21 Days of Music is my love letter to my Grandpa, he was my best friend, my confidant, my hero, and most importantly my everything. He was the best human being I have ever known, kind, loud, he had a big sweet tooth and could snore for England. He stepped up when I didn’t have a dad around, he was my rock, and one of the biggest influences in my life.
My love for music and movies comes from him, he let me read his Reader’s Digest books about history until I found out about the man who poisoned someone with an umbrella. “That’s enough reading for you”. When I watched Anastasia religiously he would trace me pictures from my sticker book so I could colour them in. He is the reason I fell in love with Harrison Ford, I wanted to be Indiana Jones, and ultimately he gave me a great love for sci-fi. Star Wars was a big one as was Back To The Future.
For a man who grew up in and out of the hospital and bouncing between London and Belfast, he was strong and fiercely loyal.
Family was everything to him and he helped raise his siblings and also helped my mum, along with my nan, raise three strange yet confident, loud, and sometimes troublesome grandkids. Three grandkids who loved him to the moon and back and then he had three Great-Grandchildren, who he adored. He lived a full life for a man who only made it to 74 years of age. He was the best of us.
He had stories, damn he had some stories. A man who was humble and prudish while also loud and filled every room with vibrant colour, despite the fact he was always in black jeans and a black shirt, like some London-born, half-Irish version of Johnny Cash. My best friend Lisa used to call him that or just ‘The Man In Black‘. A man so humble that he would say, yeah I was in a band with Noel Redding, for about five minutes, you know he was in the Jimi Hendrix Experience after that.
He served Jimmy Page a pint and talked to him about music before he even realized who it was. This was a common thing, thinking he knew someone from the pub when really he knew them cause they were famous. He met Russ Abbot in a garden center and started talking to him, cause I was playing with his son at the time. This was just who he was. And it still feels weird talking about him in the past tense cause for me he is in every part of my life.
There is a particularly funny story about him and my nan going to see The Dubliners. My nan, who grew up in the Republic of Ireland, kept their table while my Grandpa went to the bar to get them drinks in the interval.
Well, while at the bar my London-born Grandpa whose dad’s family came from Belfast, bumped into Luke Kelly. This might not mean much to some of you, but anyone who grew up listening to The Dubliners and the beautiful tones of Luke Kelly will know how significant this is. They got talking, and my Grandpa gave him my Nans drink, the end of the interval came and he returned to the table. Without the drink and having spoken to Luke Kelly, THE LUKE KELLY.
That really does sum up who he was, forgetful, kind-hearted, and passionate about music. A person who was everyone’s friend, made you feel comfortable in your own skin, and didn’t stand for injustice.
Music is the thing that connected us all, his family and friends, every story revolves around a band he went to see, a moment in the pub, or a good party. He loved music, he took great delight in showing someone this cool new artist he had found or getting out his old records. He even learned how to use Youtube, which is something I will miss, his music popping up on my account.
His last great act of music sharing happened a month or two before he passed away. I, Him, and my Nan decided to watch something on Dolly Parton, after this my nan went to bed and Johnny Cash at the BBC came on. I told him to leave it on and we sat listening and singing along, talking about our love for country music when suddenly my daughter appeared. She came and sat with us, asking so many questions and telling me and Grandpa that she loved this man’s voice.
And months later Johnny Cash can still be heard coming from whatever room she is in. It is her go-to-sleep music, it is her ‘I’m missing grandpa’ sound, It is the feeling in his voice and the look of him that reminds her of her Grandpa. Sometimes we walk to school, blearing ‘Ring Of Fire’ from my phone, singing along, probably to the dismay of the local cats. This was his last great act and I think Emily will always be a Johnny Cash fan because of this.