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James R. Stout

Reflections

             I was surfing on YouTube last night just looking to listen to some old songs that I don’t hear much anymore. I also like to see the artists when they were younger which reminds me of when I was younger. I started out watching a live performance from 1967 by The Bee Gees doing my favorite song by them, “To Love Somebody”. Now, I do have that one on my iPod and on CD but seeing them so young and wearing the fashions of 1967 always takes me back. I remember my older sister bringing that 45-rpm record home and we played the grooves off of it. I vividly remember the record label in yellow and white on Atco Records. I even remember the flip-side “Close Another Door” which is a good song as well. I looked it up and at the time of the release of that record and the taping of the performance Barry Gibb was 21 while his twin brothers, Maurice and Robin, were only 18. They should have been called “The Geez Gees”. So talented and so young. Sadly, Maurice and Robin are both gone now leaving Barry as the only survivor of the group.

            After watching that video, I progressed through several more all from about the same time period. “Georgy Girl” by The Seekers, “Sunday Will Never Be the Same” by Spanky and Our Gang, “Windy” by The Association, “The Letter” by The Box Tops, “Incense and Peppermints” by The Strawberry Alarm Clock, and “Beautiful People” by Kenny O’dell were all from 1967. I then moved forward to 1968 and enjoyed videos of “Just Dropped In” by The First Edition, “Too Much Talk” by Paul Revere and The Raiders, “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel, “Lady Willpower” by Gary Puckett and The Union Gap, “The Smell of Incense” by Southwest F.O.B., “Suzie Q” by CCR, and “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells. I might add here that when I get on YouTube and start surfing it becomes a marathon! I kept moving forward and went through several songs from 1969.

            Then I got to early 1970. Something triggered a memory and I looked up one of my all-time favorite recordings. It’s by a Scottish band called “Marmalade” and the song is “Reflections of My Life”. I was in 8th grade when that song came out and I was a die-hard Beatles fan. The first time I heard the song I thought it was a new Beatles record. But it wasn’t and that was OK. There were a lot of groups then that sounded like The Beatles and I enjoyed their music very much. Bands like Badfinger come to mind. “Reflections” was special though. It just hit on something right. As I sat there listening to the song and viewing a video of the band doing the song in 1970, I thought I might look up the members of the group and see what they were up to nearly 50 years later. They were all pretty young in 1970 and I figured there was a good chance that most of them were still with us. I soon learned that the lead singer and the writer of “Reflections”, Dean Ford, had just passed away on December 31st. That made me sad to hear. Yes, he had been 72 years-old, but that’s not exactly ancient. He passed away due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease. I read-up on his biography and learned that he was born in Scotland in 1946. By early 1967 Marmalade had been formed and they had some hits in the U.K. But it wasn’t until they released “Reflections” that they had big success in America. Unfortunately, they didn’t have much further success here or in England. They did a cover version of The Beatles “Oh-Bla-Di-Oh-Bla-Dah” that was stellar, but barely cracked the charts in America.

            One thought that I had while watching that video from 1970 was that Dean Ford was only 24 years-old when it was made and when he wrote that song. Now that I’m in my 60’s I have a different perspective on many things than I did when I was 24. There was Dean singing about reflecting back on his life and his “old home” and the truth is it was really all just in his imagination at that time. He hadn’t really lived long enough to reflect back very far. As I thought on that I noticed on the right side of the screen a bunch of “suggested” videos that were related to the one I was watching. One of them was of Marmalade reformed and performing “Reflections” in 2009 live. Well, I had to watch that one to see what they all looked like and how they sounded. As to the latter, they were in top form. The live version they did in 2009 was spot on perfect. As for the way that they looked it was pretty much what you might expect after what was then 40 years later. Dean Ford was bald while he had been a typical for the day long-haired young man in 1970. There were wrinkles too. A couple of the other guys had gray hair and had put on weight (boy, I can identify with those two things!). But if you closed your eyes and just listened, they sounded just as good as they had back in 1970. I don’t mean this with conceit at all, but so do I. Let’s face it though. If you take care of your voice and keep singing there is no reason that you shouldn’t actually get better with age. Some people abuse their voices, and some have illnesses that affect their singing voices. Those people probably don’t sound “as good” as they once did. But up to a certain point you can keep getting better. Sure, eventually time takes its toll and your voice starts to weaken etc. But in 2009 Dean Ford sounded every bit as good as he did in 1970.

            Then the thought came to me that his perspective on reflecting back on his life in 2009 had to have been completely different than in 1970. After all, by 2009 he had lived long enough for life to have left a few scars, had no doubt seen him lose loved ones that he missed, and he had surely grown wiser than he had been at 24. It dawned on me too that when that performance in 2009 was made Dean Ford was exactly the age that I am today. Ten years later and he is gone. I had to let that sink in a bit.

            By the end of his life I have to think that Dean Ford must have looked back on his “old home” and been melancholy. I know that I have those moments. A line from the song goes, “I’m changing, arranging, I’m changing everything, Everything around me.” Now isn’t that the truth? We are all changing even if it doesn’t seem like it in the moment. Take a drive through the neighborhood that you grew-up in and tell me that things haven’t changed. For that matter, look in the mirror and tell me you haven’t changed. Both inside and out. Those were some pretty insightful words for a 24-year-old. There’s a darker part of the song too that kind of hits home to all of us. It goes, “The world is a bad place. A bad place. A terrible place to live. Oh, but I don’t want to die.” If you’ve been paying attention to things at all, then you have to admit that the world is not what most of us would wish it to be. But this life is what we get and despite all the bad stuff in the world, life can be very sweet and I for one am very thankful for my life. In a way, I think that’s what Dean Ford was trying to say. As bad as the world may be, I’m glad I’m here and alive to share it with my loved ones.

            I ended my video surfing with that song last night. It made me do some heavy thinking. That’s a testament to Dean Ford’s songwriting ability at the ripe old age of 24. I didn’t know Dean Ford, but I’m sure glad that I know his song. It’s not only a haunting melody, performed with great harmonies, and possessing a personal nostalgia for myself and I’m sure many others, but it’s got lyrics that hit home whether you’re 24 or 63 or 72. Thanks for allowing me to have some reflections on “Reflections of My Life”. How about you? Have you got some reflections too?

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