I’ve never understood the idea of guilty pleasures when it comes to music. If you like a piece of music or a performer, then why feel guilty about it? Growing up with Mum might have something to do with it. For all of my childhood, Mum was active in the West Bromwich Operatic Society so along with my early affection for the music of T Rex, I cultivated a taste for Rodgers and Hammerstein. So, in my early years, I was as likely to be heard singing Edelweiss as Children of the Revolution. Today, Mum and I share the best of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II every week and I’m so grateful that their wonderful music is a means of communication, perhaps the only remaining means of communication.
My sometimes unfashionable taste extends beyond musical theatre. Three years ago, my mate Nick and I went to see a longtime favourite at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. Few would claim that Glen Campbell has spent his life at popular music’s cutting edge but from the first time I heard his take on Jimmy Webb’s Wichita Lineman I was hooked. Shortly after that concert in 2011, Glen Campbell announced he’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and last week, it was reported in Rolling Stone magazine that he’d moved to “an Alzheimer’s Facility” because his family were no longer able to care for him at home. He’d just celebrated his 78th birthday.
As I was driving to work on the M6 yesterday, my Ipod’s random selector came up with a song from Glen Campbell’s penultimate studio album Ghost on the Canvas, an album conceived and recorded after his diagnosis. Many of the songs are reflective in tone and though none are explicitly about dementia, it’s hard not to feel its cloak covering the whole recording. The song in question is called There’s No Me…Without You and contains the lines:
“I’m never going to fade away,
Your love won’t allow me to.”
I’ve listened to the song dozens of times but yesterday, for the first time, I heard those lines properly for the first time. In common with so many whose loved ones are living with dementia, I won’t let Mum fade away. Even when words aren’t possible any more, a smile and a held hand will work more often than not.
I hope Glen Campbell is as content in his care facility as Mum appears to be in hers. It’s all we can ask for.