Nov 262015
 

I was in the stores early this season, and I’m here to report that you should be ready: the Christmas decor from China has never looked better; or, been more expensive.

Despite November’s balmy weather, when you walk into any store you’ll find your senses are blitzed with everything Christmas. When I heard the Christmas ’50’s classic, ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’, my memories were immediately transported back in time… bringing a smile to my face. Yet, it’s as if 2015 is ancient history… time to move on to Christmas and beyond.

And, this year, it’s particularly poignant for us as we may be celebrating our last Christmas at our family farmhouse: time for others to make new memories.

Across the store, my wife is buying three silver candles and replenishing some other Christmas decorations we gave away. Still, our property has many evergreens whose boughs make for a wonderful Dickensian themed Christmas: it’ll be fine.

As I think about leaving a home, the tragedy of the massive migration to Europe of Syrians and others fleeing their war-ravaged countries haunts my mind and heart.

“They talk about a life of brotherly love, show me someone who knows how to live it”
Slow Train by Bob Dylan

The brain-searing image of an aid worker lifting up a little boy’s lifeless body – three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkey seashore – galvanized the whole world to action, especially Canadians, as the family had tried to reach relatives here. His five-year-old brother, Galip, and mother Rehan also died. Only the father, Abdullah Kurdi, survived when their overcrowded boat capsized. When asked, he proudly described his children as the most beautiful in the world, who would wake him up every morning to play with them.

“Oh, you’re changing your heart
Oh, You know who you are” 
1234 by Feist

This must be what Pope Francis meant when he said not to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of refugees, the oppressed poor, but to look into their faces: faces of people wanting only a better future for their children. Planting seeds of hope, not hate.

“O Siem, we are all family.
O Siem, we’re all the same.” 
O Siem by Susan Aglukark

And, if these deadlocked families, never relate to ‘Christmas’, the compassion of Canadians will be felt in their hearts, if Canada – along with the rest of the world – implements what the Pope calls a culture of caring… giving ‘peace on earth’ a chance.

Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If we need assurances, since Paris, our RCMP and security agency CSIS have given it – our rescue project is safe. If we turn our backs, thousands of desperate people face yet another long, cold winter living in tent cities… as Notre Dame bells ring out freedom.

I’m reminded of words I wrote in a poem called ‘Life As I Know It’:

“When you look at all the injustice, it`s like a bullet to the head / And, though some things won’t change, our words must be said. 

To sing from the same hymn book of life, you and me / Although the world’s still beautiful – it’s trying hard not to be.

And, that’s the challenge (Would you not say?) / To try save a world that others would throw away.”

Nothing can prevent us from giving the gift of Christmas early. How can we not?  

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca The Music In Me
November 2015

Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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