I was lacking the Christmas peace I craved. When not even the three tenors helped, I resorted to Roger Whittaker and his Tidings of Comfort and Joy. The 22-track selection, which came on LP and cassette. Not the short measure of the CD.
When I’ve not listened to music for a while, such as during the gap from one Christmas to the next, I fear that something won’t be as good as I remember it. But Tidings of Comfort and Joy is every bit as excellent as I discovered that first January after I’d bought it, more than 25 years ago. It was so wonderful that I gave myself special dispensation to listen to it even after the tree had been taken out, and for a couple of weeks mid-January I listened intensively.
Now I’m back doing the same thing, only at the ‘permitted’ time, as it’s still before Christmas. I find that a half hour or so last thing before bed sets me up feeling nice and calm.
It’s not only Roger’s voice. It’s the songs. Some are the same songs ‘everyone’ records, but others are less clichéd, giving me that little bit extra.
I have a crazy friend. Crazy is generally the best. But even so, I didn’t expect this.
This year for Advent, my friend is giving away gifts to her Facebook friends. You know, if money was no object, kind of thing. So after a safe start of a holiday in Florida and a £2,000,000 house in Devon, this morning it was my turn.
I had had my doubts. I am a notoriously difficult person, and I was mainly settling down to see what inappropriate gift ‘her money’ would provide. I take it all back! This is what I woke up to:
‘If I had money, I would offer so much of it to Roger Whittaker that he would agree to come and sing one last time, especially for you. As one of his signature songs is The Last Farewell, I would hire a tall ship and crew from Topsail to bring Roger over from the nearest port in France, where he now lives, to Leith. You and Roger would have a fine meal on board in the harbour, and Roger would sing The Last Farewell to you, before sailing away into the sunset.’
What a lucky witch I am, to have a friend like that!
She’s right. It is what I’d want. Well, maybe I’d whisper into Roger’s ear that he could pick a different song, if he felt up to it, but my goodness, what a spectacular gift!
(And for anyone who wants to help my friend get rich, do buy her books. I thoroughly recommend her Belgian trilogy for a good scare. It’s so scary I have recently learned that her husband couldn’t quite finish the last one… Here is a list of all Helen Grant’s books. They are very good. And very scary.)
It was an oblivious kind of torture. I never meant to plague my uncle, nearly driving him crazy. I was merely being seven years old. And oblivious to anything but the latest EP I had found in his home.
It didn’t belong to him. Obviously. No, this deliciously red-coloured EP must have been bought by Eldest Cousin, and once discovered by me as we visited over the Christmas holidays, I played it. All. The. Time.
Hence my poor uncle’s despair if he had to listen to it One. More. Time. I heard him, but I still played on. It was so good.
The best of the four tracks was Red River Valley. Except that’s not what it was called in Sweden where it went under the slightly outlandish title Vid foten av fjället, sung by Sven Gösta Jonsson. He was labelled The Rocking Sami, and he performed wearing traditional dress. And he was lovely! I was a fan for quite some time (he now comes across as more mediocre than I was aware of at the time).
And then one day, many years later, I discovered there was a version in English as well! Lots of them, really. My own personal favourite is by Roger Whittaker, but any version will do.
Roger Whittaker is 80 today. There is a new best of CD available. Not very many new tracks, just a new compilation of his greatest songs (in German).
I had wanted to offer you a short interview, but his agent is turning down all requests, saying Roger has fully retired and is living happily in France. And this is obviously right. Roger has earned his rest and I am grateful he toured for as long as he did.
We have all those albums to listen to, and the memories.
Wishing you many happy returns, Roger.
Happy 79th Birthday Roger!
Happy 78th Birthday to Roger Whittaker!
The closer I get to being 70, the younger it strikes me as an age you could be. There was finally another newsletter from Natalie Whittaker earlier this month, which ‘as usual’ was full of illness, operations and housing disasters. The Whittakers certainly know how to live a life full of stuff happening.
Apparently Roger completed his ‘farewell’ tour last year while in dire need of an operation, and he did it because he’s too old to be insured for the cancellation of concerts. Mrs W now reckons he will not tour again. I suspect she’s right. Sensible, definitely.
It feels so final. I don’t want this to have been the last Roger Whittaker tour, or the last concert, but if it was, then we’ve had a good many years, tours, concerts, not to mention songs. People think it’s perfectly normal for a 77-year-old to retire (to already be retired) so it goes without saying that one day Roger will retire too. For real.
But maybe he will start to itch one day, when the resting gets too much. I favour individual concerts, somewhere easy to get to for a lot of us.
Not having been able to travel to Germany this time, I am hoping my fellow fans had a great time. I’ve taken the liberty of borrowing this photo of Roger and his drum from Rocco Meier who went to the last concert in Vienna.