I also dedicate my song today to three Facebook friends who are celebrating their birthday today. Happy birthday to Susan McDonald Mendes who lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Happy birthday goes also to Margaret Lower who lives in Piltown, County Kilkenny, Ireland. Finally, we send birthday greetings to Jacqueline Conroy who lives in New Hyde Park, New York, U.S.A. Enjoy your special day and thank you for being my Facebook friends.
My song today is ‘Father and Son’. This a popular song that was written and performed by English singer-songwriter, Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf/Cat Stevens) on his 1970 album ‘Tea for the Tillerman’. The song frames a heart-breaking exchange between a father not understanding a son's desire to break away and shape a new life, and the son who cannot really explain himself but knows that it is time for him to seek his own destiny. The song is designed to capture both impulses of the older and younger generation. The song is sung in a deeper register for the father's lines while using a higher one for those of the son’s words and reasons for having to go away.
Interviewed soon after the release of ‘Father and Son’, Stevens was asked if the song was autobiographical. Responding to the interviewer from ‘Disc’ he said, "I've never really understood my father, but he always let me do whatever I wanted, and he let me go. 'Father and Son' is for those people who can't break loose”. The song is not about taking one side over that of another, merely presenting both sides of father and son.
I recall a time when I worked in a mill in Brighouse in West Yorkshire. It was a few years after I was first married. I had no children then and I was attending night school to gain university entry qualifications. This was about four years before I became a Probation Officer.
One of my workmates in the mill was called Albert. Albert was nearing his retirement. In his youth, he had been a born womaniser, a heavy drinker, and one of the best county cricketers ever to come out of Brighouse, West Yorkshire. Along the way, however, Albert fell into that most dangerous of man traps in which confirmed bachelors are prone to be ensnared by; the arms of a beautiful-looking woman who sets one’s heart on fire and stirs one’s loins to perpetual distraction.
Upon first meeting this woman, Albert told us, he wasn’t aware of the depths of deception and guile to be found in one so lovely of body and face. His woman was a strict Methodist through and through, and though she told Albert that she loved him ‘for who he was’, in her heart of hearts, she planned to change him as soon as he had placed the ring upon her finger. Within 18 months of marriage, Albert had been transformed from womaniser to Godly worshiper. He had become teetotal, he stopped smoking and swearing and had even converted to Methodism.
Each morning break at the mill, when we paused work for our tea and to eat a sandwich, Albert would always have some story to tell us that offered some worldly advice or highlighted some of life’s hidden snares waiting around the corner of our coming years to temp and endanger us. He was a wise old owl and had a knack of telling a good tale. Annoyingly though, Albert would often tell us half a tale during our ten-minute break and leave us in suspense until the day after to hear the ending. We were never quite sure if it had been insufficient time to tell which had cut his tale short before the conclusion of it or whether it was just one of the clever ploys that would provide him with enough time overnight to think up a good ending to his story for the following morning tea break at the mill.
Albert was always one to give out advice to his young workmates (whom he would affectionately refer to as being young ‘whippersnappers’). I will never forget him once telling us the advice he had to offer ‘fathers and sons’, especially when both were of strong independent mind and dad was always going to be a hard act for his son to follow. Albert’s words were, “No son will ever become the man he was meant to be until his father is dead and buried. No son will ever be able to walk in his father’s shoes while his father is still around to wear them.”
In these few sentences, Albert summed up the psychological generational gap which exists between all fathers and sons of an independent mind and strong personality. Happy birthday Will x
Love and peace Bill xxx