When Michelle got pregnant her mother wasn’t very happy about it and didn’t want to have anything to do with me – we were not getting married and had only just met.
Right after Angus was born I called Margret from the hospital and told her she had a grandson and we became good friends. She was the matriarch of a big, partly dysfunctional Catholic family – a tall, strong and independent woman who was extremely well read and sharp as a tack.
It was decided in the family that I would sing Danny Boy at her funeral. It’s such a great song and such an honour to be invited to sing it and it was the toughest gig I’d ever done.
I felt like such an amateur, just a pretender until I actually got up and started singing those words. There was an organist accompanying me and we filled the church and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
When we first met you were such a beautiful rose
I always knew you’d pose such thorny questions
Dennis swept into my side of the family with a hiss and a roar. He was a bighearted Yorkshireman who married my older sister and brought this amazing energy with him – at last another hedonist in the clan who loved the Stones/Beatles in the way I did. He had a great touch about him and had lived a full life and was outrageous.
When Sue called and told me that Den had taken his own life – it didn’t make much sense. We had all loved him. Sue asked me to sing at the funeral as none of us knew what to say.
I had a song called Some of the Joy I’d written about love and loss that I played on Scott’s guitar. It felt strange taking it into the chapel and it had no strap so I had to perch it with my knee and a chair. My leg started to shake uncontrollably during the song but I got on with it. After the first verse, a woman somewhere down the back joined in. She couldn’t have possibly heard the song before – it was very moving and haunting.
I’m not finished and wont be till I’m dead and gone
Or riding on the next plane flying out of here
Three years ago my father passed away. To me and everyone who knew him, he was an incredible man, a Scot who had served all through WW2 in the RAF before coming to NZ to build houses and our family. I played Weathered Lines at his funeral, a song I wrote when I was young. The imagery seemed to fit, with allusions to flying and the sea and being outside in the elements. I sang it with all my heart.
Happiness fades – sadness remains
To read Part Two of Vocals Click here