Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Love Everlasting J.P. Bowie

I'm glad this fortnight's post is entitled first LOVES, plural, because honestly there have been so many times in my life when I thought I was in love, IN love, as opposed to loving. I have loved so many people in my life, some I am ashamed to admit had names I can't even remember,  yet when we touched, when we connected, it seemed as if they were the most important people in my life.

Reading Baldwin or Durrell I wanted my life to be like those characters on the written pages. Regardless of the tragedies that unfolded in those stories  I wanted a life lived in Paris or Venice or New York, anywhere but in the humdrum trappings inflicted on me by the restrictions of my birthplace.

Looking back of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with where I was born. Scotland was, and still is, one of the most romantic places in the world - if you can believe the hundreds of novels written by romance writers - Kiss of the Highlander, Heart of the Highlander, Embrace of the Highlander etc., etc... The covers of those books really do depict those 'Highlanders' in grand style, toned pecs, six pack abs and just a hint of a bulge behind that swinging kilt. Och aye, lassie, I am the verra one ye've been searchin' for a' yer life.

Ah well, I guess I missed out on that part of my life in Scotland.

Working in the theatre as I did for several years it was so easy to fall in love, however briefly, with one or more of the beautiful people who strutted their stuff on the stage. Actors, singers and dancers are special breeds, fancying themselves removed from the rigors of normal life, as if the rules and restrictions outside the world of the theatre don't really exist. Behavior considered merely naughty in theatrical circles might be viewed as outrageous in our stricter society. And here I was at the rampant age of nineteen surround by a smorgasbord of male and female beauty, the door to my own sexuality still open

But I digress, because the first time I fell in love was not with the blue eyed, sooty lashed leading man who smiled disarmingly at me during first rehearsal. It had happened earlier in my mid teens, and it wasn't a person, or rather it was an unseen person whose voice I fell in love as it flowed like liquid honey from the speaker of our old family radio.

The song was Everytime We Say Goodbye. I'd learn later it was written by Cole Porter, but it was the way in which the words were sung that captivated me and had me hanging on every note, every nuance of tone and phrasing. To my ears, unpolished, unsophisticated as yet and unused to hearing such beauty in the age of raucous rock'n'roll this amazing voice was a revelation. I had never heard anything quite like it, and I was instantly in love. Fortunately I was home alone so there was no one there to witness me pressing my ear to the speaker in order to catch every dulcet, perfectly shaped syllable and heart stopping purity of sound.

At fifteen, perhaps the words shouldn't have meant as much to me as they did, and maybe sung by anyone else they wouldn't, but right then, listening to this love song, I think the romantic in me was born.

"There's no love song finer,
But how strange the change,
From major to minor,
Everytime we say goodbye..."

The singer was Ella Fitzgerald and right there I began a life long  love affair with her that some might say bordered on the obsessive. "Better shut up," friends would say, "Ella's on." And it was true to the point of rudeness. Anyone's conversation would fade into the background as that beautiful voice caressed my senses and commanded all my attention.

And to this day, she still does. During all the years of falling in and out of love with more people than I care to mention, she remained my one constant. I could rely on Ella  to bring me joy when I was down, solace when I was lonely, and the most romantic mood music when I was... well, I'll leave that to your imaginations.



8 comments:

  1. Ditto on two points here, JP.
    First, Ella. What a natural sense of rhythm. Have you eve noticed how you can hear and understand every word she sings, unheard of in the modern rock scene. And still keep every single bit of the power and rhythm of the piece. That's talent.

    Second- Lawrence Durrell. I've gone on here at length about his "Alexandria Quartet" which I think is one of the best literary works of the 20th century. In fact, I pick up individual copies of "Justine", "Balthazar" "Mountolive" and "Clea" in used book stores to give away.
    My hard-bound copies are out on loan as we speak.

    Have I ever told you how much I love hard bound? :>)

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    1. Daddy, Ella is irreplaceable as far as I'm concerned - no one comes close to her amazing talent. Lawrence Durrell was a fascinating author - also irreplaceable. Gosh, I feel like I'm locked in the past - but quite happy to be there!

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  2. That song, "Every Time We Say Goodbye," was apparently a hit during WW2. When my mother attended a concert put on by the local queer choir (including me & spouse) based on the work of gay/bi composers (including Cole Porter), she said that song brought her to tears because it reminded her of my dad's stint in the U.S. Navy, when she wasn't sure he would come back. "Why the gods above me, who must be in the know, think so little of me they allow you to go." And the voice of Ella Fitzgerald is exquisitely expressive.

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    1. I was a latecomer to the song - I didn't hear it during WWII - I'm not that old LOL. Little trivia, Ella didn't realize how popular that song was in the UK - she had to re-learn it for her Brit concert tours and got a standing ovation every time.

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  3. What a lovely post, JP! I'm embarrassed to admit I've never heard this song (though I believe I've heard other things sung by Ella Fitzgerald). Actually, it's a bit surprising, since my dad was a jazz man and my mom loved to sing torch songs. (I still know a bunch of them I learned from her.)

    Time to go to YouTube!

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  4. Awwww I love this post. Actually, about 10 minutes before I read it, I was trying to remember that line from The Slap (I watched the Australian miniseries--like three times) where the guy tells the babysitter girl jazz is for old men? I can't remember the exact quote, but it comes to mind every time I turn on Jazz FM.

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  5. I'm old enough to have heard WWII songs soon after the war, and to get the feel of that era from my parents. One way or another many of those songs are imprinted in my memory, including the Ella Fitzgerald one. I used several of those songs as "background music" for a story I wrote set in London during the war, but of course I could only use the song titles and not any more of the lyrics because of copyright protection. I don't know how many readers knew the music well enough to hear it in their minds the way I did as I was writing. "What'll I do...when you...are far...away...and I...am blue...what'll I do." And "I'll be seeing you...in all the old familiar places..." And "Oh give me something to remember you by...when you are are far away from me." The title of my story was "To Remember You By." I did only use titles, not the longer phrases I used here. I suppose it was still plagiarism in a way, using someone else's art to enhance my story, but in depicting a setting where music is a vital part of the surroundings, what else can you do? (I wish now that I'd used "Every Time We Say Goodbye," too, but for some reason I didn't think of it at the time. It would have fit the story beautifully.)

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  6. I laugh at the Highlander romances, since the accents are usually so forced, the dialect written by people who've never actually heard a Scotsman speak. I grew up with me faither from Glesca speaking "the Queen's English" correctly, while the rest of us spoke in our nasally Midwestern accents. "Just how many diphthongs are in that word of yours, lassie? Day-eh-ants? Try pronouncing it correctly: donce."

    Once of his favorite wee jokes: "What does a Scotsman have unna-below his kiltie?"
    Answer: "A wee set o' bagpipes. If ya dinna believe that, just put your phisog (face) down there an' blow!"

    I thought everyone knew what these body parts were: een, lugs, neb, gob, thrapple. And I found it amusing that my friends would call me just to have him answer the phone, and when I got on, they'd be giggling, asking me,"What did he say?" I was baffled that it was confusing to them.

    Not a first love, but the song that always made me choose a man and rush home to get laid: "Moondance" by Van Morrison. I'll NEVER forgive Michael Bubbly for "Las-Vegas-ing: it up and ruining it. The voice that melted my panties first was Robert Plant. Ooh, love how that man shrieked!

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