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THE LOWDOWN – When they sing no more

Richard Hoad

THE LOWDOWN – When they sing no more

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They hunt no more for the ’possum and the coon, on the hill, the meadow and the shore; they sing no more by the glimmer of the moon, on the bench by the old cabin door. – Stephen Foster
“When you grow too old to dream,” we used to sing incorrectly, “that’s the time to remember . . . .” Actually it’s a fairly traumatic part of life, this “when you grow too old to dream” time.
You suddenly realize that you’re not going to play for the West Indies, score a brilliant double hundred, bowl out the opposition for under 50, restore our past glory.
Nor will Shakira invite you to spend the night. It ain’t gonna happen.
Worse yet, “when you grow too old to dream” often coincides with when the ladies decide you’re “too old to cut the mustard”. You know you can cut the damn mustard, but they won’t let you even try.
According to Internet sources, “cutting the mustard” doesn’t necessarily mean anything naughty. But then again there’s another saying: “if you can’t cut the mustard, you can still lick the jar.” Wishful thinking!
Anyhow, when you grow too old to dream, you fall back on memories. Nostalgia, you call it. And you tax those old brain cells to recreate the emotions, the locations, the sheer heaven of those past experiences.
Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end; we’d sing and dance forever and a day. We’d live the life we choose, we’d fight and never lose, for we were young and sure to have our way.
Maybe sometime in the future we’ll be able to go back there and relive those nice times. Maybe not. You can come close, however, by playing the music of bygone eras when you were young and sure to have your way. Or so I discovered last Friday evening.
Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands invited a miscellanity of notable and notorious elements to a soirée of Musical Memories 1930s-1950s From Victrola To iPad.
And, as he moved through the years, you could see strong emotions surging through myriad breasts as once again dames and dukes donned corsets and tuxedos to trip the light fantastic.
Dame Patricia Symmonds was sitting nearby. And while I doubt Ian Bishop’s claim that she took his hand and wanted to do the charleston, you could see the years fall away as she sang the words and recited the venues.
“I couldn’t handle the Gay Gordons, though,” she admitted ruefully. I too think they’re best left to their own devices.
Many tunes had special meaning for some. One gentleman’s theme song was apparently: “When the moon comes over the mountain.” Maybe he was thinking more of the “rose-covered valley” than the moon or the mountain. I don’t know.
We too had a Victrola and a motley collection of records.
When You And I Were Young, Maggie (my mother’s name); Keep Right On To The End Of The Road; some Bluebird calypsos.
For some reason the Wedding of Lili Marlene would make me weep even though I knew not the lady: “There were tears in the crowded congregation, there were hearts that had loved but all in vain; ’twas goodbye to the sweetheart of the nation, at the wedding of Lili Marlene.”
The music of any country or era is a reflection of triumphs, failures, hopes, challenges. It is history most wonderfully presented. If we fail to pass on this experience to our children, we rob them of a beautiful heritage.
My children, for instance, once found an old sheet describing the Lambeth Walk and enjoyed themselves sashaying around.
Me, I’m getting too old to dream and even too old to remember. They won’t let me hunt for the possum or the coon. Nor even lick the mustard jar.
Feeling sorry for myself. Don’t worry, it’ll pass. Thanks, Sir Clifford! By the way, anyone know an old calypso Aye, Aye, Aye, Don’t Touch Me Down Dey?
And a sad farewell to a good friend, Orville Smith of Belleplaine. Many the happy hour we spent swapping stories and breadfruits.
Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email [email protected]

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