My father had purchased tickets and gave me one of them — it was a belated present for my 22nd birthday. (I didn’t know that my father was a big fan of Mister Orbison’s music until that moment when he gave me my ticket.).
I still believe that Mum had told him I was trying to sing along with the recordings of “Pretty Woman,” “Leah,” “Mean Woman Blues” and a few others. I knew the lyrics more than well enough and mimicked that popular growl of his perfectly, but that wasn’t the problem: my voice was still changing!
At the concert, a lot of people quietly sang along, a few others got up and started dancing wherever they could find enough empty floor space between the tables.
Then it happened.
About ninety minutes in, the room fell silent and Mr. Orbison stood with his guitar, alone upon the stage singing softly:
“I was alright, for a while / I could smile for a while
“But then I saw you last night / You held my hand so tight
“When you stopped to say ‘Hello’ …”
It was hauntingly surreal. The dancing stopped — and so did all the table chatter! Everyone was still — except for me, of course, I was too busy taking in my surroundings in the midst of this emotional ballad. Then I turned to my father.
He was watching Mr. Orbison with tears in his eyes. It left a lasting impression (as you can tell from this post); because it was the first time I had ever seen a tragic hero … my father had always been my childhood hero.
He later told me, during our walk home, that the song reminded him of younger days: still happily married to my mother, with a very young family; but that was long ago.
And this is now: whether it is Mr. Orbison’s solo recording from 1961 or his 1987 duet with k.d. lang, I remember two things: my father’s unexpected death in 2003 and that vulnerable moment in 1985.
You may think, “What a strange song choice.” Perhaps it is, but it is very difficult to ignore vivid memories flooding in like a tsunami every time that song is played.
And if he was still alive, today would be his 76th birthday.
[Yes, you are still missed. Happy birthday, Old Man!].