On giving thanks

The Good Life

A friend of mine in St Lucia died last week after a tough two-year battle with cancer.

His name was Bobby Clarke and our friendship started many years ago when Tradewinds was playing all over the Caribbean and came to make the first of many appearances in St Lucia.

During my time in music, I have met, literally, hundreds of people, and I’m not sure why only three or four have become special; perhaps it’s that the souls between some people just connect in some mysterious way.

It was like that with Bobby.

In the 35 years since we met, I don’t think any two-month period passed when we didn’t talk to each other or visit each other. The bond sustained. I had played with Tradewinds as friends at Bobby’s wedding.

Last Saturday, I left Cayman to be at his funeral.

Something else …many years ago, I had written a song called Living in the Sun. Contrary to what people think not all songs are personal, but this one was.

It had to do with my migrating to Canada and of, in effect, finding the Caribbean by leaving it – as Bobby did; as so many Caribbean people do – and there are some verses in the song about Bobby and St. Lucia.

So after his wife Angela called – and after I got over the shock of his passing – the thought came that I should sing Living in the Sun at his funeral and that’s what I was doing this past Monday afternoon in Castries.

I did it simply. No bass. No drums. Just two acoustic guitars: me and Boo Hinkson – a great guitarist from St Lucia I’ve known for years – who was also close to Bobby.

I’ve never played at a funeral before, and I was very nervous, but once I started the song rolled out. It was pure Caribbean, in church mind you, but it was a really touching moment because the song talks about the simple joys of Caribbean life, and while it was clearly a sad occasion in the cathedral, it cheered up everybody. People applauded after we finished – unusual for a funeral service.

There are two other aspects to this incident. One is that, after the funeral, we went back to Bobby’s house (with about 200 people, which is not my cup of tea) and nibbled and talked to all sorts of people, all of whom I had come to know from our trips to St. Lucia.

It was beautiful.

I spent some time there with Bobby’s family and with his wife.

She had had a bad time on Sunday and Monday, but she was bearing up well. She is truly a lovely person, so gentle, so warm, but a rock.

She pulled me to one side and said, “Dave, you know what Bobby used to say? He used to say, ‘Dave sang at my wedding and he will sing at my funeral.’ ‘

That just rocked me.

I could hardly speak.

She had never said anything about it to me, and neither had Bobby. Even when after she called and told me he had gone and I had called her back to tell her I was trying to come and maybe even sing something at his funeral, she never said a word about it. She obviously didn’t want to influence me.

That’s the kind of person she is.

That’s the kind of people I have met through music.

And that’s the other thought that subsequently came to me: that through some songs I had written about Caribbean life, I had come to know places and people all over this region that I would otherwise have missed.

When I visit Barbados, or St. Vincent or Guyana, people shout at me in the streets or call the radio to say hello; these people in St. Lucia are like family.

I have come to know the little back-o-wall villages in those places and the solid, genuine people who live there and invite you into their homes and make you feel special.

And the same is true of this island.

If Radio Cayman hadn’t started playing our music in the late 1970s, I probably would have never come to Cayman.

In fact, when Donnie Smith called me in Toronto in 1979 about coming to play here, I didn’t even know where the place was.

And so this weekend, on the way to my friend’s funeral, it came to me to be grateful to God for giving me this music that has brought me so much and has opened windows for me all over the world, and given me friends like Bobby.

As Christmas nears, it might be something we could all reflect on – the newcomers to Cayman – as well as the born-and-bred – to be grateful for whatever has put us here to live a pretty good life.