It’s a wet night in the late 1960s and I am with my dad. He’s driving us from London to Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppy, although I’m afraid I have no idea why. The windscreen wipers are splishing splashing as we go deep into the gloom. I have with me copies of a magazine called the Record Song Book in which you can read the lyrics of the popular songs of the day. My dad asks me to sing some of the songs to him.
He has never heard me sing before but since I know all the songs in the magazines it’s not a tough ask. It’s so dark and I am finding it a little hard to read the words. Happily, not only do I know all the songs, I know most of the lyrics and when we are away from the light, which is frequently, I don’t miss a beat.
Nearly 50 years on, I can still remember the songs. Yesterday Has Gone by Cupid’s Inspiration is one. Rainbow Chaser by Nirvana (no, not that Nirvana) is another. And there’s I Say A Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin.
The words of I Say A Little Prayer are probably not best suited to a man, or boy as I was back then. Or an atheist, as I remain today. So “the moment I wake up, before I put on my make up, I say a little prayer for you” is wrong on so many levels. But the song is beautiful. And the lyrics are still beautiful, too. Because the journey is so long, I sing most of the songs twice, some three times and this could be why I remember the trip, if not the purpose of it, quite vividly.
My dad says little about my singing but he never asks me to stop. I don’t think he tells me whether he enjoyed it or not and that’s reason enough for me to carry on singing. And we never talk about it again until many years later when I remind him of the trip and he’s entirely forgotten it! Which is not like him at all. The old sailor remembered nearly everything.
Now, like the old sailor, the woman I now know of as the Queen of Soul is no more. I know she had been ill but I am jolted by the news. For no longer than the blink of an eye, I’m in a car with my dad with the windscreen wipers splishing splashing and that is a memory that refuses to leave me. Nor do I want it to.