Wednesday, March 10, 2010

YOU WOULD HAVE LOVED THIS

She had been swept up to heaven on a hot August day. Her spirit left her body at the roadside, by a mangle of metal. I think she must have paused on the way up to peek in on her son and his little family in the clouds. She had driven us to the Saginaw Airport before the sun rose through the Michigan misty morning; embraced us at the gate; kissed the cheeks of each of her grandchildren; stood at the large spanse of window separating us from her as we walked out to the plane; stood and waved until we were in the air. I still see the picture of her waving as we lifted up and drifted away. She never made it back to her cottage.

The phone was ringing as I walked in the door from the garage. “Hi Dad!” I said, “How are you?” Dave’s dad had remained in Pittsburgh when Helen and all of us went to the cottage that last week. Helen had finally built her dream haven on the shores of Lake Huron. The kids had splashed in the cool water and crafted sandcastles all week. On the rainy days we drove into East Tawas City and shopped. We nibbled on fudge between our shots at Hubie’s Miniature Golf. Watched VCR movies late at night in the little TV room. Pretended to be Col. Mustard, Miss Scarlet and Professor Plum in a nightly Clue tournament on the dining room table. Our last night there we had invited the aunts and their families to a Taco fest at the cottage. Helen’s sisters owned cottages up and down the beach from hers. Helen had never had a taco in her 64 years of life, so we introduced her to them. It was her last meal.

“Cori, is Dave there?” Dad was gentle and quiet. I handed the phone to Dave, who had just walked in with some luggage. I watched his eyes widen, his brow purse, his shoulders curl in as his eyes searched upward and his legs gave out beneath him. He slid down the front of the refrigerator door and cried, “Oh my God, No Dad, No!” I watched and heard him as panic rose. I had known Dave for 17 years and had never once heard him take the name of the Lord in vain. I knew something had to be terribly, terribly wrong. His family uses the Lord’s name casually, not out of purposeful disrespect by any means, but I know that is what he grew up with. When he committed his life to the Lord as an adult he changed his language. So I knew, when the child rose up through his tummy, then his heart, then his voice, that something bad must have happened. It had.

We boarded another plane and flew toward the rising sun. Stood with our young children as they tried to sing Love One Another at the small service in the funeral home. A larger mass had been held in Michigan, but we had an intimate final service there in Pittsburgh where she is buried. It was the first powerful dose of pain for our children. They carry it still, like a badge of initiation into adult matters. Annie sobbed to her older siblings: “It’s not fair! You got her longer than I did!” She was 9. John was 15.

The following months were difficult ones. David grieved silently. He became painfully quiet and his eyes had lost some of their sparkle. Worried about him; about our kids; about Dave’s family, I was unable to sleep at night. The kids struggled through school and adjusting to living in this new house we had just built. We had moved the furniture out when we went to Michigan that summer so they could finish the hardwood floors. When the call came the echoes of our cries kept bouncing back to our ears from the empty space; off the rock of the fireplace and the Hickory wood floors. It seemed we couldn’t stop the echoing.

Someone told me that we would need to spend a Christmas in our new house to make it feel like home. So I worked at making it feel like the old house did, using the same decorations, burning the same candles, playing the same music. Still, when everyone else was asleep, I wandered out to the family room and flicked on the colored lights of the Christmas tree, lit the fire in the fireplace and tried to calm my spirit. I missed the old space of home. I missed my neighbors. I missed the mindless comfort of knowing things were constant and unchanging. I missed Helen.

One winter morning, after I had drifted off to sleep on the couch in the family room, I awoke just as the rosy light of an early winter sunrise splashed across the snow in the wooded hollow next to our house. I looked at the reflection of Christmas tree lights in the window as the sun rose up, over the mountains to the east of us, chasing shadows down toward the Great Salt Lake. It was early; earlier than my body likes to rise. But it was exactly the time of day Helen loved most. If she had been able to visit for just a minute, she would have stood there at the window and watched the birthing of the morning. She would have whispered to me, “Oh, how I loved this.”

Thus began this song:

You Would Have Loved This

The winter left her blanket here this morning
A soft and gentle coverlet of white
Unfolded in the shadows of the dawn
It sparkled in the early morning light

You would have loved this
You would have loved this
This was your favorite time of day

The greenery is laid across the mantle
And ornaments are hanging on the tree
And cradled in the windowsill’s a candle
A beacon in the night to call you back to me

You would have loved this
You would have loved this
This was your favorite time of year

And though I understand one day again I’ll see you
I long to touch your hand, hear your voice, feel you…

You would have loved this
You would have loved this
Oh, how you loved.


You Would Have Loved This was written on guitar, but it is the magical piano work of my friend and studio engineer, Mark Stephenson, that makes this song speak. You can hear Mark’s playing here. He could feel what I meant to say in the song, and he translated it into such a lovely arrangement. I hear the sun rising in the quiet of the morning in the opening strains of the song. They set me right back on the couch of the family room of this house I have since grown to love. The song is therapy to me, and it is peace.

My publisher in LA is really good at his job. Very skilled, and devoted to the songs in his catalogue. He has pitched this tune with great passion. A few years ago he called and said an artist in Finland was recording it. I Googled her name. Here’s what came up:

Tarja Turunen was at the time an international superstar in a band called Nightwish…a heavy metal band ~. I called Justin in LA:

“Are you kidding me?” I said. “Please tell me you are joking!” (No offense to heavy metal rockers out there...it's just that I'm a humble folk singer)

In the world of recording and songwriting, if a song has been released on any public recording, then any artist is entitled to record that song, as long as they apply for a mechanical license and pay their royalties. So I was quite worried that this heavy metal thrasher would murder my song, taking away the sweetness of story behind it for whomever heard it. I just could not imagine it!

Turns out Tarja Turunen had left Nightwish, and the heavy metal recording scene. She turned to classical music instead. I know, who does that kind of thing? But apparently she did it pretty well. The song was released as the first single from her Christmas Album. It ended up at #5 on the charts. The album went platinum in sales. She performed it live and on television and sang it with great tenderness and proper emotion. You can hear Tarja sing it here:
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePddnctayEc

Or you can see her sing it live here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW7iwxTBjk8

The introduction, in Finnish, is Tarja paying tribute to her mother, who had died a couple years ago. It warms my heart to think that this tune connected her to her mother as it connected, and still connects me, to my mother-in-law.

Two days ago I got another royalty check in the mail. They are not huge, something less than a $100, but they come regularly. It was royalty payment from performances in Russia. Tarja introduces it in Finnish; she sings it in English; but somehow they understand it in Russian. Thank you, Lord, for letting me speak the universal language of music.

Other artists have also covered this song. You can go to www.YouTube.com and search You Would Have Loved This to see the variety.  Of course I suspect this is something only a writer would do.

POSTSCRIPT: Thank you to Eressa for her comment below, and for the link to her blog about Tarja Turunen.  I feel very honored to have had Tarja perform this song with such grace.  By the way, Tarja is still an international superstar, and she hasn't left the metal scene at all, but continues combining both her classical career along with the metal world.  Thanks Eressa.

11 comments:

  1. Hey, they're not Argentine, they're Spanish, other side of the Atlantic :p

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  2. Okay. And I haven't even had breakfast yet. Two of your posts and I'm on the floor. I couldn't do it, Cori. I couldn't write these. I'd never live through it.

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  3. Oh Man! Note to self. Do Not read mom's blog at work! I am a bundle of emotion right now. Your writing is absolutely amazing! You are most definitely a master of words. What I love most about your writing is that it is not full of frufruey or upity words that I can't grasp. You're truly gifted at making the most eloquent writing accessible to everyone. At moving everyone. Even when your entries are long I don't notice because they pull me in. It's like I'm there. This one was tough to remember. Your words make it sweet, even though we still miss Grandma. Now how am I going to compose myself in the next two minutes before my kids come in for speech therapy.

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  4. Reading on the phone in the parking lot after CES. No words, just tears and tears and tears. Maybe later. Xoxo

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  5. Dear Cori Connors,

    We are Eternal Dream, the band whom did the cover you talk about in your blog.

    We are very surprised that you listened to it and especially honored by your kind words. We are proud to know that that you liked our cover.

    It's a song that means a lot to us, and for thus we thank you for your songs and your words.

    Love,

    Eternal Dream

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  6. Dear Eternal Dream~
    Thank you for the comment on my blog post (re. my song, You Would Have Loved This.) I appreciate the passion with which you perform the song, and wish you success as a band and as individuals. I am honored to have people like you, and Tarja Turunen, understand what I meant to say in the music. As you can tell from the post, it is a very personal song for me and my family. Glad you liked it enough to make it part of your repertoire.
    Best wishes,
    Cori

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  7. How wonderful to have others play your music! I'm sure you hold your breath everytime you hear a new recording, just to make sure they do your work the justice it deserves. This one by the ex-rocker is really lovely.
    I am so sorry that Dave lost his mother so tragically. How do you ever make it through most of these songs when performing? I suppose that must be part of the gift, as well.

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  8. I love this song. It makes me cry every Christmas but a cry I cherish doing. I knew a little of its basis but it was wonderful to hear the entire story. Thanks for sharing these stories.

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  9. Greetings!

    I, as many Tarja fans, have felt deeply touched by this incredibly beautiful song. It is wonderful to "meet" you, the composer, and know the story behind it. Thanks for sharing it. I have featured you in our blog ;)

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  10. How grateful we are to have known Helen. How grateful we are to her for raising such a son as David, who is so very good to all of us. How grateful we are to you, Cori, for this song which automatically brings her memory back to us. Thank you for opening up your heart, for it is all of us who are the benefactors!!

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  11. Dear Cori Connors,

    I'm a fan of Tarja and have always been incredibly moved by your song and her poignant interpretation. I'd never heard your original song before, though. I was struck; you sing it really beautifully and I was surprised how youthful your voice sounds. The arrangement is a bit different too, the piano intro is more elaborate and the chorus seemed to start more suddenly, but I did find that Tarja's version is quite faithful nevertheless.

    I would like to thank you for writing the song and explaining the background in this blog entry, as well as your reaction to the cover version, and I would like to let you know that I really appreciate what you are doing and the genuineness in your music, and also your skill, even though I'm mainly a rocker. You are a remarkable writer (both songwriter and author) from what I've seen of you. Thanks again for what you are doing.

    I've got two questions, though:

    Where has the link to the Eternal Dream cover version left off? No biggie because I could find it again, but I was quite confused at first and thought that I was stupid for not finding what everyone was talking about.

    Secondly, I've edited the Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Would_Have_Loved_This because it says Helen was your mother, when I see here that she was really your mother-in-law. Is it true that her full name is Helen Roy Connors?

    I've added a link to this blog entry, as well.

    Greetings from Germany,

    Florian Blaschke

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