If I Could Sing
By 1989, Howard had given up his apartment in the city and he and Bill were renting a house in Beacon, NY. It was an old farmhouse that was charming only in its simplicity – and its inhabitants. I had begun taking Fridays off from work so I could help out Bill – who was doing all of the heavy duty care giving -- but it often happened that what I wound up doing was a little food shopping followed by hanging out with Howard. Howard loved to play the, “I can’t believe you don’t know this song, singer, show, album” game. He’d start talking about a song, singer, show or album and I’d look blank and he’d be off.
On that particular day, it somehow came out that I wasn’t familiar with Trio, the brilliant 1987 Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton album.
Howard grabbed the CD and my education began. Somewhere in the middle of that lecture, Howard realized I also didn’t know the song, Millworker. He was appalled and disappointed in me. His sister, the one he’d risked the sneers of his teenaged friends for by letting her join them on a trip to Georgetown so she could also hear Judy Collins in a smoky coffee house back in the days before Judy had ever dreamed of sending in any clowns (or even looking at Both Sides Now). That sister, who he had trained so well – didn’t know Millworker.
So he sang it to me but I still didn’t know it.
A week later, coming home from work, the doorman handed me a package. In it was a tape cassette along with this note;
“Here are a couple of July 4 treats. Listen to Barbara Dickson do Easy Terms and Tell Me It’s Not True. But the real treat is Millworker. I would have sworn you knew it by heart. I’ll send a couple of versions in I can find ‘em.”
All of the above is just an excuse for me to play Howard with you. Notice how I managed to get you to check out (or remember, or recheck out) all those songs and singers. That was pure Howard. Except he would have been able to sing you the songs and make you a believer in all things Harris, Ronstadt, Parton or Dikson.
Which, by way of Millworker and Emmylou Harris and wonderful female singers, brings me to Daughter of God. Which Howard and Alan wrote for Emmylou Harris and which Emmylou Harris turned down. That was probably 1983 or 1984 and she must have thought it odd to get a song submission from two guys whose sole claim to fame was a musical with songs for a man eating plant and a sadistic dentist.
Alix Korey’s performance of Daughter of God knocked us out at Howard’s memorial. Maybe you’ve heard it already but if you haven’t (or even if have) have another listen. Just for old time’s sake.