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The Song That Changed Your Life: Picks

by Raymond Maher

I was a farm boy and cut my teeth on country music. Besides a steady diet of country songs, the radio featured a big slice of pop music. I never considered music if it didn't come with words. In my first years of high school, a wild singing wiggler named Elvis was a popular Hound Dog in contrast to nice guy, Pat Boone.  

High school was an awkward lonely time for me and I began to fear I might never have a girlfriend. Kissing did not seem any closer to ever happening than when I was seven.

At that particular time our family did not have a car and dating while living five miles from town was pretty much out of the question. They say where there is a will there is a way but my way was to stay shy and alone.

 In January of 1961 an instrumental song, Wonderland by Night, by Bert Kaempfert became a hit. It featured horns, which normally I disliked, but it was such a haunting piece of lonely music that it connected with my soul. The song was like a lonely buddy saying, Me too!'

 Not only was 1961 a good year for lonely music but so was 1962 when Acker Bilk released a similar instrumental piece of music that grabbed my heart as a lonely teen. I hardly knew a clarinet to see one, but "Stranger on the Shore" resonated with me fully. When the lyrics came along to the song they expressed my teenage heart with: "Why, oh, why must I go on like this? Shall I just be a lonely stranger on the shore?"

 My high school years were the loneliest years of my life. It seemed others didn't know or understand my isolation. Yet in their music without words Bert Kaempfert and Acker Bilk gave me permission to stand alone. Their music seemed to say it wouldn't always be me alone on the shore, for my Wonderland would come and it did.

Raymond Maher lives in Melville, SK.

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