That’s all servicemen and women wanted–respite from harsh realities of war. Reminders of home came in different forms–movies, USO shows, books, and music. Music, sweet big-band music, assured that all was well. There was still a place called home and someday this madness would end.
Nino Temple and April Stevens did a sixties cover version of “Deep Purple.” Like, just about every aspiring guitar player, I aspired to master Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” Coincidentally, the rock group adopted “Deep Purple” as their name. My mother didn’t particularly like top-forty rock music–mostly ignored it. Dad simply dismissed all rock music as “noise.”
It wasn’t cool for rebellious teenagers to like their parent’s music and vice versa. Big bands and swing music characterized the previous generation just as rock did for my generation. Mom mentioned that “Deep Purple”–as sung by Helen Forrest to the accompaniment of the Artie Shaw Band, was one of her favorites. Then, she sang along with the April Stevens and Nino Temple version playing on my transistor radio. She remembered every word–I was stunned! This would remain our little secret.
“Deep Purple,” by Helen Forrest album cover
Lest my nostalgic bent get the better of me–I’ll get to the point. What songs brought back memories for my parents? Was “Deep Purple” their song? Had my mother and father slow danced to the big band version of this song? In my mind’s eye, I could picture the two of them, as they danced–gazed into each other’s eyes. Promised their love would last forever.
Popular music of the forties wasn’t always about sweetness and romance. Several popular tunes had darker meanings. For example: “Flat Foot Floogie” and “Minnie the Moocher” were about unsavory characters. The original title “Flat Foot Floozy” was changed to something deemed more appropriate. There were several wonderful novelty songs, among them, “Three Little Fishes,” “Cement Mixer,” “Swinging on a Star.” The latter, my mother sang to me as a child.
My mother sang and played piano. At family singalongs voice quality was secondary to enthusiastic participation. It’s funny how music brings back memories–of people, places, events, moods–even smells. “That’s What Friends Are For,” was written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, for the Disney movie “Fox and Hound.” The song is perhaps best remembered in a benefit performance by Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder during the mid-eighties.
–Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always
Count on me
That’s what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for–
“For good times and bad times–I’ll be on your side forever more.” Those words, described my mother’s giving spirit–she’d been a war bride, teacher, mother to four children, and a good friend. These words comforted me, after her death in January of 1986–and applied to the greatest generation. Through good times and bad times they pulled through. Most importantly, they left the world a better place for having been here.