Fathers and Songs

This Father’s Day is a hard one for me and my family, exactly one year after my dad Gordon Perry passed away on June 18th, 2016. It hardly feels like a year since he unexpectedly fell ill and was quickly lost to us. He died one year and one month after my mother succumbed to cancer May 18th, 2015 – so it’s been a trying couple of years for us.
After my mom passed I tried to make the most of our remaining time with Dad, and I’m glad I was able to see as much of him as I did. The last weekend before his heart failure he spent with Brandy and me, walking around our neighbourhood, taking lots of pictures, watching some playoff hockey, simply enjoying life. The next time I saw him he was unconscious in a hospital bed with machines ticking off precious metrics that made no sense to me. And then he was gone, after a mercifully short time sustained by tubes and electronics.
Grieving never truly ends, but the sharp edge of losing both parents has blunted, and now I want to honour their memory the best way I can. Fortunately, Dad left behind a lot of material, not just the enormous volume of photography from his career, but plenty of writing as well — he published six books, with plans for more scattered among various papers, which I hope to one day gather together as a summary of his life and work.
The first thing I thought of for his Celebration of Life was to put one of his poems to music, and the choice was obvious: he wrote “My Cariboo” about the region where we both grew up and he spent nearly all his 81 years. It’s about home, nostalgia, and love of the wide open country in central BC. These lyrics truly hit home for me and a song came out quickly, in my own style of pseudo-country as a nod to his musical tastes, which formed my own earliest influences in guitar and singing.
The song turned out well enough that I knew I had to record it – in fact, it’s part of what drove me to do a full album and jump-start my intermittent music career. While planning the album (with quite a few of my unrecorded songs to choose from), I stumbled across another poem he wrote about Willie Nelson and his beat-up old guitar, Trigger. Willie was one of the artists my dad loved (along with Merle, Wayland, Kris, and Johnny Cash), and being of that age (born within a year of Willie), he mused that the oldtimer and his old guitar would bow out “about the same time,” sticking together right to the end. It’s a slim poem, I had to add a fair bit to flesh it out, but I managed to make it a late addition to our recording sessions and get it on the album.
Thus, the record I am about to unleash is steeped in Home, and with these two father-son collaborations bookending it, will be a fitting tribute to my parents and my roots. I know they’d be proud, but even more I know how thrilled Gordon would be to have songs he wrote recorded! My fondest hope now is to share this story with Willie Nelson and play that song for him – I’m pretty sure he’d get a kick out of it, and it would be the most incredible outcome for a little 12-line poem my dad wrote on a whim one day.

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