|MIDWIFE RACHEL, SECOND FROM LEFT: |
The Grenadier Road gang including the Carter
twins, one of which is the ASL
interpreter, 32 years ago.
Late last year, when Rachel's mom Sheila told me and my wife Helena that Rachel was pregnant, I said, "How magical is that? A midwife having a baby?" And because I have no filters, I added "guess she won't need any help."
Helena suggested I write a song about the midwife's baby. Sheila was surprised. She hadn't figured me for a songwriter but I of course agreed with Helena that a song was a wonderful idea.
Yeah, me and songwriting. It's been a thing. Believe it or not, the first time I took a crack at composing, I was in grade seven. I wanted to be Donovan.
I shared my grade seven lyrics with a classmate named Barry Davis. I'll never forget Barry saying "wow that sounds like a real song," and because I thought Barry Davis was cool, I've hung on to his words for more than half a century. These are the things kids remember.
I was also inspired by my late brother Tom.
Tom composed songs for all sorts of occasions, generally pairing his own lyrics with familiar melodies so everybody could sing along. At the moment, I'm thinking about a number Tom wrote for my sister Norma's engagement to her then fiance Paul, who is not only a physician but also a classically trained pianist and I'm still wondering why he didn't run away. One of Tom's songs had surgeon rhyming with sturgeon.
|TOOK A FEW TRIES TO GET IT RIGHT: My efforts to |
to get a listenable version gave me new respect for
real recording artists. Note the wardrobe change!
Like a lot of stuff Tom taught me, it wasn't so important that the songs were good as much as they cheered people up.
Over the years, I've produced songs for goodness knows how many occasions, including two 80th birthdays; a few weddings; the late O'Tucky Maclean's wake and my favourite to date, a piece for no occasion called "All of My Good Friends Are Ed." The first line of the song is actually "All of My Good Friends Are Dead" but the title says "Ed" because I made a typo.
Speaking of dead, that's how certain I am that there's a right way and a wrong way to compose music. What I also know is my good friend Rodney Frost told me--and he might regret doing so--that you don't have to be proficient at something to have fun with it.
Which pretty much sums up my approach to song writing. To everything, actually.
Back to Fjora.
A month or so after Fjora arrived, I ran into Sheila. She said, "so...what about that song?"
I'd forgotten. I pretended otherwise and said "it's coming along."
I went home, and got to work, which, translated, meant lying on the couch and strumming my guitar for three hours until a weird little melody emerged. It was so simple, I kept playing it over and over, thinking, "this must have come from somewhere," but I couldn't identify it, until I finally decided it came from heaven.
And what else comes down from heaven? Guardian angels, of course.
The song, two verses and a chorus, was done by suppertime.
I recorded a version of it, showed it to a few people, and received a very reassuring response..
First and most importantly, Rachel approved.
Then a friend in Vancouver, Victoria Shroff, suggested I send the song to Raffi, and my sister Charlene thought it'd be cool if my daughter Ewa, a sign language interpreter also in Vancouver, did a sign language version.
Ewa played along, and that's the version you see here.
Which prompted another friend, Heidi Exner in Calgary, to comment, "Great! Now the deaf babies will love it too!"
The experiment also inspired the following joke: Songwriter to bartender: "I'm such a failure. I composed a lullaby, sent it in to the record company hoping they'd like it, but the guy wrote back and said it put him to sleep."
I write jokes too. Not sure if you knew that.