








Sep 282016

Looking at the dealership invoice, I knew I had a hard decision to make: should I ignore the fact that I hadn’t been charged $300 for parts on work just done on my car? At first, I said nothing… the equivalent of “take the money and run”. Like the TV commercial, where a woman runs out of the store – her arms full of purchases – thinking she was the lucky recipient of a clerical error.The TV announcer,however, saying that the store’s prices are so low, it only seems like, well… a steal.

For some reason, as I slowly agonized over my decision, my mind transported me back to the famous ‘Lunch-atop-a-skysrcaper-c1932’photo: a New York skyscraper under construction with eleven iron-workers casually sitting, enjoying lunch, while balanced on a steel crossbeam – suspended 69 stories above the ground – Manhattan spread out beneath their dangling boots.

All, except for one Mohawk from Kahnawake, Quebec, were immigrants… like my Irish grandfather, ‘Pip’. His no “bull” attitude was typical of these men: saying to a local newspaper interviewer, at age 86, just after passing his engineering exams, “The only thing that would kill me is a 40-hour work-week.”

And, retirement? Forget it! Not for this tough, straight-shooting dude.

No longer with us, Pip’s testament to honesty and hard work lives on. I can easily surmise what he’d have thought of my hesitation to do what had to be done… not much!

So, after explaining to the service rep the billing discrepancy, she checked the work order and thanked me for being so “trustworthy”. The problem was, after dithering for what seemed like hours, I didn’t feel that way. Why did it take me so long to do the right thing? What if my car had been ready a bit sooner and so had missed my chance to set things right?

The determining factor for me was that I didn’t want to see anyone get in trouble. How would I’ve felt if any of these (not-so-highly-paid) workers had been let go by some unforgiving owner/manager? No amount of dollars so gained would have ever eased my conscience.

About to drive away, a staff member presented me with a gift: a smart-looking corporate key chain made of stainless steel and leather. I’ll always value it… not for something I did right; but, as a reminder to react, sooner than later, next time.

“They can change their minds but they can’t change me
I’ve got a dream… And I’m gonna go there free”
I’ve Got a Name by Jim Croce

Tough times made for tough men… and women. Living with honesty and integrity is, and has always been, our real job. I can’t tell you how to do it. But somehow that old photo of those men high in the New York city air makes me remember…  somethings are stronger than steel.

Music in Me The Music In Me July, 2016

Fred Parry                  Music in Me
September, 2016





29 Sep 1932 --- Construction workers eat their lunches atop a steel beam 800 feet above ground, at the building site of the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use

29 Sep 1932 — Construction workers eat their lunches atop a steel beam 800 feet above ground, at the building site of the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use