Last week Bill Withers died. Bill Withers was part of the soundtrack to my life. He was the soul background to hot chaotic Parties during my last summer in Liverpool, easing out the driving rhythms of The Clash, Sex Pistols and tom Robinson as seemingly never-ending parties wound down to an early morning close.
1978 was a year of personal transition, traumatic in the leaving of Liverpool but ultimately a year of reaffirmEnt as I built a new life in London, a city I have lived in until this day.
Bill Withers and his haunting tones of Lovely Day alongside Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street were familiar friends accompanying me down the M6 motorway to an initially unfamiliar city.
Over the years as I built my life in London Wither’s “Lovely Day” was a song I resorted to whenever I wanted to elevate my mood. However, the song was a Trojan Horse for the unwary singer, melodic and apparently easy to sing along to in its initial bars it had a trap waiting for us all. The song is notable for Withers’ sustained note towards the end, which at 18 seconds long, is, according to Wikipedia, one of the longest ever recorded on a song.
For me and thousands of unwary emulators the result is that we collapse in an asthmatic wheeze as we struggle to maintain the final notes alongside Wither’s masterful rendition.
This did not stop me unfeasibly trying to match Withers performance, provoking, I suspect dirty looks from neighbour’s family and friends. One of the benefits of later life blindness is that I was of course oblivious to this disapprobation.
However just one creature seemed to respond positively. During the hot Summer of 2013 as I took possession of my guide Dog Nyle, he alone seemed to appreciate my efforts. I noticed that whilst he was struggling up a hill in the heat of a London August afternoon that he appeared to flag.
The heat was such that I also was panting. In order to motivate both of us I started a rendition of Lovely Day. To my amazement Nyle immediately perked up and strode purposefully up the hill.
It was with high emotions that I returned home. I was astounded that, for the first time, a creature on this Earth had been motivated by my singing. I eagerly sought out my Wife Sue to express my pride.
Sue just sniffed and said he was probably just trying to get away from you.
Deflated I concluded that she was probably right.
It doesn’t stop it being a great song though.