I watched an episode of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, a production out of Botswana, on Youtube. I love everything about this production, the cast, the characters, the story, the portrayed culture, and the music. “Wouldn’t it be great,” I thought, “to have music like that playing through ordinary life events!”
This led me to think about Graceland, the album, one of my very favourites, released at what I might consider the most creative and magical years of my life. In the late 80s I was in newly in love with my work (PhD), with my friends, and with a man who loved me as much as I loved him. It was a magical time, full of laughter, music, and love. There were hard parts, but they didn’t destroy the magic, they couldn’t even touch it. Listening to Graceland reminds me of that time in my life.
All of this comes to me at a time when I need it most. On Saturday a dear friend passed away from lung cancer. He was a singer/songwriter, but more than that, he was one of the gentlest and kindest souls to have walked the earth. How lucky I have been to call him a friend, and how deeply I will miss him.
He was a quiet man, and when he offered a comment it always hit the mark with surprising speed and accuracy. Something he said often caused me to burst into laughter. I loved talking with him, spending time with him, his presence was a transcendence, he was just like that. Perhaps in some ways he was very like me, I recognized something in him that was essential. We were friends in the finest sense of the word. He and Attila got on like a house on fire, it was an instant connection. Derek came to stay with us at the country house one weekend, bringing along Rufus his canine companion, and his guitar; our time together that beautiful fall weekend was unforgettable, low key and charged at the same time.
Derek Currie, Many Times Many Places
I met Derek in 1988, at Fat Albert’s open stage in Toronto, when it was held in the basement of the Bloor Street United Church, across from the previous Rochdale College. By the time I began to spend time at Fat Albert’s it had been in existence for 20 years. I read poetry on stage, at one time accompanied by music, played by Steve-Paul Simms. Fat Albert’s was an indescribable community, that reminded me of the small community where my Granny and Grandpa lived, and where my Mom grew up. All kinds of human traits existed in the community, including the talented, talentless, kind, sarcastic, arrogant, contemptuous, radiant, intelligent, creative, and hopeless; it was a rainbow of humanity, brought together by the common thread of creativity.
Fat Albert’s was urban, my Granny’s community was rural, but the similarity came in the respect, tolerance, and thread of decency and humanity that connected the people involved. Fat Albert’s became my urban community during that time in my life, and Derek was a part of what made the community so rare, healthy, and vibrant.
“Performers who are familiar with Fat’s know the benefits are of the non-monetary kind and accept our limitations. What we pay is attention. We like to see and hear anyone who can come by some Wednesday evening. Ray always said Fat’s ran on a “need to know” basis: when you need to, you’ll find us.”
Ray [Ray Peake] was a bright light in the world, one of the very few people on planet earth that I can honestly say I admired. And he was right about “need to know”, I needed Fat Albert’s and I found it.
Ray passed away a year ago, another fine friend. A favourite memory of mine about Ray was when I was preparing for my week of comprehensive exams for my PhD. I slept little, and sometimes needed a break from the books, so one night, after midnight, I needed to take a break, to get out and walk around, so I called Ray on the phone and he came over in his truck to go for a walk with me. We walked around the Bloor/Bathurst area, and around Kensington Market. At one point we passed a bar that was open, Ray walked over to the large window, and gazed in as if there was something interesting going on. He waved me over and said, “have a look”. I peered into the window to discover that a whole host of Portuguese men, drinks in hand, were staring back at me, wondering what I wanted. Ray had already moved down the sidewalk, chuckling the way he did. We laughed together as we rounded the corner and left the bar far behind us.
Another voice I came to know through Fat Albert’s was that of Sam Larkin. I knew Sam and his music when I frequented Fat Albert’s, but it wasn’t until years later that we became friends. Sam was a very talented singer/songwriter, and Sam really “got me”. Sam saw my strengths, my weaknesses, and could make me smile while “taking the mick”. Sam passed away in 2013, it was a big loss.
Sam Larkin, Voices Forever
These fellows I have lost, as well as other male friends, my brother Carl Robert in July of this year, Patrick Logier in 1996, and my Grandpa in 1985, are the stars in my night sky… they are my voices forever.
Note: Attila and I try to attend musical events, such as house concerts, and small cafe events, but these venues seldom offer a satisfying experience. The show does not promote creativity, we find ourselves in a workplace for practising singers/songwriters/musicians. I am not much of a woman for adoration, I never adore people I don’t know know well, so I don’t adore performers. I appreciate certain performers, as they are channeling something from a higher plane, but that is as far as I can take a top down offering. I do not mistake a conduit for electricity itself. The performance is not one of peers sharing, but of performer and audience, there is a hierarchy. Creativity doesn’t live in these venues. After experiencing Fat Albert’s these venues always, always, always disappoint. I think Ray Peake may have been a genius, or maybe he was a strange kind of angel.
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Monday 12 September 2016
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.4 kPa
Visibility: 24 km
Wind: SSW 9 km/h
“Love is not blind – it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.”
Rabbi Julius Gordon