My song today is, ‘The Dance’. This song was written and composed by Tony Arata, and recorded by American country singer, Garth Brook as the tenth and final track from his self-entitled debut album. It is considered by many to be Brooks' signature song
At the opening of the music video, Brooks explains that the song is written with a double meaning; both as a love song about the end of a passionate relationship, and a story of someone dying because of something he believes in, after a moment of glory.
I cannot imagine a life without music, dance, and song. Every year since early childhood until the present day, these three aspects have been as important to me as breathing. They represent the aesthetic oxygen that fills my lungs with air as tasty as nectar and the veins of blood that flow through my very being with the pulse of life itself. I had a speech impediment until my fourth year of life, but my mother told me that it never prevented me from babbling out some tuneful words.
At the age of 11 years, I incurred a serious traffic accident that threatened my life for two months, and which left me with a damaged spine that stopped me walking for three years. I had fifty operations on my broken legs during the following two years, even though I was unable to stand independently or walk on them. The wagon that knocked me down and ran over me, wrapped my twisted body around the main drive shaft (crushing every rib in my chest, except two of the 24 ribs), and leaving me with mangled legs and a lifetime of pain. One of my legs finished up being three inches shorter than the other one.
Between the ages of 9 years of age and 11 years, I would go Old Time Dancing weekly at the ‘Keir Hardy Hall’ in Liversedge. I was never sure whether it was the dance steps I enjoyed learning which maintained my interest or placing my arms tenderly around the waists of a pretty girl? I took to dancing and won a few dancing medals, and had just moved on to learning ballroom dancing when the wagon ran over me and changed my life. After I learned to hobble and walk again, the discrepancy in the length of my legs essentially meant that never again would I be able to gracefully glide around the floor with the poise and balance expected of a proficient ballroom dancer. Fortunately for me, by the time I could walk and get around again, Rock and Roll had hit the scene, and ‘bopping’ was the craze of the ballroom floor. Bopping would remain the dance of my romantic teens; even into my old age. Given that there were no standard movements, rock and roll enabled an individual to develop their own steps, and I am pleased to say that I learned to bop with the best of them.
All my life, I have loved all manner and style of music and song from pop to jazz, to soul, to country and western, and also to opera. I came to enjoy classical music immensely in my late twenties and still find it the most suitable kind of music to wind down and relax to. Whatever the music type, I loved it. It mattered not whether it was the crazy and wild pounding of the piano by a demented Little Richard singing ‘Great Balls of Fire’ or the classical balance, clarity, and transparency which are the hallmarks of Mozart’s music, or that angelic sound of choral masculinity echoing from a Welsh Choir in the valley, or the bold brashness of the Brass bands I would hear weekly in the park when the Forde family went on our Sunday afternoon walk; all were music to my ears!
All my life, I grew up with a mother of seven children who sang all day long as she performed a mountain of daily chores. Singing made mum happy to be alive, and even though she could not remember the correct words of any song all the way through, she happily made up her own to fill the gaps. As for holding a note, forget it. Mum’s hands, which were cut and callused with a lifetime’s hard work could hold a hot lump of coal longer than a musical note! I once berated her for not being able to sing for toffee, before she told me that God gave everyone the right to sing who had a song to sing, whether or not they were considered to be a ‘good singer’.
My mother then told me the answer to one of life’s puzzles; why birds sing. Mum said it was because ‘they have a song to sing’. She added, “We all have a song to sing, Billy”. Despite mum never having been taught beyond an elementary education level in Ireland before she left school, where wisdom was concerned, she had it by the bucket load! She was essentially telling me two of life’s fundamental truths; that we all have a song to sing and that the song of our life represents the talents we display and have to offer others. All talents were of equal worth in mum’s philosophy. She told me that some people are natural-born singers, others paint, sculpt, some act on stage or screen while others have the talent of being a good friend and companion or are endowed with a warm heart, a listening ear, or are generous and compassionate in abundance. Even ‘being there’ by standing alongside another person in their hour of need, is a talent worthy of display.
According to my mother’s beliefs and philosophy, we are each placed on this earth by the good Lord to love one another and to discover and display our talents for the benefit of self and others! Mum reminded me that my dad had two talents; his ability to play football and his nature to be a hard worker and family provider. In his own way, my dear father also shared mum’s philosophy, and he would advocate "Whatever you do, do as well as you can, and do with a good heart."
Between the ages of nine and twenty-one years of age, I was a good singer and won many prizes for displaying my talent in numerous contests. For a few months after I arrived in Canada, I sang professionally in a night club, thinking myself to have been the best discovery since sliced bread. I gave up my ‘singing career’ when I accepted that though I was good enough a singer to earn a living from the profession, I was not the ‘best singer’ on the circuit. Ironically, (although I was not consciously aware of it at the time) this egotistical attitude of mine was in direct opposition to the attitude my dear mother held on the subject of one’s singing ability. Between the ages of 21 and 74, I never sang in public again; with one exception, when I attempted a karaoke number while ‘under the influence’ one Saturday night in Scarborough. On that evening, I forgot my lines and died of shame.
Throughout my years of ‘public singing famine’, I smoked heavily, and had two heart attacks in my 60th year; the second of which rendered me unconscious for three days, and which almost killed me off. At the age of 74 (4 years ago), I was finding it hard to breathe without puffing whenever I exerted the least little bit of energy like stair climbing. My mobility had reduced significantly over the years after my arthritis gradually deteriorated in my fifties, and obliged me into early retirement at the age of 53 on the grounds of ill-health and being unable to walk more than thirty yards without stopping for a rest. Then, in my 70th year of life, I developed a terminal blood cancer which lowered the oxygenation in my lungs even further, and before long, after 18 months of chemotherapy, three years of monthly blood transfusions, two bouts of pneumonia, half a dozen cancer operations and the development of a Lymphoma, my lung capacity had reduced by twenty percent.
Then, one day I read in a newspaper article how regular daily singing practice was beneficial to improving one’s lung and breathing capacity, besides increasing the level of oxygen in one’s blood count (oxygenation). So, with having nothing to lose, I started my daily singing practice and have been singing for a few hours daily ever since. I sing a song on my daily Facebook page and have now been doing so for the past three years. I measure my temperature, blood pressure reading, lung capacity, and oxygenation levels four times every day. After one year of daily singing practice, my lung capacity and blood oxygenation levels improved twenty percent; moving me from being a man with a level bordering COPD level to that of ‘normality’ once more. I may be presently terminally ill and dying with three different body cancers, but believe me, I am in rude health in psychological, mental, and emotional terms. I even have my own YouTube video song channel which has over 750 recorded singing videos of me singing, and which can be freely subscribed to: https://www.youtube.com/c/WilliamForde
What is more, I love my daily singing practice. It brings me much joy and makes me an infinitely happier person than I otherwise would be. I sing today, not out of any vanity or because I think myself to be good (or even worthy of being considered a decent ‘has been’), but because it brings me greater health and happiness, besides having helped me to bury a few skeletons in my closet of the past. It is also a very positive addition to my daily routine during this lockdown experience that the Covid-19 pandemic has subjected the country to since March 2020.
All my prior accidents, illnesses, and operations have helped me become the person I am today and has not taken one jot of what remains good of me, away from me. I have a high pain threshold because of the constant and significantly high-level of pain my body has had to cope and readjust to since the age of 11 years. My high pain threshold has enabled my 77-year-old body to withstand six life-saving operations to remove cancer from my forehead, face, neck, and throat over the past 18 months, as well as receive 40 sessions of deep radiotherapy.
In 2010, I married the love of my life, Sheila, and despite having acquired three different body cancers since (including a terminal blood cancer), and a lymphoma, I have never been happier in my life. I have lived the best of lives. I feel greatly loved and I am blessed with a smashing wife, good friends, and a close family network. I would not exchange the life I enjoy today with the experiences of any other man or woman in the world. Life is a pleasure, and life is also filled with pain, but both are necessary experiences if you want to live it to the full as I have done and am still doing. To live implies a willingness to experience ‘pain and pleasure’, for it is only through one’s pain and pleasure that one truly experiences the dance of life. Believe me, life is one dance nobody should ‘sit out’.
Love and peace Bill xxx