Without music, life would be a mistake. ~Friedrich Nietzsche
Today, 30 Jan 2013, at the age of 94, Patty Andrews, the last surviving member of the Andrews Sisters, passed away. To most people in my and subsequent generations that name would mean absolutely nothing. It would be just another blurb in the obituaries along with the names of many other people with whom they had no connection. Telling them that the Andrews Sisters sold over 80 million records, were iconic as one of the most popular female trios of the 20th century, a group of women that gave hope to GIs the world round would not trigger a memory.
For those of my parent’s generation and those who served in WWII, the passing of Patty Andrews would hold hurt with the level of impact as the death of John Lennon had on those of us born in the 60s. The death of John, for me, signified the end of my childhood, the end of blissful ignorance and the belief that ‘giving peace a chance’ would change the heart of the world. Likewise, the death of Patty Andrews would, for the WWII generation, close the door on that era of our history.
I am familiar with and am a fan of the Sisters by an odd twist of fate. While I was growing up, my grammar school, a private Catholic school in the heart of working class people, held an annual ‘variety show’ to help raise money for the school. The money was was used to support the church and to help keep our tuition at a reasonable level. My parents were regular helpers at the show.
My dad’s gift was the ability to build and wire up anything and everything under the sun. My mom’s joy was to participate in the shows. One of those years, she was a member of a trio that paid a vocal tribute to the Andrews sisters. She played LaVerne Andrews. I can still picture her in my mind in big rimmed, 70s glasses, wearing polka dots and twirling a clear, plastic umbrella up on the stage and singing Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.
Whether I remember this from actually being at a show or a picture from the show or from the rehearsals held in the basement of my house, I really don’t recall and in the grand scheme, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that I have the memory, an image indelible stamped on my brain, a fond recollection that has, for some reason, withstood the test of time.
One of the gifts my parent’s gave me growing up was an appreciation of music. It wasn’t an intentional gift but it is one of the longest lasting gifts I received from them, a gift I enjoy to this very day, a gift I have handed down to my children, one I hope blesses the life of my grandson. I grew up listening to Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, The Andrews Sisters and countless other artists of the Big Band era. In my 30s, I actively sought out these long forgotten, by me, artists and added them to my music collection. The more I listened to them, the greater my appreciation grew of music from that era and music in general. Today, this music is some of my favorite in my vast collection.
As I sit here listening to an Andrews Sisters playlist, I am transported to my youth, to days when I had not a care in the world, days when I was awash in unconditional love. I close my eyes and see my parents dancing their patented dance, a beautiful interaction which found them in perfect synchronicity, a dance in which they never had to look at one and other because they had danced the dance so many times in their almost 50 years of marriage that it had become second nature.
For me, that dance epitomized the deep love they felt for each other, a love which resulted in 6 children, a love which blesses the lives of their grandchildren, a love in which their great grandchild basks. Remembering the dance anchors me to my past, a past build on a foundation of love. When I remember that dance, I feel their legacy of love warm my entire body and I thank God that I was blessed to be born into such a family.