01 November 2009

Take This Tune - When October Goes

This week's Take This Tune is Barry Manilow's "When October Goes". As I stated on the prompt page, this is simply one of my favorite "forever" songs. One of those songs that have so many memories connected to it that they all come alive with the sound of the first few chords.

The dearest friend I have ever had in my life passed away in September of 1984. As this story goes, you will find it is important to know that he played piano.  As is often true of such events, it didn't truly register at first.  It was simply too soon as he was only 50.  there was grief and tears, but courtesy of that protective numbness that often sets in, the full impact of the loss didn't hit for more than a month. They tell you not to make important decisions at such a time with the rule of thumb being to wait one month for every year you have known someone that close.  This advice exists for one simple reason.  You don't know it, but you are insane. 

By that standard, I should barely have moved until the following June. Instead, I quit one job, left a state that had been my home for 40 years, got on a plane for a destination 3000 miles away with less than a $1,000 in my bank account, knowing only one person who would let me crash for a couple of weeks, with absolutely no prospects.  I found a new job and place to live and by the end of November established a whole new life.  Was I running away?  I couldn't have been running any faster if there had been a rocket in my tail.

By coincidence in that November, Barry Manilow released his jazz album:  2:00 AM Paradise Cafe.  After years of "power ballads" and international mania, he went back to his roots ... a piano, surrounded by friends who made and loved music.  The first song off the album that I heard was a fun duet with Mel Torme, "Big City Blues"

Much of my life has been
spiced with romance
Too many bedrooms I've
slept in by chance
Drownin' out my sorrow
Longin' for tomorrow
Caught up in the big city blues

That song definitely got my attention.  The following songs were backed by some of the best jazz musicians of the era:  Shelly Manne, Gerry Mulligan, and Mundell Lowe.  The NPR announcer kept talking about Barry's decision to do this album and doing selections while merrily chatting about how Manilow was personally entrusted by Johnny Mercer's widow with lyrics never used at the time of his death.  Then for the first time I heard the gorgeous "When October Goes".  If you love music and lyrics truly hit your core with recognition of personal events, you will know what I mean when I say the song destroyed me. 

And when October goes
The same old dream appears
And you are in my arms
To share the happy years
Down came the shielding walls; down came the protective coating; down came the arms' distance separating me and really feeling loss.  You can't get past grief until you confront it, and that song heard for the first time literally made me scream.  Then it put me back together again. 
It is amazing how just accepting a loss can start to heal the wound.  You have to admit it in order to get past it.  It is now 25 years later.  To this day, if I happen to be in a piano bar with a player who knows his business, I will request what has now become a jazz standard.  If it happens to be in the fall, there is a special poignancy and a tender smile for beautiful memories as I lift a toast to a special person and the first month of October when he was no longer there.

I should be over it now I know
It doesn't matter much
How old I grow
I hate to see October go


Linda said...

Barry Manilow has always managed to take an arrow and shoot it right through my heart with a lot of his songs; this one is no exception. I can definitely see where it would have hits its mark with you and made you confront a loss that you had been avoiding. Letting go can be the hardest part of so many relationships.

I'm really sorry that I haven't had a chance to take part in Take This Tune more than a couple times; I seem to have completely let time get away with me lately and have no clue where one week ends and the other one starts. And to think I used to be so organized ... I know you give the prompts out in plenty of time, I'm going to just have to try harder!

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Travis said...

The healing power of music cannot be overstated. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story.

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