Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jesse Winchester

My blog posts have been more infrequent lately, I know. I haven't felt much like writing and didn't have much to write about, being in a funk, fighting with Community Services, and being down because of my financial situation, without work, no car, no food and my eyeball, I thought was acting wonky again. I had a wonky eyeball a few months back.

However, today I was proactive, and took care of business so to speak, put things into perspective and am feeling much better. I have learned the best anecdote to worry and stress is prayer and action. Courage is worry that has said it's prayers. I don't know who ever said that, but it helps me.

It's all relative and I always need to remember to put things into perspective, concentrate on the positive, forget my false pride, to not be afraid, reach out to others and to have gratitude.

What does this have to do with Jesse Winchester you are asking? Music and it's power to teach about, life, love, healing, humility, humour and health.

My only brother, and my hero, had MS from the age of 15. He would have been 68 this past March. He was one year older than Jesse. You could say, I look at Jesse as a big brother, that I have come to feel like I know, because of his music and the way he expressed his very humble, tender heart and soul in his words, and song that always came shining through.

My family is very musical and CBC radio was a staple. Music was a very important part of our family, however my brother Ralph , was not a musician, but he had a passion for music like I never saw before, until I heard musicians like Jesse Winchester, back in the 70s, when he first came on the Canadian music scene. His music captivated me, touched my soul and heart deeply like no one else.

Music , especially the Blues, saw my brother through his illness, in such a way that it brought us close together and deeply bonded us forever, much in the same way I feel bonded to Jessie and other musicians like him, that humbly dedicate themselves to their passion and their art. They are true wordsmiths, story tellers, healers, humourists and most of all have so much to teach us about what means to be human. Music is a wonderful God given gift, that is a strong glue that can bond people together.

I want to share a story.

My brother first introduced me to Blues when I was about 15. One very early Monday morning, for a young teenaged girl, I was awakened suddenly, by a loud wild sounding music coming from downstairs. Not being impressed, I got out of bed and found my brother blaring the television program, Canada AM. This regular early morning show, would always feature some kind of obscure musician, and this morning it was, Chicago's late great, Hound Dog Taylor & The House Rockers. I was spell bound, and from that point on, hooked on Blues. Looking back, I was already steeped and well schooled in Boogie Woogie, R&B, Rock and Roll and the likes of Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddly, and Rompin Ronnie Hawkins, etc., which were played regularly everyday in our house and so it was a natural progression in my musical education.

I would listen intently with my ear pressed against my brother's bedroom door for hours, while he played his records, on his old record player, that I still have to this day. I would think to my young self, what is this music, what are they singing? I swore I heard Bo Diddly singing about pink spaghetti! I'm not sure just what that song was, but Ralph used to play that one a lot!

Fast forward to many years later, not that long ago, I phoned in the request line to Saturday Night Blues. You leave a message on Holger's machine, saying your name, what it is you want to hear, and why.

Some time later, I recieved a very surprising email, from a man I knew many, many years ago, as a young troubled girl of 13, going on 14. He was my boyfriend, though we had never made it official, but I was in love, we both were.

My father had left our family, my brother was very ill with MS and mental illness and I was an out of control teenage girl. So my mother made the decision to leave Ontario and head back home, to her beloved Nova Scotia on the East Coast.

I was heart broken to be leaving and I remember the day before we left, very clearly. This beautiful young man, walked me home and we cried holding each other in front of my house, as we said our goodbyes. I had often wondered all these years, where he was and searched for him online but thought I'd never hear of him again, until that day I recieved his email.

He had heard me on Saturday Night Blues and searched me out. What an amazing experience to be able to talk to him when he called me over the phone and we were able to talk after 45 years, all because we both shared this love of music, especially the Blues. I have my brother Ralph to thank for this, because he religiously listened, as I do now, and he first introduced me to Holger's program, the best Blues show in the world I'm certain, over 20 years ago.

So my childhood sweetheart , we talk now and again and it's a healing kind of feeling to do so. He is still very dear to me in those very tender parts of my heart.

He recently told me, Jesse Winchester and a very talented young man he works closely with, by the name of Jimmy Bowskill were to play in a concert on the West Coast, however Jesse unfortunately has had to cancel all his tour dates, because he has been diagnosed with cancer.

At once I felt the pain and sadness of my brother's illnesses, my own blood brother Ralph and the one of choice, Jesse.
I have no doubt, if my brother and Jesse had ever had the chance to meet, they would love one another, because they have much in common. They are both brave, kind, funny, strong, soulful, humble and loving men, who love their music, love people and who love their God of their own understanding. I wish the world could be filled with more of this kind of man.

There is a song that Jesse sings, Step By Step that I love, here are the words

Step by step all the happy Saints go marching in
And if one of those Saints steps out of line
He'll have to start again
Cause Jacob's ladder
Gets slippery at the top
And many a happy-go-lucky saint
Has made that long long drop

If I'm late, don't wait
Go on without me, I may tarry a while
Cause I need to know before I go
How come the Devil smiles

Free from care, free from sin
The Saints are troopin' in
The children play all around the Throne
Innocent of sin
A trillion voices sing the Name
The mortals may not know
And Heaven's walls are too high to hear
The trouble down below

If I'm late, don't wait
Go on without me, I may tarry a while
Cause I need to know, before I go
How come the Devils smiles
I need to know before I go
How come the Devil smiles

Please drop by this site to leave a message for Jesse Winchester.


Joseph Cormier said...

Beautiful my dear, and from a beautiful spirit. God bless Jesse, and make him well again. AMEN
From Reverend Joseph

Unknown said...

Thank you for leaving your comment Joseph. It means a lot to me.

Bart Scannell said...

Dear Cathy,
Over the years I've come to realize
that those youthful heartbreaks,
though difficult to understand at the time, were essential in preparing
ourselves for the really tough stuff
to come later in life.
Fondly remembering you,

Unknown said...


You are a wise man. This I agree, is no doubt true. Life is the great teacher, some lessons are harder to learn than others.Maybe because we don't immediately if ever understand just what the lessons are sometimes.
Thank you for your thoughtful and kind words.