A few weeks ago, I started playing my acoustic guitar again, and singing to Jody. It’s been many months, if not a year or two. I learned the basics during group lessons in Ottawa in 1972. You could say that I’ve never gone beyond that, sticking with a few chords and a flat pick. I’ve imagined myself as one of the virtuosos I often see on DVDs, playing cool melody lines while I fingerpick away. Not in this lifetime, I believe.
I’ve also fantasized about being Canada’s next great singer-songwriter, in the tradition of Stan Rogers, David Francey and James Keelaghan. Touching people with lyrics that speak of our human condition. I’ve even written a few songs but they’re not very good. I don’t seem to have an anthem akin to John Lennon’s “Imagine” sitting on the tip of my tongue.
Number three in my “wish fors” has been to form a folk group – say two men and three women, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, double bass and keyboard. Exquisite vocal harmonies that take the listener away. Playing for audiences – large or small -bowing to the applause, contributing. Nothing happening on that front at the moment.
I finally see that all of those supposed deficits are okay. I just want to sing beautiful songs to my beautiful wife. I don’t care who wrote it, or that I didn’t. Here’s John Denver’s ode to music shared:
This old guitar taught me to sing a love song
It showed me how to laugh and how to cry
It introduced me to some friends of mine
And brightened up some days
It helped me make it through some lonely nights
Oh, what a friend to have on a cold and lonely night
I’ve sure laughed – try “Dropkick Me Jesus Through the Goal Posts of Life”, for example. And I’ve cried. “Song for the Mira” comes to mind, with a man reliving his youth and contemplating his death. I’ve sung songs in the dark of English Bay Beach in Vancouver, in my dorm room at the Prince of Wales Hotel, and at sunset while hitchhiking through Northern Ontario, with no ride in sight.
This old guitar gave me my lovely lady
It opened up her eyes and ears to me
It brought us close together
And I guess it broke her heart
It opened up the space for us to be
What a lovely place and a lovely space to be
When Jody and I first met in the 1980s, I favoured her with a few tunes that brought a smile to her face: “Annie’s Song” (You Fill Up My Senses), “How Can I Tell You That I Love You”, “Mr. Bojangles” and “Free in the Harbour”, the story of whales swimming untroubled in the waters of Hermitage Bay. I struggled to express my own words of love but the songs said it so well. And still do.
This old guitar gave me my life, my living
All the things you know I love to do
To serenade the stars that shine
From a sunny mountainside
Most of all to sing my songs for you
I love to sing my songs for you
Yes I do, you know, I love to sing my songs for you
Okay, not exactly my living. I’ve easily been able to keep my amateur status. But I’ve serenaded a few stars with songs such as “Poems, Prayers and Promises” and “Be Not Afraid”. And moonlit asphalt has been my companion as my thumb and I let “The Long and Winding Road” surround us.
But it’s into your eyes, Jodiette, that the melodies and the chords truly find their way. And our hearts vibrate in response.