I’m not sure if it is just a UK thing but this week is Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) here. I would have matched this week’s tunes to the MHAW theme but this year they have gone for ‘kindness,’ and I beat them to that, having done it for Tuesday Tunes 5. I might be posting separately for MHAW, but in the meantime I thought I’d choose something closely related as this week’s theme: so I’ve gone for ‘friendship.’
Acts of kindness aren’t restricted to things we do for friends but they are undoubtedly an essential part of a strong, long lasting friendship, so I hope you agree that my choice is appropriately sympathetic. In the current circumstances, friendships are perhaps even more important than ever: they can help us cope with being required to stay at home whenever possible, and technology has really come into its own in helping us stay in touch. Who would have thought, eight weeks ago, that the very thing which often took the blame for destroying social interaction would now be an essential for so many, and a potential lifesaver? And that is just one of the many things we have learned from lockdown. With the recent celebrations here to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day much has been said about how our predecessors coped with the deprivations of war: think about a time without the internet, television, mobile phones, computers and tablets, and consider how you would have coped – no 24 hour instant news coverage in those days to keep us informed! So friendships were quite possibly even more important back then to help people get by.
My first tune this week is from Free, a band who have long been a favourite of mine, and one which I was lucky enough to see play live in their early days. They were only together for around five years, which makes all the more remarkable the quality and number of albums they produced in such a short time: six albums released in just under four years. This is from what I think is their best album – Fire And Water – which, along with the single All Right Now, was the one that helped them really hit the big time. This may ‘just’ be an album track, but that doesn’t in any way diminish it – it is superb:
My second song for this week is my all time favourite song about friendship. It was written by Carole King in 1971 and featured on her hugely successful album, Tapestry. Simultaneously, James Taylor was recording his Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon album, and recorded a version of the song. Joni Mitchell sang backing vocals on both versions. Carole credits James with the initial inspiration for the song, which she says was a response to a line in his Fire And Rain song: “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.’ The song was released as a single by James and was massive hit: no.1 in the US, no.2 in Canada, no.3 in Ireland and no.4 in the UK. Faced with choosing between their versions, I chickened out, so here is a live performance by them as a duo, from 2007:
As James says in the introduction to the song, he feels it was an amazing act of generosity on Carole’s part to let him release his version first. That, to me, is the heart of friendship, and you only have to watch the video to understand what it means for them both.
A personal note on that song: it was one of my Mum’s favourites, and last Friday was the twelfth anniversary of her passing. Whilst we do it in March, many countries mark Mother’s Day in May, so even though I don’t need the prompt I am always reminded of her by the barrage of coverage it receives. That makes this a particularly poignant choice of song for me, at this time of year, and emphasises for me what (and who) is really important in our lives.
I hope that you have friends, as well as family, to support you through these pandemic days. Gradually, restrictions are beginning to be lifted, and there have been a number of signs of growing frustrations on the part of some at being required not to go out and socialise (or to get their hair cut or their nails done.) The problem is that not enough is known about the virus to give us any sense of when and how the restrictions can safely be removed: there is a large element of trial and error in play. I just hope that governments can be sensible and grown up about taking the important decisions. I also hope that the impatient ones don’t allow their selfishness and stupidity to override everyone’s safety – but at least the demonstrations here last weekend weren’t full of people carrying assault rifles. Stupid comes in degrees!
Friends are important at any time. Enjoy yours now, even if that has to be at a social distance. Take care, be safe.