Music of our childhood has more power than we think

Monday 13 June 2016

So much so she was once sorely tempted to become president of the George Formby Society.

Sadly she was informed by a courtier that this would be “inappropriate”, although what a wonderful wheeze it would have been. Strangely enough I too had a bout of musical nostalgia this week.

My mum and dad used to sing a lot when I was little. Dad was a great honky-tonk piano player and all our family get-togethers revolved around him and a couple of uncles tickling the ivories in our front room, accompanied by lots of tuneless honking from the assembled guests.

So the other day, wanting to find some child-friendly tunes to amuse my little granddaughter, I suddenly remembered the Sinatra number that my dad used to croon to me:

A pig is an animal with dirt on his face

His shoes are a terrible disgrace

He has no manners when he eats his food

He’s fat and lazy and extremely rude

And if you don’t give a feather or a fig

You may grow up to be a pig.

All the monkeys aren’t in the zoo

Every day you meet quite a few

But you know it’s all up to you

You could be better than you are

You could be swingin’ on a star.

Ivy will love this, I thought. But then I remembered something else. People talk about the potency of cheap music but music heard in childhood can have a resonance for life. My dad had another family showboat song.

But I realised I couldn’t remember it at all, except that it was called Chloe, which of course is what I called our only daughter. Considering how popular the name is now it was a very unusual one when our girl was born 28 years ago.

And yet for some strange reason I was always determined to call my baby girl Chloe. What were the lyrics of that halfremembered song that had lingered in my head for decades? I googled 1950s songs called Chloe. Minutes later I was listening to Louis Armstrong, the great Satchmo, singing my dad’s favourite.

Chloe! Chloe!

Someone’s calling; no reply

Nightshade’s falling, here him sigh

Chloe! Chloe!

Through the black of night

I’ve got to go where you are

If it’s dark or bright

I’ve got to go where you are

Through the smoke and flame

I’ve got to go where you are

For no ways can be too far

Where you are

Ain’t no chains can bind you

If you live, I’ll find you

Love is calling me

I’ve got to go where you are.

Sadly my dad didn’t live long enough to meet his baby granddaughter named after his favourite song. But I did get a bit weepy listening to Satchmo. It’s the soundtrack to my childhood.

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