This is a fabulous essay. It made me laugh and then it made me cry. The writing resonated with me. I grew up in the mountains of southern Alberta. As a teenager wanting to listen to rock n roll in the early sixties, I couldn’t wait for the family to leave me alone in the house, so I could plug the radio in the outlet near the table and then climb on the table and hold the radio over my head. If I turned the rabbit ears a certain way, I could get a station in Great Falls, Montana and listen to Moon River in broken snatches. I could so easily have been that teenager running for the barn when no one was there so I could hold the mike and pretend to be a rock star. I always wondered who the back up singers were. And I wondered what happened to them, what their stories were. So thank you for that.
I loved, loved, loved the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger was such a bad boy and they all exuded a sexuality that knocked me out. I wanted to be like them, but actually I was a book worm. Ah, no. I was never going to be remotely like them in reality. I adored the story of Merry Clayton singing her refrain in Gimme Shelter. Never gonna make it to vinyl!!!! It’s so nice to put a name to the voice.
Some great lines: “The story doesn’t begin until the van breaks down.”
And, “All these idiot decisions worked in our idiot favor.” That’s where I actually laughed out loud.
These vignettes build in tension so we go from losing a voice to smoking, to losing a life to lung cancer and then from losing a child to giving a child up and we get to Joni Mitchell holding a note for six measures. “About as much breath as any singer can hold in her body. Was it enough to sing the sadness of a lifetime?”
And then the domestic violence breaks the tension wide open in the last vignette. “A bone cracked deep in my chest, the sharp click in a place no doctor would ever find.” He beat her and then she married him. These are the mistakes we make that color our lives forever. The buried voices we must, must, must start listening to.
Debra Marquart, thank you so much.