Saturday 17 December 2011

Chapter 3: A Musical Interlude

A Musical Interlude

In which I’m asked to wait another week for information,
I spend some time reflecting on musical choices
and how much these can mean to us all.

After expecting some kind of definitive information this week from the Medical Staff looking at my case I received a phone call saying that I have an appointment next Tuesday (20.12.11) during which I will find out what the team can tell me and start to understand any prognosis.  No clues so far though.  This seems an ideal time to take a musical interlude and consider the impact music has had on my family over the last few weeks and some choices I might make.
My brother Glen and I seemed to have had more conversations about music than any other thing in life so it must be important :-).  We loved a lot of the same stuff but differed over some “important” styles and musical issues.  This meant that we could always agree or disagree without getting too personal about issues and worrying about commenting nastily on each other’s life choices.  Music is more important than many other things in life because it doesn’t really matter*.

Given that we were holding a Humanist ceremony to celebrate Glen’s life we decided to choose music that reflected upon his tastes and attitudes that we had seen in him.  The difficulty we obviously faced was that Glen wasn’t there to give his approval so we had to discuss the choices we made and agree them between us as a family**.

“Inappropriate” Songs heard at times immediately following Glen passing on
·         Knocking On Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan
·         He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother – The Hollies
·         Don’t Leave Me This Way – The Communards
·         Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult

Songs suggested by some and discounted by most
·         Ring Of Fire – Johnny Cash
·         Disco Inferno (Burn Baby Burn) - The Trammps***
·         Sailing – Rod Stewart
·         In The Navy – Village People
·         Going Underground – The Jam
·         The Countdown Theme – Beedoo, beedoo, biddlyboo, doo!

Probably the largest challenge we faced was to agree the music to be played across the generations.  We “younger” family members had to fight our Mam/Gran off who wanted to play Rod Stewart’s “Sailing” as a tribute as Glen had been in the Royal Navy for 18 years serving his country.   Glen, however, really disliked this song (as do many others – hopefully including Rod himself these days since he has grown up!).  On reflection I think that my Mam sponsoring this as a choice was a way of her way of stating the pride that she has for the commitment Glen made to the Royal Navy and our country during his life and wanting to have this pride displayed for all to see. 
Other issues we faced were with those people who seemed to like the idea of including maudlin songs to reflect their internal sadness.  We thrashed these ideas out as a family group and then, I think, we came to an agreement where we decided that happiness would triumph over sadness in our choices.

We started with a slightly off-beat choice which echoed some kind of upbeat approach and gave some attempt at spirituality – the first song was sung by a Hawaiian chap who has also passed on.  This guy was called Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, known more commonly as Iz – a large chap who reached 757 pounds on a 6 foot 2 inch frame over his lifespan.  His voice belied any implications his shape gave and was undoubtedly beautiful.  The song chosen was a cover of the standard “Somewhere over the Rainbow” which, despite the Humanist approach, gave a sense of something of Glen projecting beyond the life he had lived.

Two other songs chosen were by Paul Weller “Broken Stones” and The Small Faces “All or Nothing” which were favourites of Glen’s and reflected a way of looking at life we believe he had.  The final song we chose was, for most of us, most pertinent to Glen and the way we believe he would have liked to live life – it was by Lynyrd Skynryd and was the classic “Freebird”.  The lyrics to this song gave the end of the ceremony a personal feeling to it which gave meaning to the people who attended which, hopefully, made the event more memorable and more personal.  Whether we got the choices correct is, almost, immaterial; we chose what we thought was correct and it was too late to ask Glen what he would have liked****.

Thinking ahead for myself I think that it would be worth my making a statement of the music I would choose for a ceremony for myself*****.  I’d like the music chosen to reflect my personal preferences and my sense of humour which I accept may not be all that common.  The first song would need to set up the atmosphere for the rest of the ceremony and, I believe, would be best represented by one of my most favourite groups – The Smiths.  The song I think would most suit the occasion would be “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” which has a suitability and a tenderness of sense of humour that may not be immediately apparent to all attendees!  I also love Morrissey as an individual artist and would quite like “Irish Blood, English Heart” given that one of my Grandmothers was born in Dun Laoghaire and I love the line “There is no one on earth that I’m afraid of”*****

After these choices the picture starts to get a little confused – I have around 15,000 tracks on my iPod currently and generally play these on random selection, giving the choice of a track at any time to the internal mechanics and taking the enjoyment at random.  Last year I spent several days at a time listening chronologically to all of the output in turn from The Beatles, Oasis and The Jam/Style Council/Paul Weller (for those of you who think this is geeky and that I “should get a life” – I’ll gently remind you that is exactly what I’m hoping for on Tuesday!); whilst I love these bands output not one of the tracks leaps out to me at this moment as a good choice for such an event.

I think that I love so much music that my choices would be different every time I tried to compile a bucket list so have come to the conclusion that any choice of music for a person’s “goodbye” ceremony would be best derived by those left behind (this is fully supported by my wife who says she has full authority to veto any suggestions I make and will choose what she wants anyway).  This would then mean that the memories people can take away from these events is something that your close family have thought carefully about (and probably argued about!) and, most importantly, you haven’t imposed on them.

Musical Interlude Conclusion:
Life’s too short for you to pick your own final music bucket list – get on with living!

*Of course music matters otherwise I wouldn’t be bothered about it!
**May you live in interesting times...!
 ***This has been actually used by a friend of the family J.
****Obviously, anyone you ask what they would like as a set of funeral songs would prefer to defer the decision!
***** Please defer the occasion as long as possible J.
******This is not necessarily true of married men!

Glen and Laken

1 comment:

  1. Reading this reminded me of driving down to Mark's catholic funeral at Darlington. I had the radio on in the car, and literally the last song they played as I arrived was Red Hot Chilli Peppers 'City of Angels', which I know was one of his favourites. It was as if he was choosing his own song (given the choice of hymns at the church) from wherever his 'spirit' lay.
    I went to see them last year, and still cried buckets when they did that one.
    Certain songs stay with you emotionally forever, and fate still freaks me out too.....

    Thanks for the discussion Kev!

    Dawn x