THE SONG IS YOU – Garry Armstrong

One of the great pleasures in my life these days is our car radio. Marilyn, in one of the most thoughtful of her gifts in this past year of discontent, signed us – me really – for Sirius Satellite radio, highlighted by the signature “Siriusly Sinatra” station.  It’s all Sinatra, 24-7.

Not just Sinatra. It’s all of the songs and artists from Tin Pan Alley’s swing halcyon days. Sinatra,  Dino, Sammy, Crosby, Ella, Nat Cole, Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, The Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller, Irving Berlin, Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Kahn, Cole Porter, Rosie Clooney and other legendary musicians who performed under the umbrella of “Standards.” It’s not just cob-webby LP music. The station also features contemporary artists covering the classics that span more than a century. You’ll marvel at the likes of Springsteen, Dylan, Lady Gaga and Pink riffing Mel Torme, Sassy Sarah Vaughn, Peggy Lee, Etta James, Doris Day, Ol’ Blue Eyes and other voices. Tunesmiths from our youth.

This leads me into the theme of singing in the throne room as I assume most of us do — far from the madding crowd of critics. I don’t possess the same musical talent as my two younger brothers. Hell, it’s a miracle if I carry a tune. Lately, I’ve been serenading myself as I shave (very steady hand!).

Usually, it’s older standard music on the Sinatra station. Or maybe something Marilyn remembers her Mom singing from her childhood.  Marilyn says her Mom usually only remembered one stanza from a tune and would repeat it over and over again. I chuckle along with Marilyn because I do the same thing. Maybe two or three lines repeated myriad times until I forget those lyrics or  I’m done shaving. Then, I move into the shower. The water covering more old songs with misremembered lyrics.

It’s all good for me. Surely, I am the winner of The Lipton Tea Talent Scouts Show with Arthur Godfrey smiling and congratulating me. I’m gonna be the next Nat “King” Cole.  As sure as the turning of the earth!  I just need to pick the right song to cover.

A song that’s me!

Decades ago (The early 70’s), I used to walk around singing the very somber love ballad, “All For The Love Of A Girl.” It was the flip side of Johnny Horton’s “The Ballad of New Orleans.”  I sang “All For the Love …” with deep, sorrowful emotion. On or off the melody? I don’t remember. A lady friend asked, “Garry, why do you always sing such sad songs”?

I replied, “Because I’m sentimental.”

My friend shot back quickly, “No, You’re NOT!” And, you’re also not romantic.”   I suppressed anger and the blemish to my sensitivity.

Years later, the same performance, different song and a similar conversation with Marilyn who echoed the “No, you’re not sentimental. You may like sentimental songs and movies. But it doesn’t make you sentimental or a romantic.” This would lead down a conversational road I didn’t like. The difference between musical tastes and my own personality and behavior,  especially with people who cared about me.  The singer, not the song. But, as usual, I digress.

I chose our Wedding Song.  It was Nat Cole’s “For Sentimental Reasons.”  Marilyn and I slow danced, as bride and groom, to the dreamy ballad. It was supposed to be the standard for my behavior as Marilyn’s husband and dependable mate through good times and bad. The song proved steadier than the groom in the ensuing years.

It’s difficult living up to the romantic lyrics of a popular song when you’re dealing with bread and butter issues like bills, home repairs, and health care and working in the news business which is about as unromantic as work can be. The song isn’t always you. A very hard pill to swallow when you carry yourself off as a romantic or sentimental fella. Recognizing the difference is part of the long road to maturity, awkward when your 78th birthday is just a few, short months away.

Maybe this is part of what Frank Sinatra was trying to explain when we met half a century ago — another story in a different post. I never asked, but Sinatra told me he often felt at odds with some of his sad songs, the love affairs which supposedly went sour in smoky three o’clock in the morning gin joints.  I was the twenty-something filled with the angst of old movies and songs about love found and lost.  I still didn’t have a clue about being a three-dimensional guy ready to take on responsibility with the sensitivity essential to any meaningful relationship.

It would take a long, long time and still hasn’t been fully achieved. I always label myself – “a work in progress.”  The old love songs don’t always cover that ‘sharing and caring’ stuff.  Play “Misty” for me!

Another time travel stop for me and music. Autumn of 1959. I was brash, newly minted enlistee at Parris Island, the legendary basic training camp for young gyrenes. I was one of a very few “boots” of color and a damn Yankee in the deep south where Jim Crow still prevailed. Most of the other clean-shaven Marine wannabees were from below the Mason-Dixon line, deep in the heart of Dixie. Their music was Rebel Rock ‘n Roll, tempered with obscenities and insensitivity to anyone who was not a card-carrying beer and grits lover.

The southern music dominated our downtime. I was off in my own private world, serenading myself with the likes of “Mona Lisa”, “Stardust”, “Too Young” and “When I Fall In Love.”  My musical choices bought me a lot of grief with the good old boys. A lot of reprimands from the drill Instructors who already didn’t care for my “attitude” and added my music to their list of things for verbal reprimand.  I just laughed at them when they screamed at me. No hits of the week for me.

I got lost in a time warp when hard rock, heavy metal, rap, and hip-hop took over popular music. I guess I began to sound like my parents and grandparents wondering what happened to the good music of my early years. What happened to lyrics and melodies you could understand?

My fallback in music is the same as it is in movies. My one and only public karaoke performance was our local Tex-Mex restaurant maybe fifteen years ago. It was not my best performance, even by local standards. The restaurant closed a few years ago but I am sure some people still remember the magical night when I got up on stage, decked in western garb, reaching for the stars as I grabbed the mic and the music began. My heartfelt rendition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” fulfilled a lifelong dream.  I sang for applause, free drinks, and some scattered “More, more, more.”

A musical homage to all my movie cowboy heroes.

That song is me, Pilgrim.

Categories: Garry Armstrong, Love, lyrics, Marriage, Music, Racism and Bigotry, Relationships

Tags: , , , , , , ,

39 replies

  1. If I could reincarnate Robert Goulet, my 93 year old mother would live forever.


  2. I was a crazed Johnny Mathis fan as a teenager. It was a hard choice between Beethoven and Johnny. Ultimately, Beethoven won, but I still love Mathis’ voice. It was like silk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johnny is still working and he still has the “voice”. Looks okay, too.

      I’d love to hear “The Twelfth of Never” ….just one more time.


  3. I’m a music lover from way back. Sinatra is a favourite for sure, but I have so many! Love the new look too by the way 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Covert, I’m curious. What song do you sing to yourself when you’re alone and feel a melody edging its way into your brain?


      • It varies but The Way You Look Tonight is one and I can’t think of the name of the other one! I will come back to you with that one cause I hum it a lot

        Liked by 1 person

        • Covert, “The Way You Look Tonight” is an absolute gem and is in my American Song Book. The lyrics are swell.
          Humming: I find myself humming “Moonlight Becomes You” a lot these days. It was Bing Crosby’s theme song on his old radio show.
          One of my favorites is Doris Day’s cover of “When I Fall In Love”. I had a collection of Day’s LPs back in the days when I worked as a deejay in college radio — the early 60’s.
          I’m a ‘closet’ Perry Como fan. I say ‘closet’ because liking Como has been out of fashion for many years. I so admire his seemingly effortless stylings of ballads.


          • I loved Perry Como too but Bing was an all time favourite as of course was Frank. Those were the days! People could sing! The songs were easy on the ears and you Wanted to sing along! lol My age is talking back now lol

            Liked by 1 person

            • Covert, do you remember when people used to argue about who was the best? Sinatra, Como, Crosby? How about Russ Columbo? A long forgotten crooner from the 30’s. Those folks really knew how to weave their way through lyrics. No yelling or screaming for emphasis.
              I almost forgot Andy Williams in the more “modern” era. He does the best “Moon River” although I’ll always take Audrey Hepburn, on the fire escape, Holly Golightly singing “Moon River”.
              The final scene of “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” is one of my favorites. Holly, searching and finding ‘Cat’ in the pouring rain. The classic final kiss with Paul Varjack (George Peppard) with the Mancini chorus filling the sound track with “Moon River” — a cute cutaway shot of ‘Cat’ snuggled between Audrey & George. It gets me every time.


              • I LOVE that movie. I watched it religiously and then it went by the way side. I must see if it’s on youtube! And I have to agree with you, there are so many crooners that were spectacular. And yes, people often argued who was better. For me it always depended on the song and I have to admit with the advent of videos to go along with it, I think the video has as much to do with the song as the singer. Having said that, Breakfast At Tiffany’s was the perfect backdrop for Moon River. I sang Moon River forever! Still know a lot of the words to it hahaha I wonder why! lol

                Liked by 1 person

                • Covert, “Moon River” is a timeless song. The world of Holly Golightly, quaint sections of Manhattan are gone now. I do recall visiting Tiffany’s with a lady friend, trying to live the movie vibes. Of course, it didn’t work but I recall looking at the goodies and gasping at the prices. I bought a couple of “affordable” things – don’t remember what they were.
                  A little part of me hoped to see Holly. Again, no such luck. There were the obligatory Holly wannabees, dressed in faux Audrey Hepburn garb. Mostly college coeds trying to get tourista money as they posed for pics, badly imitating Ms. Hepburn. Weekends in Manhattan produced a lot of Hollywood wannabees or pretenders.
                  A couple of imitators admitted they made good spare cash for college on their weekend stints, mimicking Brando, Dean, Elvis, Marilyn and other 50’s icons.
                  More exciting than waiting on tables or flipping burgers, I guess.


                  • I’m with you, I’d have loved to see Holly. Audrey Hepburn was such a class act. I’ve only ever seen one imitation of her that came close and it wasn’t spectacular and I can’t remember who it was, but it was on tv. I love that movie and it definitely put Tiffany’s on the map. I know they were well known before but they really became famous after that movie, don’t you think? I know progress is essential too, but I have to say, a lot the beauty and quaint little places, haunts, shops, and areas are lost to it.


          • I loved Tony Bennett, still do and “For Once In My Life”

            Liked by 1 person

            • Covert, I also like that Bennett song. I am also fond of Tony’s “For All We Know”. There’s a hidden Bennett gem, “Country Girl”. It’s a lovely ballad. Unfortunately, it’s also the flip side of “I Left My Heart In San Francisco”. So, it is usually ignored..


          • Vic Fontaine was also an all time favourite.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. what an excellent gift. what an excellent karaoke choice. giddyup

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have to admit that I was part of the song (Garry kindly left that out because if he was not very good, I think maybe I was worse). I had sung in public before, though never as a soloist and always as part of a chorus or choir, but it was definitely not one of my sterling performances either!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Beth, I just noted Marilyn’s comment about my lone performance as a singer. I was really “up” for that gig – even if it was just karaoke stint in the friendly local Tex-Mex restaurant. I was “in the moment” as Willie Nelson singing my heart out about the not so glamorous life of my cowboy heroes. The lyrics grabbed me from the first time I heard Willie’s signature cover. The movie, “The Electric Horseman” with Robert Redford nailing the ups and downs of a contemporary rodeo hero – was swirling in my brain. Willie Nelson sang “My Heroes..” in that film.
      I’ve always had the cowboy fantasy — from the days as kid with his Roy Rogers 2 gun rig through all the cowboy movies – good, bad and ugly – I always wanted to sing a cowboy song in front of an appreciative audience. I never had any illusions about a singing voice. That talent belongs to my two younger Brothers. But that night — at “Li’L Texas”, fueled by several giant margaritas, I never felt more ready to sing.
      I felt the vibes (margaritas?) as I began, “I grew up dreamin’ ….of being a cowboy…” I FELT the lyrics as I sang. It felt so darn good..right down to my shiny black cowboy boots. I know I went off key several times but it didn’t matter. My heart was really into it. This was so different from doing television news. It was performance in a different public venue. As I finished, I think I was almost crying.

      No, I never tried it again. I’m not a fool.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I used to lay on the couch every Saturday with my dad a watch all the westerns. I have good memories of them )

        Liked by 1 person

        • Beth, those Saturday afternoons sound wonderful. Did the same thing with my middle Brother. Saturdays seemed to whiz by with Roy, Gene, The Range Rider, Randy Scott, Duke Wayne, Audie Murphy, Rory Calhoun and some of he REAL oldies — Buck Jones, Kermit Maynard, Bob Steele, Buster Crabbe, The Three Mesquiteers, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, Jr, Tales of The Texas Rangers. This was BEFORE sunset.
          Evenings gave us newer heroes like Paladin, Matt Dillon, The Maverick Brothers, Cheyenne, Bronco, Sugarfoot, Lawman (Marshall Dan Troop & Deputy Johnny McKay), Bonanza, Wagon Train, Wyatt Earp and so many more.

          Beth, I “fought” with Mom to watch many of the westerns which were on ABC – opposite family favorites on CBS – programs like The Ed Sullivan Show, I Love Lucy, Sgt Bilko. etc. We had one TV so there’s was little chance of me watching Maverick instead of Ed Sullivan. Mom used to call it “Her CBS”. She was addicted to all the family friendly shows on the “Tiffany Network”.

          In one of my first bursts of teenage rebellion, I bought a BIG (12″?) RCA color TV. I was working as a childrens’ shoe salesman at a local department store. My salary didn’t really allow me to own that color TV but I opted out for time payments to prove my independence from my Parents. My Dad didn’t approve of my youthful frivolity but allowed me to keep the set. I watched lots of westerns in teen defiance as my folks watched THEIR shows. The TV eventually died and became a ‘white elephant’ memory in our old home…long after I had moved out,

          Liked by 1 person

  5. We are all works in progress Garry. You just have to bluff it like a pro and I know you can carry it off.
    Leslie 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • I remember when I was in my late twenties, having older friends, in their fifties, and asking them when I would know i had REALLY grown up. She said: “I’ll let you know when I find out.” I don’t think she ever found out. But she didn’t get as old as we are. I think when I found myself on Social Security and Medicare, I got my first clue.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I remember when I was just married and my grandmother came for a visit. She said I had no lines on my face – hence no character…I’m now with character….chuckle…I guess I’ve made it too…if all you need is lines on your face…
        Leslie 😉


      • Yes, SS and Medicare are partial answers. It’s when your BODY starts talking to you with aches and pains. Stuff I thought happened to other people that would never happen to me. I was blessed to have a constitution that rode shotgun with me through some wild and crazy years. Work and play left me little time for rest over the 40 plus years of my professional life. I look at some of my video clips and there’s little evidence of my hard living. I thought it would go on forever. The piper was just waiting for me. The old strut and bounce is now a Walter Brennan like gait.


    • Thanks, Leslie. I appreciate the support. But in the glaring reality of retirement, in my late 70’s, I need to focus on the hard truth of reality rather than the romanticism of old movies and music. It’s an easy cop out for me when Marilyn is discussing financial and domestic concerns. It’s my mental “get out of jail” card which is blatantly selfish on my part.
      Marilyn, coping with daily health problems, is dealing with the very unpleasant part of our life – the growing disparity between our puny old age incomes and the ever increasing amount of money owed. The BILLS, the frequent snail mail and friggin’ phone calls about bills (usually PAID but lost by electronic misfits), the Health Care suits who care more about badgering you and NOT caring for you, our home’s “Money Pit” problems which have long lost their quaint humor and our beloved furry kids who believe their marathon barkathons are more important than our sleep. All of this falls on Marilyn while I try to follow the yellow brick road with old movies and music to separate myself from harsh reality. It’s always been my mantra but it is not fair to Marilyn. I’m just trying to be honest here. Okay, play Misty for me!

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Look at me, I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree;
        And I feel like I’m clingin’ to a cloud
        I can’t understand
        I get misty, just holding your hand
        Walk my way
        And a thousand violins begin to play
        Or it might be the sound of your hello
        That music I hear
        I get misty, the moment you’re near
        Can’t you see that you’re leading me on?
        And it’s just what I want you to do
        Don’t you notice how hopelessly I’m lost
        That’s why I’m following you
        On my own
        Would I wander through this wonderland alone
        Never knowing my right foot from my left
        My hat from my glove
        I’m too misty, and too much in love
        Too misty
        And too much
        In love…”
        Beautiful Garry, don’t forget those words. They help us all get through the tough times.

        Liked by 1 person


  1. THE SONG IS YOU – Garry Armstrong — Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth – Sarah's Attic Of Treasures

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