The Last Song He Heard

I grew up in a rock ‘n’ roll household. My father played bass and guitar throughout his adolescence and into adulthood. My mother was a singer.

Through my father I learned to appreciate classic rock and 70’s folk music, through my mother I learned to love Top 40 pop/rock and some of the 80s hair metal that was so prevalent on MTV back then.

And when you grow up like that, it’s easy to understand how the classics like The Beatles, The Stones, Bowie, and Clapton could all be heard throughout my life.

If there was a common thread, I would say The Beatles probably won the lot. I recall when Paul McCartney was touring in the early 2000’s, I went on two separate occasions to see him. Once with my Mom (and Jackson’s mom who was my girlfriend at the time) and once with my Dad.

This tour fell shortly after the death of George Harrison (who coincidentally died on my birthday in 2001.)

During that show, Paul sang tributes to Lennon and Harrison. There was hardly a dry eye in the arena. My mother cried. My father cried. And I think the shared sentiment between them was that since they missed hearing the Beatles in their heyday live in concert, a show like this was a good as it would get.

In the late 90s, a band very much inspired by the Beatles became a huge sensation in the U.S. with their hit Wonderwall. That band (in case you don’t already know) was Oasis.

I turned my Dad onto Oasis and I had a feeling he would really like them. I wasn’t wrong. Dad loved the spin that the Gallagher brothers put on a very Lennon-inspired modern take of The Beatles. Some critics couldn’t look past the similarities. But I have been an Oasis fan ever since and Dad loved everything of theirs I ever played for him.

When Oasis split in 2009, I was disappointed but not completely surprised. The Gallagher brothers were known to have a volatile relationship and it finally hit it’s peak.

Liam (the lead singer) took the majority of Oasis with him and formed a group called Beady Eye. Noel, the primary songwriter of Oasis, struck out with another band he called Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. It didn’t take long before each group started to put out their own material.

Not surprisingly, Beady Eye sounded nearly identical to Oasis save for some less than spectacular lyrics and something of a one-dimensional approach to their music.

Their second single from the album was a song called “The Roller.” It was released in February of 2011.

On February 16th, 2011, my father was admitted into the hospital. He was in the last stages of his short battle with bone marrow cancer (multiple myeloma.)

He would spend (almost to the day) one month in the hospital until the doctors released him to come home. We knew our time was running out.

When Dad got home and was settled into bed, I was talking with him and I asked him if he remembered Oasis. He said he did and I told him about the splintering of the group. I asked him if he had any interest in hearing Beady Eye’s new song. I climbed into the bed with him and fired it up.

If you’ve never heard the song before, it kicks in with a piano, a guitar and Liam’s voice. The first line begins:

“You didn’t know what to say, but I’ll come at you today…”

And my father started crying.

“Dad, are you okay?”

And my father’s words to me were:

“It’s like a dream. When the music and the words come together, it makes my pain go away.”

I’ve never seen music touch him as much as that song did then.

On Wednesday, March 23 2011, I came home from work and played him the song again. He was having trouble opening his eyes but he could hear perfectly fine.

His voice had faded to a whisper.

He nodded his head and smiled as he listened to the song from beginning to end.

My Dad passed away about 2 hours later.

Like my mother, there are certain bands and certain songs I have difficulty listening to after all these years since he passed. When I hear them, I only see my Dad. It’s not necessarily a bad thing as I believe I think of him multiple times a day anyway.

I can tell you, it’s really hard to listen to the Beatles without my Dad around.

But this song, “The Roller“, it still punches me right in my gut when I hear it.

It was the last song my father heard before he left this world.

I miss him. I loved him.

As our family spends the next several days remembering who my father was to us as this anniversary rolls around for yet another year, I have a favor to ask of those of you reading this today.

If you knew my Dad, play a song that reminds you of him. If you want to play “The Roller“, you can. But it probably won’t have the same effect on you as it did for he and I.

And if you didn’t get the chance to meet Dad when he was still here with us, I apologize. You would have loved him.

In that case, play a song that reminds you of the gift we have of life.

My Dad loved that gift and he shared it with everyone.

It would be my hope that you cherish that gift not just today but for the remainder of the time you are here in this world as well.

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