Today’s song is ‘I Believe I Can Fly’, a 1996 song written and performed by American singer R. Kelly from the soundtrack to the 1996 film ‘Space Jam’. It was originally released on November 26, 1996, and was later included on Kelly's 1998 album, ’R’.
In early 1997, "I Believe I Can Fly" reached number two on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’. It was kept from the number one spot by Toni Braxton’s ‘UN-Break My Heart’. Although Kelly has had two number one songs on the pop chart, "I Believe I Can Fly" is his most successful single. "I Believe I Can Fly" also topped the charts in eight countries (including the United Kingdom), has won three ‘Grammy Awards’, and was ranked number 406 on Rolling Stones list of ‘The 500 Greatest Songs of all time’ in 20O4.
As a young boy I was brought reading the ‘Dandy’ and the ‘Beano’, before moving on to ‘The Hotspur’ which had my favourite football character, ‘Roy of the Rovers’; before finally settling with the air pilot and adventurer, ‘Biggles’. There were 100 publications of Biggles books by W.E.Johns (1893-1968) and I must have read every one of them from the mobile library. I decided to become an air pilot at the age of seven; being determined to fly to foreign lands.
By 9 years of age, my hero had changed from ‘Biggles’ to ‘Superman’ and I then became determined to fly by self-propulsion. At the time our family had just moved to a brand-new council estate called ‘Windybank Estate’. Being one of the earliest tenants to move onto the council estate, there was the building of a further hundred houses still to complete the day we moved in. The project went on for over a year, and after 5.00 pm after the builders had gone home, all the gangs from Windybank would play inside the partly-constructed houses until bedtime or until a Bobby on his bicycle saw us and chased us off the site. The partly-built houses invariably had six-feet-high hills of sand outside and a popular daring game was to perch one’s body in an upstairs window and fly into the sand below, doing a belly-flop landing. Many a boy was knocked unconscious and areas of the body that produced the most breaks were ribs, arms and legs. By the age of 10 years, I had decided that man wasn’t meant to fly unaided; that was for the birds.
Life went by and I was aged 22 years when I called in to see ‘The New York World Fair’ in 1965. I’d never imagined an area so large and spectacular to human senses. The immense fair covered 646 acres on parkland, surrounded by numerous pools, water fountains, and an amusement park with hundreds of daring rides. The fair's theme was ‘Peace Through Understanding’, dedicated to ‘Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe’
The fair was noted as a showcase of mid-20th-century American culture and technology. One of the most prestigious parts was the ‘Space Age’ section with its vista of promise, along with a man dressed in space gear flying hundreds of feet vertical in the air like a helicopter, being propelled by rockets flashing from his feet area. Here was my Superman, still not flying under his own steam but nevertheless, not breaking his ribs, arms and legs in the process!
The very first time I flew, it was in a jet from New York to Shannon in County Clare in southern Ireland. I was returning to England from my two-year stay in Canada and wanted to see Ireland, my birthland before flying back to West Yorkshire. Being my first time in a plane and not knowing if I’d ever be in one again, I treated myself to a first-class flight. I shall never forget the beautiful shades of colour patterns that permeated the kaleidoscopic sky as we moved into the dawn of someone else’s new day, and the absolute absence of noise and turbulence as this jet weighing tons seemed to move through the atmosphere effortlessly.
My flight from Dublin back to Yeadon Airport in West Yorkshire was a journey that certainly brought me back to earth with a bump! It was like flying in a rusty old leaking pail that coughed, choked, rocked, rolled and threatened to bring back up the Irish stew I had for dinner before I boarded the ‘Irish flying bucket’. Living on the American side of the Atlantic had thoroughly spoiled me in my tastes and newfound standards during my two-year stay.
The next time I flew, I was twenty-four and the flight was a thirty-minute journey around the Blackpool skies. I recall it costing half a week’s wages at the time for me and the young woman I was dating, and whilst an enjoyable experience, I felt afterwards that I’d have been better saving my money towards the boarding-house expenditure of a newly married couple on their pretend honeymoon wearing matching Marks and Sparks wedding rings.
I had very little more to do with flying apart from a couple of visits to Paris with another girlfriend who became my wife at the age of 26 years old. She should have been an actress on the stage; she certainly had me fooled as she started to transmogrify from the black-haired beauty (I was engaged to for five years ) to the vampire wife, Lily Munster from ‘The Munsters’ television sitcom.
My brush with the airways came back into play during my late sixties when I met my wife, Sheila. When I first moved in with her, it took me ages to figure out why she always spoke with her hands and pointed fingers whenever directing me which way to go or what to do. We’d been together a year before she revealed she’d been an air hostess for seven years in her early twenties. Suddenly, things started to make sense and it was no longer a surprise that she looked a good 15 years younger than her actual age. I entertained instant images of her stood astride the aisle of the aircraft, waving her arms back and forth and her hips side-to-side as she does in her Yoga class today. She would certainly have the looks to take all admiring male eyes off any thought of ever crashing mid-flight.
My last experience flying was on my way to and back from a holiday in Crete when Sheila and I visited there in 2016. My blood cancer and the absence of an effective immune system was aggravated by the recycled air in the plane. It gave me a bug and I spent the four days prior to flying home in bed followed by a lengthy illness. I can now say in all honesty that I will never take to the skies again.
When I was young, ‘I believed I could fly’. As I grew older, I knew I could walk and run long distances, until an accident at the age of 11 years which stopped me walking for three years. In later life my walking mobility worsened and today if I am in town and need to walk more than a hundred yards, I simply sit in my wheelchair while my own private air hostess (who still has the looks of one, despite her 62 years of age) takes off whether or not I have my seat belt fastened. Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone.
Love and peace Bill xxx