Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bill Medley, Myeloma and Me

An interesting thing happened to me yesterday. After my every Wednesday mid-afternoon chemotherapy maintenance infusion (30 down, 126 to go!) I went to a local coffee shop to grab a quick sandwich. It was busy as usual during Branson's tourist season (the local population is approximately 7500 with nearly 7 million annual visitors) and I ended up sharing a table with some nice folks from California.

A husband and wife and their 70-80-ish mother and I struck up a friendly conversation and they asked me about the small burgundy ribbon affixed to my shirt. Not one to be shy, I took the opportunity to tell them about Multiple Myeloma - which is exactly why I wear it. The father shared that someone in his work circle passed away from Myeloma four or five years ago and that he had learned more about the disease in ten  minutes of our chatting than he did when his colleague was ill. I think that he felt a bit guilty about this. They asked me if I had someone close that had MM and I said that 'you're looking at him.' They were comforted knowing that advances were being made in treating the disease. I was comforted that I didn't have a proverbial 'Myeloma' stamped on my forehead! The concern of these strangers-now-friends was very touching.

As a show writer/producer I'm always interested in knowing what kinds of entertainment experiences are on tourist's schedules. Branson has more than 100 live shows. Mom's face brightened and, speaking for the first time, she said in a lilting British accent 'We're going to see Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers!' She was beaming.  And a smile crept across my face.

I was diagnosed during Thanksgiving week in 2008 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science's Myeloma Institute and I convinced my doctors to let me go home on December 6th for a few days because some of my entertainment friends in Branson were producing a benefit/ we love you Murrays show with a lot of Branson entertainers and friends participating. I'll tell you about that amazingly moving evening some other time. All I knew was that there was no way I was going to miss it, although I was in pretty rough shape. After the show we were going to drive back the 4 and 1/2 hours to Little Rock for an early morning infusion.

Among the performers on the bill was Bill - Bill Medley, that is! He and his good friend Bobby Hatfield had set the music world on fire in the 60s and beyond as The Righteous Brothers. I met him when I was serving as the General Manager and Executive Producer at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater. We also produced Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Original Comets from Bill Halley and the Comets, Bobby Vee (Take Good Care of My Baby and many more hits), Music/TV/Movie Star and teen idol Fabian, Bryan Hyland (of Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini fame), The Chiffons, Chris Montez (Let's Dance), Gary Lewis and the Playboys and an original show I wrote and produced for Dick Clark's called 'Cruisin' 57.' Lotta' work & a lotta' fun.

On the show 'Sean Murray: Rockin' for a Cure' Bill took the microphone and said 'I hate why we're here, but I love the man. I wouldn't miss it.' Okay - cue the tears. He sat at he piano and played a solo version of the RB's mega hit 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' which as, you probably don't know, was the most played song on the radio for many, many years. Bill quips 'I wished I'd written it!' Writers and Publishers earn the royalties for songs played on thr radio. Singers don't. That's why singers try to write their own songs and own the publishing companies.

Anyway, I opened my laptop and showed them that I had the Righteous Brother's album 'Unchained Melody' linked on my desktop and I quickly found something special for the mom, whom I had learned was from England, but had been in the States since the 60's. I clicked on a cover tune that Bill and Bobby did on that album and gave my headphones to mom.

She listened for awhile and began to tear-up. Then they trickled. The husband and wife asked me what I given her and I said that it was the Righteous Brother's version of  'The White Cliffs of Dover.' My dear UK MM friends, Lorna & Micky, Paula,and others probably know what the literal White Cliffs of Dover meant to someone from England now in their 80s.

The cliffs face towards Continental Europe across the most narrow body of the English Channel, where invasions have threatened Britain for many years. They stand as a symbol of an ever-present guard. Mom was a young teenager in England when WWII ensued.

     WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER           
Walter Kent (music) Nat Burton (lyrics)

There'll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.

There'll be love and laughter
And peace ever after.
Tomorrow, when the world is free

The shepherd will tend his sheep.
The valley will bloom again.
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again.

There'll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.

She took off the headphones and leaned over and gave me a tender hug. Through the magic and power of music, one song had touched her deeply. And to think she heard it, ostensibly, because I have MM. I also sent them to see the world's finest Beatle's tribute artists The Liverpool Legends, another show I worked on with Louise Harrison, George Harrison's sister.

What a great afternoon for me! Rev/Dex/Velcade working to keep me on the planet and the company of some wonderful, wonderful people.

Keep fighting!


Sheri said...

White Cliffs of Dover, one of my favorites. I made friends with a couple from England who loved Bobby's song. They came in one day and gave me their keyboard and said just learn that song on the keyboard and enjoy. I already knew it and they told me the background of the song. They too, were teenagers over there at that time. Sheri

Anonymous said...

It's a good job it wasn't Vera Lynn singing it - you'd have had to send out for hankies! I'll be 'singing' this for the rest of the night, other than the words however it will bear no resemblance to the original as I can't carry a tune in a bucket.

Sean Murray said...

Thanks Sheri - good to hear from another musician. Miss Knit- you are right. Vera Lynn OWNS that song! I'm sure that your version isn't too bad, either! I'd love to see those cliffs one day. Sean

Susie Hemingway said...

Great post this bringing back so many names from my teenage years. What a lovely story about the lady from the UK she must have felt so very homesick hearing the old second world war song once more. As my father told me it was the only place they wished to see on their the return journey home. So many of the songs you mentioned I can recall all the words to and loved those tunes as growing up with two sisters we would play these on a little dansette record player until the records got warm!! Dancing the evenings away and loving all those sounds of the
60's Thanks for the memories too.
Stay well.