It is a curious thing to look upon an image of your father, he being much younger than you are at present. It puts you in a sort of concerned, parental frame of mind, wanting to leap into the photograph and warn him of the carelessness and ploys of youth before it would have its way.
I think Dad was twenty-three when this photograph was taken. I never really was clear on exactly why it was that he bowed out just when his star was beginning to shine. (He was scheduled to make an Ed Sullivan Show appearance.)
All I know—and it has been a cautionary tale, tracking me since youth—is that, if you don’t follow that star: misgivings about life, regrets, even a lingering sadness will surely follow you all your days.
I was three when I saw my father live on stage for the first time, in Quebec City, singing before a big band. It was a hypodermic needle filled with a mystic cocktail of rhythm and harmony that shot straight to my heart.
After many full years of music, I have come to realize that it is not always love, wisdom or sound advice from parents or guardians that leads you in life. In my case, my father’s missteps and miscalculations have done more to teach me than I can say.
Yes, there was much my Dad opened my starry eyes to in regards to music, voice, and the ways of the ‘business’.
But mostly, it was what he couldn’t do for himself that spoke volumes—whatever the price, triumph or defeat, or in that vast desert somewhere in between, nothing could be more unkind to the soul than not trying.
Through difficult times: times when I felt it was all over, times when squeezing blood from a stone would have been easier than getting a note out of me, when issues of health built great walls, through the nagging voice of doubt and the unease of the turning seasons, all I had to do was reflect upon my father’s unspoken warning . . .“Don’t you dare quit!”
For this, and much more, I am beholden to that man in the picture.
PS Master class students take note