I dedicate my song today to five Facebook friends who celebrate their birthday today. They are Trudy Mahon who lives in London, England: Claire Robinson, and Helen Quinlan, and Patsy Foley and Paul Bourke who live in Carrick-on-Suir, Tipperary, Ireland.
My song today is ‘The Greatest Love of All’.
Having now recorded over one thousand videoed songs since I started my singing practice three years ago, even were I to die tomorrow or never be able to sing again because I have one year of recorded songs that have still not been played to you, it would take four years for my wife Sheila to post each song in daily rotation before enabling you to hear each of them again. That, of course, is unless you subscribe to my YouTube Video Customised Channel at no cost, and can listen to any of my recorded songs over the past three years whenever you want.
As cancer in my head, face, neck, shoulder, and throat advances daily, because it is at an incurable stage now, the best I can hope from the Cancer Consultant Oncologist who I see at Leeds Hospital on Thursday, March 11th is that I am suitable to be given transfusions of a cancer drug (which if it works) will slow down cancer (not stop or reverse it) and buy me a bit more time. The drug being considered is a palliative option and not a curative one. If however, the latest scan results show that I have other body cancers developing, or that my body and kidneys are not strong enough to withstand the toxicity of the drug, and its reported bad side effects, the transfusion programme will not be offered to me.
I have felt one side of my head and face stiffen considerably over the past month, and my mouth movements are becoming more restrictive and painful. Whereas previously, I experienced some discomfort each time I spoke, ate, or sang, the discomfort is now invariably painful. Ironically, it is now hurting me to sing as it gets more difficult to form the vowels; yet singing makes me happier, and what is more important in my survival bag is that it detracts my mind from my increased body pain throughout the day. Also, exercising my jaw for a few hours daily is essential to avoid (forgive the pun) lockjaw! I shall continue to sing daily as long as it is physically possible for me, as I would hate for singing to disappear from my daily routine since I discovered its immense pleasure again three years ago.
Having many followers who now listen to my daily song, I am frequently messaged to sing favourite songs of theirs which I have previously sung on my daily Facebook page. Today’s song is one such song that I have had many dozens of requests to repeat. The song is ‘The Greatest Love of All’ that George Benson and the great Whitney Houston recorded. I cannot do this beautiful song justice as George or Whitney did, but in response to the numerous requests of Facebook contacts, here is my humble offering once more. Please accept it in the spirit in which it is sung.
‘The Greatest Love of All’ was written by Michael Masser, who composed the music, and Linda Creed, who wrote the lyrics. It was originally recorded in 1977 by George Benson, who made the song a substantial hit, peaking at Number 2 on the US 'Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs’ chart that year, the first R&B chart top-ten hit for ‘Arista Records’. The song was written and recorded to be the main theme of the 1977 film ‘The Greatest’, a biopic of the boxer Muhammad Ali. Eight years after Benson's original recording, the song became even more well known for a version by Whitney Houston, whose 1985 cover (with the slightly amended title ‘Greatest Love of All’) eventually topped the charts, peaking at Number 1 in the United States, Australia, Canada and on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs’ in early 1986.
The song was written about the world-famous boxer Muhammad Ali, Michael Masser wanted us to know that there was a man who wanted to change his name and religion. Ali hadn't believed in the war in Vietnam and had refused to fight in it. He won that battle through the legal system. Still, he lost everything else, including his title which was forfeited. But Ali retained the most important thing of all; his dignity.
‘Dignity’ is the core part of my value system that I was raised with. My father was a relatively uneducated man who had to leave school at the age of 12 years to join the workforce because of his family’s poverty, and I can count on both hands the quotations and sayings he imparted to me as a child and growing adult. A few of dad’s quotations included:
“Billy, never believe any type of work to be too good for you. No type of work is beneath any man’s dignity!”
‘Billy, always keep your word. Never surrender your dignity. The only thing a poor man possesses and has to give is his word and his dignity. Give up these two things and you might as well give up your life, as you will be left with nothing of worth living for!”
My father lived by these beliefs and would have died for them if called upon to do so. I know my father to have been correct in his beliefs. I have always believed ‘dignity’ to be as essential to the wellbeing of human life as water, food, and oxygen. Dignity signifies not the possession of status and honour but the deserving of such acknowledgment. I will leave the final word on the matter to a man that Mohammed Ali and myself idolised as representing ‘the best of mankind’, the late President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who once wrote: “Any man or institution that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose”.
Love and peace