Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Remember John

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
30 years ago today, I, like so many of us, lost a hero.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Musical Memorial Tributes

I heard on the radio the other day that it’s been 35 years since the Edmund Fitzgerald sunk in Lake Superior. A tragedy that may have been long forgotten had it not been for Gordon Lightfoot immortalizing it in his song “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
Although Mr. Lightfoot took artistic license with the events of the actual sinking, the haunting lyrics have helped keep the disaster in our memories.
“In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

It started me thinking of all the songs written in tribute to people who have died. Tragedies that affected the songwriter so much he/she felt they had to share it with the world. Now this topic that will take more than one blog to do it any justice, but at least here's a start. Consider this my “shout out” to all the songwriters for helping us remember the people we should never forget. Thank you.

Now there are the obvious ones like Don Maclean’s
American Pie (“I can’t remember if I cried when I heard about his widowed bride”), and Elton John’s Candle in the Wind (And I would have liked to have known you, But I was just a kid. Your candle burned out long before, your legend never did.”)
But what of the songs about people the writers knew, people that changed their personal lives?

First one that comes to mind is Tom Cochrane's
Big League. Tom had met this boy’s father in an arena before a show, the father had asked the artist to play Boy Inside The Man because it was his son’s favourite. Asking if his son would be at the concert, the father replied “no.” The following quote is from the Tom Cochrane website (
That was when he told me his son had died in a car accident that past summer... I felt for that guy, his story hit me hard. Some songs are hard labour, but the best songs are born ... I carried that story with me for quite some time. “
I often wonder how that father must have felt when he heard that song. I still get shivers when it comes to the part where Cochrane says, "
Sometimes in the morning I still hear the sound
Ice meets metal...
"Can't you drive me down to the Big League?" “

Speaking of father/son songs, it must have been incredibly difficult for Eric Clapton to write, let alone perform, the song
Tears In Heaven.
In 1991, Eric Clapton’s 4-year-old son Conor fell 53 floors through a window left open by some idiot cleaner. After a long silence, Clapton released the song “Tears in Heaven” as a tribute to his son. Imagine having the courage to sing
“Would you know my name, if I saw you in Heaven” knowing it’s your own son. Clapton has not performed that song live since 2004.

I couldn’t do this topic without mentioning
All Those Years Ago by George Harrison. The song was a personal tribute to his murdered friend, and former band mate, John Lennon.
Released less than a year after John’s death, the song was recorded by all three remaining Beatles. George, Paul and Ringo would not appear together on a song for another 13 years. What I like the most about this song is that it’s a cheerful melody and embraces the happiness Lennon tried so hard to give. It’s a celebration of his life as well as regret of his death. If you ever get the chance to see the video, treat yourself – it’s filled with old photos of the boys and particularly Lennon, some dating back to their pre-Beatles life. Knowing George had been a friend of John's since he was 14 years old makes me appreciate the lyrics that much more.
"But you point the way to the truth when you say
All you need is love.
Living with good and bad
I always looked up to you
Now we're left cold and sad.”

I’ll finish this blog with the song that hit me the hardest.
Carry Me by Ray Lyell and the Storm. So how did I go from Clapton and the Beatles to some guy from Hamilton? Ray Lyell and the Storm was a fun, popular Canadian band of the 80’s with hits like Another Man’s Gun and Cruel Life. When I worked at HTZ-FM I had the opportunity to meet the group. I don’t remember much about the evening (par for the course back then), but I do recall Ray talking about the person that inspired the song Carry Me. Over twenty years later and I still remember how I felt the first time I listening to the song, knowing it was about a real person.
I knew somebody who lost his way
Got himself a loaded gun
They found him lying at the light of day
Now it’s too late to undo what’s already done.”

Those were pretty poignant lyrics for a young woman who had also lost a friend just a few years before. Although it was no accident, and he wasn’t holding the gun, I wonder if things would have been different if someone would have heard the other boy’s desperate voice say Carry Me.
So, I guess this is as close I’ll get to my musical tribute. Here’s to you Dave Jackson, you are always remembered.

"> Carry Me

It’s too late to undo what’s already done.