Sunday, July 23
Yesterday, I heard a song that will stay with me forever. I was on the way home from the beach and a long walk across the dunes in the sunshine, generally feeling a bit spiritual and at one with mother nature and all that malarkey.
I turned the radio on - it was bloody Dermot O'Dreary, but as it was a choice between him or some chav-awful local radio station playing the hits from 'the 80s, 90s and today', and O'Dreary generally plays pleasant enough tunes by jangly guitar-playing indie bands, I stuck with him.
He had some band on playing an acoustic set, a cover of 'Up the Junction' by Squeeze. It was jangly and happy and a good background to the drive home in the sunshine.
When the band had finished, a record came on. I recognised the opening chords of If You Could Read My Mind - a song which usually reminds me of dancing with drag queens at drunken nights at The Albury Hotel from my time in Sydney.
But this version of the song wasn't all camp disco. It was slowed down and stripped down, just a man and a guitar. The voice was deep, rich and wise - a voice that had sung thousands of songs, spoken millions of words. It had the frail vibrato of a septogenarian - it was a voice that quivered as it sang, its age giving so much more meaning to the lyrics, transforming the song from an upbeat tune about a break-up to a haunting reflection on a life passed and a love lost forever, on mortality and mistakes.
As the song went on, the voice began to shake more. It sounded breathless, as if it was struggling to finish the song. I realised it was the voice of a dying man. As I drove along the M4, tears were streaming down my face.
The voice belonged to Johnny Cash. The song is from this album. He recorded it just months before he died. He was mourning his wife, almost blind, asthmatic and unable to walk - and you can hear every part of his pain in his voice.