Sep 182015
 

“There are places I remember, All my life, though some have changed”                                – In My Life by The Beatles

As I write this, I’m also looking at two old photographs that fell from a book I was reading. Reflecting back, I’m reminded how connected, yet fleeting, life is.

The black and white photo shows a young ‘grade-eighter’ (me) posing for a photo in my, over-sized, new graduation suit.

“A white sport coat and a pink carnation
I’m all dressed up for the dance.” –
A White Sport Coat
by Marty Robbins

Standing behind me is a smiling neighbour, Mrs. Harris, who treated me just like another son since I hung around her house, playing with her three boys, so much. 

In my photo, there’s an old VW “Beetle” parked in the background. I remembered my wife’s parents drove them for years. It made me remember that my wife’s mother had given birth to her during the same time Mrs. Harris gave birth to her son, Ronnie. He became my best friend until I initiated a cruel falling out… never to see his family again.

Years later, I get a call from my mother-in-law saying a funeral service for Ronnie was being held that week. I knew I had to go.

As I, apprehensively, walked into the funeral home, Mrs. Harris saw me and immediately rushed over to embrace me – like the return of the ‘prodigal son’ – even as she was saying goodbye to another. So much love lost. Was it worth it? Is it ever worth it?

The second (colour) photo, is of my wife-to-be; just 16 and looking like a model in both demeanor and attire.

Last year, seemingly unrelated, a former band mate and I decided to reunite our old ‘60’s rock group. Of our original four members, bassist Zeke, had unfortunately died, but we felt the drummer, Robert, was still around. Eventually, we found an excellent, temporary, drummer, Sandy (via a mutual friend, Bob) to do a successful “reunion” gig at Pete & Jan’s London’s Music Club.

Turns out, Sandy’s wife (Gayle) happened to know Robert’s sister (Carol) who arranged for him to rejoin us. What are the odds?

Since then, the band, including the wives, have all become close friends; prompting Robert to show us consecutive old school yearbooks… proving that, although we didn’t know each other then, we mostly attended the same secondary school.

I laughed when I saw myself posing, sax in hand, with the school’s dance band… something I hardly remember. My wife’s yearbook photos… what can I say – “crazy”, “lovely”, “crazy in love”… still!

“But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you”
– In My Life
by The Beatles

My father used to say that a person would be lucky to count the number of close friends on one hand. Today, in a world where online “friends” are counted in the 100’s and 1000’s, I can hold up two hands and count myself lucky… lucky in love!

Aug 252015
 

“Don’t rock the jukebox, I wanna hear George Jones                                                  ‘Cause my heart ain’t ready for The Rolling Stones”                                                             – Don’t Rock the Jukebox by Alan Jackson

George Jones could sing the phone directory and still bring a tear to your eye.

But, his much publicized problems with concert ‘no-shows’ due to drunkenness, drugs and poor judgement, along with three divorces, was like constantly being dealt great poker hands only to discard them later. To say the man had hard times – from his own doing or otherwise – is sadly true, but was amazingly matched by his good times… as with his massive comeback hit: ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’

“I went to see him just today                                                                                                   Oh, but I didn’t see no tears.
All dressed up to go away
First time I’d seen him smile in years.”

Released in 1980, it has been repeatedly voted as being the greatest country song of all time – along with ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ by Hank Williams and ‘Crazy’ by Patsy Cline.

Jones – who Frank Sinatra called, ‘the second best singer in America’ – said, “A four-decade career had been salvaged by a three-minute song.”

My youngest daughter and I saw him in concert and – even in his mid 70s – his wide-ranging baritone voice never let him down. Then, with his wife of over 25 years in attendance, he announced that he’d been sober for ten years – to thunderous applause from the audience… knowing it couldn’t have been easy for him. They didn’t just support him because of his stylistic voice; nor, because, of his many hits over the years – the most successful country artist ever – they also knew that, inside, beat the heart of an honourable man.

Recently, I saw an auto repair sign stating, ‘We fix anything… except a broken heart.’ That’s what George did: fix broken hearts with his music – except, maybe, his own.

George Jones died in 2013 at 81, and the song, for me, that speaks to his humility was when he paid tribute to those early country and rockabilly superstars – like Elvis – by asking the musical question: Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?

“You know this old world is full of singers
But just a few are chosen…
Who’s gonna give their heart and soul
To get to me and you… who’s gonna fill their shoes?”

As he told Billboard in 2006, “It’s never been for love of money. I thank God for it because it makes me a living. But I sing because I love it, not because of the dollar signs.” And, near the end – reflecting back on his lifelong battle with the bottle – he said he thought he knew all about life with the choices he made. The ‘cold hard truth’ being it was no life at all… but that since those times, he’d been happy.

For me, that type of admission – his genuine selflessness – is also what drew people to him… was something you could feel in his songs. As Keith Richards said, “You heard his heart in every note he sang.”

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca                The Music In Me
Aug 2015

Jul 092015
 

Rolling Stones’, Matt Taibbi, described the 2008 financial greed at Goldman Sachs as, “…a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

The 1987 movie, Wall Street, coined the classic line, “Greed is good!” And, the sequel (post 2008), has the main character observing to an eager audience, “… and apparently, now it’s legal.”

This year, a similar lecture, as if we’ve gotten mass amnesia, was given to University of Waterloo students by Kevin O’Leary – who Reader’s Digest magazine called, “…the media darling of cutthroat entrepreneurism.”

“There’s talk on the street; it sounds so familiar
Great expectations, everybody’s watching you” –
New Kid in Town by the Eagles

In his speech, he said that, “… the first job of business is to create wealth for the shareholders… the DNA of business is not to solve society’s problems.”

However, current figures show that businesses, give more than $1 billion to the United Way throughout North America (20% of its target). But, these contributions negatively affect the ‘wealth for the shareholders’, so why do they do it? Maybe, it’s because it’s never a wrong thing… to do the right thing.

Still, Mr. O’Leary loves to quote from ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu: a key point states, “All warfare’s based on deception.” So, he tells his audience, “Business is war” – an apparent nod to “Greed is good” – as if selfish ambition hasn’t shown itself to cause every kind of personal and worldly disorder.

“With every mistake, we must surely be learning” – While My Guitar Gently Weeps by George Harrison

He added,“Your job will be to go out and salt the earth that your competitor walks on, destroy their market share and pour boiling oil over them.”

Are we expected to buy into this adversarial business life philosophy? It’s a mind-set based on a ‘win-lose’ outcome; but, a ‘win-win’ attitude creates results based on mutual abundance. However, I wonder who’s the “winner” or “loser” if those students, who see him as a role model, can’t differentiate the hype from the substance.

“Too many people preaching practices
Don’t let ’em tell you what you wanna be”–
Too Many People
by Paul McCartney

In January 2014, Yahoo News reported that Kevin O’Leary thinks that the global wealth gap is ‘fantastic news’. “…it inspires everybody … to look up to the one percent and say … I’m going to fight hard to get up to the top.”

“There’s room at the top they’re telling you still/ But first you must learn how to smile as you kill/ If you want to be like the folks on the hill” – Working Class Hero by John Lennon 

“All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate…I choose love.” – Johnny Cash

So, if it’s true your treasure is also where your heart is, then that’s something you don’t want being ‘lose-lose’.

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca                  The Music In Me
July 2015

 

Jun 192015
 

B.B. King passed away May 15, 2015 and although his many admirers will missed him, his passing will be particularly felt by me and my daughter. Looking back to 1995, when this story takes place, she was so glad that I had gifted her, and her husband, two tickets to finally see him October 12, 2013 at Kitchener’s Centre in the Square – less than two years before his death. I just couldn’t live with her never having seen her hero. And, it shows me that his legacy remains: that love never dies… despite how inevitable death is.

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

Now, he was performing here, at the iconic Lulu’s nightclub!

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

We quickly turn off the highway at New Hamburg to buy a permanent marking pen for Mr. King to sign. At home, we get her guitar and as a last-minute bit of inspiration, I suggest that she write a personal note to him – which she does – in a sealed envelope.

I explain all this to the club’s owner who seems so-so about it, but he calls in his manager who, after hearing the story, just rolls her eyes.“There’s no way!” 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 girl with a dream. “Well, all we can do is to try.” I offer – to which the club owner nodded to the manager, who patiently secures the guitar and leaves. 

Later that night, as the B.B. King orchestra starts playing, it happened! Coming from somewhere is a soul-bending sighing guitar sound, like I’ve never heard before, as Mr. King, walking out to centre stage, gives his first reverent bow to his stellar musicians – the audience never being released from his magical spell all night long.

The next day, the manager explained, when she tentatively presented it to him backstage after the show, he just raised his eyebrows and looked dubiously at her and Brooke’s guitar. Reading his mind, she suggested that it was from a young fan and that maybe he could read her letter. He did. Then, without saying anything, he reflectively signed:                               To Brooke, Best Wishes, B.B. King 3-31-95

bb king - Copy (2)

Later, asking my daughter what she had written, she could only recall that, as well as 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, as only a father would know: the music just playing background to the real magic between B.B. & B. – two special people who always will hit the right note with me.

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca The Music In Me June 2015

May 122015
 

“I drew a picture of a pair of wings, because I want to fly                                                   My mother asked me to explain, I said that I would try… the art of really flying was dying”             – Dream #2 by Ken Tobias

Once upon a time, I knew a boy whose parents fell out of love and stopped living together at his home. It was very sad for the boy, because where once there had been joy, now there was only loneliness in his heart.

“She said it was the strangest thing that she had ever heard,                                                                     A man can only be a man, he cannot be a bird”

To make things worse, both his mom’s and dad’s family stop talking to one another. They took sides – let’s call one side the black side and the other one the white side – just like choosing sides for basketball. Whenever the boy was with the white side, they would tell him how bad the black side was – the same thing happened when he was with the black side. It wasn’t so much that one side hated the other… it’s just that they loved their own side better.

This made him feel even more unhappy, because he really didn’t want to ‘side’ with anyone.

“That’s not really true, I tried to tell her                                                                                   If the search for love is true, you’ll find an answer”

However, the boy grew up listening to one side more than the other. The white side seemed to have convinced him that the black side hurt him even more than he knew. So, he reacted in the same way – loving the one side and not the other.

You might say that he began to see things in black and white.

Later, as a young man, he met a sympathetic friend who couldn’t grasp why he no longer loved the black side. He said he didn’t know for sure any more, only that the black side was, well… black. His friend still didn’t understand, but asked if he understood that the black side probably suffered more, by not having his love?

He knew in his heart his friend was right.

“Father can’t you hear me? I bid you take my hand                                                       Dying’s a part of living, I know you’ll understand”

Why had he been forced to choose sides? When did the sides become “black and white?” He felt angry at both sides because he felt that “adults” should know better. He now understood that there were three sides to the story: the white side, the black side… and the truth.

“… he said it cannot be.                                                                                                          He said I’m living in a world of fantasy,                                                                            How can I tell him, this, is my reality?”

So, the son did a brave thing… what no grown-up had done before: expressed forgiveness and love to both sides. And, he never had to choose sides again; everyone was on the same side.

“I drew a picture of a pair of wings, because I want to fly”

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca      The Music In Me        May 2015