Say It Loud, Say It Clear
Over the weekend I watched a documentary on a free preview of the Showtime network. I’m not afraid nor am I ashamed to admit that it was on the band Genesis. I know there’s some backlash, particularly since the shift from music in the 1970’s to the 1980’s and today when people have some chip on their shoulder about the band. I’m not sure why, perhaps it was the second lead singer, Phil Collins, having been everywhere from on television to a cop on the film Hook to doing the soundtrack to Disney cartoons.
That said, I’ve always liked them, no shame or afterthought to that statement.
But this isn’t about them, at least not particularly. No throwback to the 1980’s or melancholy or wishing things were like when I was a kid. Genesis is just the impetus of one of the sweeter surprises I’ve had in some time.
The picture up there is from the 1990’s, not long after my oldest daughter was born. She’s the infant in my arms, on a stage, Clapton Stratocaster around my neck, while I have long hair and look something like a character from the movie Death at a Funeral. My wife took that photo, though I can say I never thought she was particularly pleased to be there. This was my band, with my brother a member, playing at a summer festival in Omaha.
My wife had little or no use for my being a musician. It didn’t make a ton of money – which isn’t at all what I was performing for in the first place. It didn’t focus on our relationship or on her, except the couple songs I’d written about her or us. Neither of those was easy enough to pull off live so there was no focus for her. She wasn’t at all convinced this was a good idea. In my defense, I just cannot stop being a musician. It’s in my DNA. It’s like that Stratocaster is part of my left arm and if you removed it I may as well bleed out. I will also argue that there were months, in the bleakest of times when she was in Pharmacy school and I was working two jobs to keep the heat on in our home that we ate due to the gigs I played. It wasn’t a ton of money, but it was money and every dime counted.
Watching the Genesis documentary they brought up each of their solo careers. Sure, Phil Collins had one; a stellar one, in fact. But the guitarist, Mike Rutherford, had a band and still plays much of the time with his own band, Mike and the Mechanics. After a start with one singer they switched to another singer, from the band Squeeze, named Paul Carrack. The album came out in 1988, some years prior to that photo of my daughter and I but it continued to get some airplay.
As Rutherford recounted the fact he couldn’t sing and that may have affected his ability to sell the millions of records like Collins, my daughter looked over at me with a smile.
“Mom always thought you sounded just like him, did she ever tell you that?”
I looked at my daughter and at the television and was more than a little bewildered. “Like Paul Carrack?!”
“Yeah. She never told you that?”
“No! I would have remembered that. That’s a helluva compliment.”
“She was right.” She looked at my son sitting next to me and asked him . . . “don’t you think Dad sounds like that guy?”
My son just looked up, matter-of-fact, “yeah.”
“I can’t believe Mom never told you that,” she said, confused.
In less than two months it will have been four years since my wife passed away. We had an interesting relationship. Always loving, always friends, and often contentious. Music was part of our lives but not always a part she wanted. I always had a dream, even with 1, 2, then 4 kids of making a living doing it. She never thought that was practical or realistic.
But then she’d surprise me. She always did. I never made the connection nor have I ever claimed to be of the caliber that Paul Carrack is. I’ll take the complement, nonetheless.
Now, almost four years after she’s gone, I hear that she heard my voice and heard possibilities. I knew her well enough to know that’s what was going through her head. When she’d dismiss recordings I’d make she’d tell her daughter or friends that her boyfriend/husband sounded like Paul Carrack. Should I be mad that she never told me? No. Not a whip.
Today I’m sitting home, recording, getting ready to find funds to hit the studio and hire a drummer and bassist to put a full record together. Where I’ve been frustrated trying to get that chord progression right or my computer gives me CPU errors during a take or I just can’t get the lyrics the way I want I’ve been frustrated and silent of late.
And then this comes, out of nowhere, blasting through, and I feel a pride I hadn’t known for awhile. Pride in the fact she heard something in my voice, even if she never voiced it to me herself, not in that way.
This weekend she said it loud, said it clear.
It’s just up to me to listen.