Baby Blue and other songs that take me back to special people and places

patti dawn swansson

So, I stepped out of the shower the other morning and I could hear country legend George Strait crooning. The song was Baby Blue and I immediately thought of my beautiful daughter, Krystal.

Baby Blue was her favorite song for a time. Mine too.

Hearing it again served as a sweet reminder how music, perhaps more than anything else, links us to the special people and places that enrich our lives. Specific songs take us to a specific person, or to a specific place. This is the list of select songs that do that for me, and the people and places I recall warmly when I hear them.

Baby Blue, George Strait: I cannot hear this tune without thinking of Krystal.

If I Fell, The Beatles: Lynn, first high school crush.

Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain, Willie Nelson: Heather, owner of The Toad in Osborne Village in Winnipeg. We’d have what we called “Willie Nights” when the barman played nothing but Willie Nelson tunes after closing. Heather and I would dance.

Dance with My Father, Luther Vandross: Terry. This was played at the memorial service for his father.

Fanny Be Tender, Bee Gees: Colleen, my lifelong crush. She was 21 and married, I was an 18-year-old kid when we met. Nothing ever happened, but I wanted it to.

You Needed Me, Anne Murray: Colleen, Part II. I’m still crushing on her after all these years.

Lady, Kenny Rogers: Sheila, a special, amazing, beautiful woman. What was I thinking when I left her?

Songs of Life, Neil Diamond: Sheila, Part II. And I still don’t know what I was thinking when I left her.

Pretty Woman, Roy Orbison: Sheila, Part III. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking when I left her. Dumb, dumber and dumbest.

Stormy Monday, Eric Clapton (or any great blues singer): Rhonda, another ex. My goodness, that woman had a voice. I heard her sing this in Brandon shortly after we began dating, and I was blown away.

Since I Fell for You, Barbra Streisand (or any of the great lady singers): Rhonda, Part II. She sang this for me in the lounge at the downtown Sheratan in Winnipeg. I was gobsmacked.

New York, New York, Frank Sinatra: Joan was my landlady when I first moved to Toronto in early 1980s. Great friend.

Imagine, John Lennon: Stephanie was a lady from Liverpool whom I met the night John Lennon died.

From This Moment On, Shania Twain: This was played at the first same-sex marriage I attended, for Rob and Derek. Rob left us a few years ago, but I always think of him and Derek when Shania sings this tune.

Girl from the North Country, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash: My brother Mick. It’s the first song on the Bob Dylan classic Nashville Skyline. I gave that album to Mick long ago and he’s been a Dylan-ite ever since.

I Cross My Heart, George Strait: I always think of Harley Tucker, a fictional character and Strait’s love interest in the movie Pure Country, when I hear this song. I’d like a girl just like her.

Old Friends, Waylon and Willie: Johnny Murphy, late DJ at CFRY in Portage la Prairie, once took an article I wrote and read it verbatim on his show, playing the various tunes I mentioned in the piece. They included Old Friends. Then, when our mutual friend Friar Nicholson died, I played this song all morning.

Losing You, Alison Krauss: This is Saturday afternoons/evenings at Paparazzi, when owner/barkeep Terry allows me to switch the music to my favorite singer.

Till I Gain Control Again, Alison Krauss: I think of heaven, because her voice is angelic.

Roadhouse Blues, The Doors: Once upon a time, I hosted a talk show, Prime Time Sports, on CJOB in Winnipeg. This was my theme song.

Till, The Vogues: Glenice, my first. A truly beautiful soul who deserved better than me.

About Vietnam and Las Vegas…a president in Puerto Rico…Tom Petty and the Traveling Wilburys…rude noise on The Voice…learning about Will & Grace…October baseball…and shining in 2019

Random thoughts before the candle goes out and the sun comes up…

I spent the entirety of my Sunday watching the final six installments of the Lynn Novick/Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War and went to bed emotionally spent and softly weeping.

Such atrocities. Such carnage. Such an unnecessary waste of human life.

I awoke 5 1/2 hours later, at 1:30 a.m. Monday, and clicked on my TV. I began weeping again. Another atrocity. More carnage. More unnecessary waste of human life, this time on our side of the world, in Las Vegas.

You wake up in the morning knowing the world will have changed overnight, but you don’t expect this kind of change. Fifty-eight people taken to the morgue. Approximately 500 whisked away to the ER at five different Vegas hospitals. That’s almost 600 people killed or cut down. By a man who, due to silent voices in his head and a disturbing, horrific sense of right and wrong, took a piece of pure Americana—a country music festival—and buried it in pure evil.

The physical toll is shocking, the worst human slaughter in modern-time United States. The emotional fallout is much greater.

Approximately 22,000 innocent, happy concert-goers are victims. Their friends and loved ones are victims. First responders are victims. Doctors and nurses are victims. Jason Aldean, on stage closing the Route 91 Harvest Festival when bullets from high-powered weapons began to rain down from a 32nd-floor room in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, and other performers are victims.

So the country to the south has been crippled. Again.

The Olympic Mountains

When I look out the main window of my humble home on a clear day, I can see the United States of America. Literally. The Olympic Mountains are off in the distance, standing tall and firm across the Juan de Fuca Strait in Washington state. It’s a peaceful, picture-postcard setting, totally at odds with the chaos, confusion and killings that occur far too often behind them.

It’s easy for us on the north side of those Olympic Mountains to feel smug and say these types of mass murders are “an American thing,” but do we really want to go there? Americans are our neighbors. Our friends. Even if we find them a tad loud and obnoxious when they visit, they’re North American kin.

Besides, it’s not like we’re immune to the depravity of minds that either snap or plot evil in Canada.

It was only nine months ago, remember, when a young man strolled into a Quebec City mosque and opening fired. By the time he walked out of the Islamic Cultural Centre, six people lay slain and another 19 were wounded.

It’s all so sad.

One of four students dead in Ohio.

The Vietnam War documentary, which aired on PBS, is a superb, enlightening and gripping work from Novick and Burns. It is a harsh reminder of the violence that prevailed during the 1960s and early ’70s—it definitely wasn’t all flower power, groovin’ and great rock ‘n’ roll like some Baby Boomers would have you believe—and I’m sure it opened eyes to the shameful deceit, cunning and flat-out criminal activity of people in the White House. The most heart-tugging and tear-inducing segment for me was the sight of students lying on the ground, dead, at Kent State after the Ohio National Guard had gunned them down. Innocent kids, killed by their own government. I can still hear the haunting refrain “four dead in Ohio” in Neil Young’s classic protest song Ohio. Sigh.

Speaking of government, did U.S. President Donald Trump actually tell people in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to “have a good time” and toss them paper towels? Well, yes, he did. Oh my.

Okay, it’s about Tom Petty. My favorite Tom Petty stuff was the stuff he did with Nelson, Otis, Lefty and Lucky, aka the Traveling Wilburys. Now, with Petty’s passing this week, there are only two of the Wilburys left—Lucky (Bob Dylan) and Otis (Jeff Lynne). George Harrison and Roy Orbison had preceded Petty to the big rock concert in the sky. Petty (Charlie T. Wilbury Jr.), Dylan, Lynne, Harrison and Orbison only recorded one album together —Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1—and it’s brilliant. Those boys could really get after it. There’s a second album (I have the both on vinyl), but Orbison had already left us.

The Traveling Wilburys: Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison.

My favorite Traveling Wilburys tunes…

  1. Handle with Care
  2. End of the Line
  3. Rattled
  4. Not Alone Any More
  5. Poor House

Gave The Voice a try last week, but, sorry, I cannot watch if Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson are sitting in two of the four judges’ chairs. They both seem to be of the misguided notion that the show is about them, not the contestants. The hokey Adam Levine-Blake Shelton bromance wore thin about six years ago, but Cyrus and Hudson make the show unbearable. Click.

I’m told Will & Grace are back on TV. Hmmm. I didn’t know they had left. So, because I missed them during their first go-round on the small screen, I thought I’d give the new season’s first episode a look-see. I must say, that was a funny show. And imagine my surprise. There are gay characters. Who knew? Must check it out again. (Sidebar: Debra Messing has gorgeous hair. Love the color, which also happens to be my color.)

I love October baseball, even if I don’t have a cheering interest. Actually, I found myself root, root, rooting for the New York Yankees in their wild-card skirmish with the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. I’m not sure what that means. I mean, I’ve always been an ABTY ball fan—anybody but the Yankees. So why was I cheering for them? I think I need to book some time on Dr. Phil’s couch.

If I was still in River City, working in mainstream jock journalism at the Winnipeg Sun, I’d be required to attend a hockey match this very night between the hometown Jets and the Tranna Maple Leafs and pretend it’s important. I’m glad I’m no longer in River City working in mainstream journalism.

According to my October horoscope, “2019 will be your time to shine.” Excuse me? 2019? What the hell am I supposed to do until then?

%d bloggers like this: