It would have been Robin William’s 65th birthday yesterday (21st July 2016). When watching a review of his life I somehow ended up watching a video of Patrick Swayze singing ‘Love Hurts’. I hadn’t realised prior to this that Patrick Swayze had performed “She’s like the wind” on the soundtrack for Dirty Dancing. It’s hard to believe that both these actors are dead now: Patrick Swayze in 2009 from pancreatic cancer and Robin Williams in 2014 from suicide, attributed to long-standing mental health concerns and the recent onset of dementia.
When thinking about their work, certain memories were evoked for me, of where I was and the point I was at in my life when specific pieces of their art were released.
Most of my most memorable movies by Robin Williams were released when I was a student:
As a result I remember many a night walking down the long hill to the local movie theatre, usually with a crowd of up to a dozen friends from the University Christian Union to see the movies on a cheap night, sharing sweets (candy) and pop (soda) between us as we couldn’t afford our own.
I do remember that ‘The Birdcage” is one movie that I went to on my own, as I’d have been excommunicated from the Christian Union for even suggesting seeing a movie with openly gay characters and drag queens.
I thought at first that it was the first movie that I went to on my own, but then I remembered David Bowie and Labyrinth.
That was definitely my first adventure in seeing a movie on my own, a tradition which I continue to this day.
My reason for going on my own – I was 15 years old – and David Bowie looked great in tights!!
Dirty Dancing, on the other hand, came out in 1987 when I turned 16, just like “Baby” in the movie. However, I wasn’t allowed to go and see the movie when it came out; though I was delighted to watch it, while babysitting, when it came out on VHS a year later!
Looking back I probably wasn’t allowed to see Labyrinth either – but I did – several times! Sorry Mum!
Reminiscing in this way brought to mind other songs and movies that remind me of specific points in my life.
When I was very young and in fact to this day, my mother was besotted with Adam Faith. Now why, of all his songs “Mix me a person” has always stuck with me I’m not quite sure. Also, given that she was born and raised in Liverpool how she fixated on Adam Faith rather than the Beatles I’m not quite sure.
Visiting with my grandparents and it was all the classic movies with Cary Grant and Doris Day that made my holidays. I can’t imagine how they put up with me repeatedly watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Calamity Jane, Operation Petticoat, Father Goose and similar. My grandfather liked John Wayne movies but somehow I always seemed to persuade him to watch the musicals that I loved instead!
Taking dance classes at age 9/10 I worked so hard on a piece to ‘The Lion Sleeps tonight’ and was so disappointed when I went to my first (and only) school disco to find out that nobody danced like we did in my classes, but rather just did this odd hop from one foot to another.
The first cassette tape that I bought myself, with birthday money, was in 1984 and was one of my few forays into popular music. I was 13 years old and bought “Make it Big” by Wham! I still had the tape until very recently.
Shortly thereafter I fell in love with a country song in a movie, that to this day I’ve never been able to fully remember the song or the artist. When trying to find it I came across Crystal Gayle and “Cry me a river”. That was the start of my love affair with country music. Living in England at the time, country music wasn’t very popular so I could often find tapes greatly reduced and at one time I had a very extensive tape collection.
As I grew up I loved Garth Brooks music, especially “The Dance”. That was until I came across Kenny Chesney and his music with “Old Blue Chair” becoming a particular favourite.
I was so disappointed when I realised how short he is (I’m just under 6’ tall) let alone when he married Renée Zellweger; though that was one of the shortest marriages on record being annulled after just 4 months.
I still live in hope that he’ll grow a few inches and sweep me off my feet, to his home in the Caribbean one of these days!
In 1997 I was writing up my PhD and ended up having to completely rewrite my thesis in three weeks. By now I had graduated to CDs, from my cassette tapes, at least some of the time. The Beautiful South was my go to music during this time. To this day, I can’t hear their music without that crazy time coming to mind. I must have had every single one of their CDs and just had them playing back-to-back.
In 1999 I visited Australia for the first time and came across Lee Kernighan’s music. This was my introduction to Australian ‘country’ music; which is hard to find outside of Australia and , much like in England, is not often that popular in Australia either.
Interspersed with my love of country music I have loved many other genres. Having intended to be a music teacher I studied all kinds of music at school and to this day still love pretty much all genres the exception of Heavy Metal, Rap and psychedelic/electric.
While I’ve now graduated to an iPod and often buy music online, I still have shelves of CDs, which I’m slowly copying over to my iTunes library. My music library is very eclectic, though still dominated by country.
As my hearing deteriorates I find that I am more drawn to some of the male artists. Especially those with deep bass voices like Josh Turner.
Being deaf I do find that sometimes my understanding of a song is quite different to that intended by the actual lyrics. The first time that I saw the real lyrics to some of the songs from Grease I understood why that was another movie I wasn’t allowed to watch when it first came out!
It’s funny how people assume that the deaf do not enjoy music. My experience, in contrast, is that many deaf people love music. We don’t just hear with our ears we hear with our entire body. Live music is best! Though it would be really helpful if more concerts would include live captioning, please!
If you want to understand more about how to hear with your whole body watch, and listen, to this video of a concert that was put on specifically for the deaf.
These days, one of my favourite songs, since long before Nyle De Marco popularised it on Dancing with the Stars has been “The Sound of Silence”, as originally performed by Simon and Garfunkel. Though the Disturbed version is pretty amazing as well.
Another song that still really resonates with me is “The Bargain Store” by Dolly Parton. It seems like it should be the theme song to my life.
Finally, the song that never fails to bring a smile to my face is “African Queen” by 2Face Idibia.
I’ll leave it to your imagination as to why that might be!