Last week was the third anniversary of my Dad’s death, at the venerable age of 97.
Even though I don’t recall liking much of Dad’s musical collection when I was a child, I think that hearing it must have influenced my taste in music, just because hearing classical music, opera and other old-fashioned stuff helped me to understand that there was more to music than what I heard on commercial radio.
Dad loved music. His turntable was a treasured possession. On a weekend afternoon he’d sit in the lounge room, put on a record, and be lost in bliss.
Dad was also a singer. He never sang professionally but he used to sing at friends’ parties when he was a young man. Apparently he was known as the man who ‘could sing like Nelson Eddy, and looked like Gary Cooper.’
They were right. I can hear my Dad’s voice in this video.
And I suppose there was a certain resemblance to Gary Cooper.
As kids though, none of us appreciated Dad’s singing. It was embarrassing. Even when there was no-one around to hear him but us.
Sometimes — at the time, I thought he was trying to wind me up — he’d sing this song, very, very low.
It seems appropriate that this recording is from the year of his birth: 1913.This video also strongly reminds me of Dad’s singing voice. I like the song better now than I did as a child. Or perhaps I really liked it then but just didn’t want to admit it.
In my March series of posts that paid tribute to female singers, I said I’ve always preferred low voices — altos & baritones & basses do it for me, not sopranos. I suppose I’ve my Dad to thank for that. Without him, I wouldn’t have loved the songs of Paul Robeson.
What a glorious voice, even just speaking, let alone singing.
I don’t know what Dad made of Robeson’s politics. We didn’t talk politics in our family — or at least I didn’t. After a few early conflicts I didn’t see the point in rocking the family boat. We might not agree on the detail — or the party to vote for — but I knew Mum and Dad had their hearts in the right place. They were politically conservative, as many country people tend to be, but they also strongly believed in that old Australian notion of a fair go. Mum came from a working class background and Dad did hard, physical labour as a farmer, so I like to believe Dad appreciated Robeson for his lyrics, as well as his voice. I regret now, that I never thought to ask him. I let fear of conflict get in the way of knowing him better.