Column: off the record …, vol. 12-505

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off the record, from @U2

As I write this OTR column, it is two months to the day since my father passed away. Like many who reach the age he did, there was no shortage of medical issues going on in his life. Among those issues were prostate cancer and Alzheimer's disease, which necessitated that he live in a nursing home as he would forget to eat and/or take the many medicines he was on. Forgetting to eat was a big deal because he was diabetic as well and had passed out before due to low blood sugar. You know it's serious when my brother, who has paramedic training, and my sister-in-law, who is a nursing supervisor, could no longer look after him within their home.

I received a call from my brother one day saying my father had taken a sudden turn for the worse and that I should consider going to see him to say goodbye before it was too late. As I was planning that trip of 900 miles or so, I received another call, again from my brother, telling me that my dad had just passed away as they held hands. I knew what the call was the moment the phone rang. The frustration of not getting there in time and the sadness of the loss was overwhelming.

After getting myself together about an hour later, I was standing at (as Bono might say) an ATM machine to get some money for the trip to what was now going to be my father's funeral, but I couldn't remember the PIN code that I'd had for years. I had no clue what it might be. I placed my fingers on the buttons hoping muscle memory would kick in, but those synapses were not firing either. All I could do was cry and head back home for the time being. As I did so, I got a glimpse of myself in the reflection off the glass of the bank. My eyes looked empty, like there was nothing behind them. It pretty much summed up how I felt at that point as well.

Unlike my mother, who had feared death until she passed from throat cancer, my father was looking forward to when his time would end and he accepted the news that he was going to die with a smile. Knowing that gives me some comfort, but it's still too soon for me to think about him and not get emotional, and it's apparently still too soon to write this and not have tears streaming down my face as I do so.

Dad would always say how proud he was of my writing and would show off my magazine articles to his friends even though I was very sure the subject matter was of little interest to him. He'd probably tell me not to waste my time writing about him now, but it's never a waste of time when you want to tell someone special to you that you love them. Never let those opportunities pass. Trust me on this.


My favorite U2 album continues to be The Joshua Tree, and March 9 of this year marked the 25th year since its release. It hearkens back to a time when bands often tried to mold multiple songs into a cohesive entity called an album. Typically, the radio-friendly material landed on "Side 1" of the album while more musical chances and/or experimentations would inhabit "Side 2." Among my group of friends at the time, it was not considered a good thing when the commercial side was liked better than the artistic side.

The Joshua Tree leads off with some of the staples that helped propel the band into the giants of music that they are now and I've seen very few albums cross traditional marketing segments the way this one did when it was released, but I still contend that the back half of this album is what makes it truly great.


I realize that I'm late to the party in offering this recognition, but Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons contains some of the deepest and most meaningful songs I've heard in years. If you like the religious undertones used by U2, I think you'll really appreciate that in this release.


While Bob Geldof receives well-deserved credit for his work on famine relief and the famous Band Aid single, Ultravox's Midge Ure is less often remembered for his involvement in both those projects. If you'd like a non-traditional memento of the Band Aid single, you can now own the jeans that Midge wore as he produced and recorded that great single if you post the winning bid. Yes, it does come with a certificate of authentication.This song took on a new significance to me after he passed.


Given my druthers, I'd select '80s alternative as the lone musical genre I listened to if only one could be chosen. That said, the singer-songwriter era of the '70s can touch me pretty deeply at times.

My father's name, like mine, was Joe. This song took on a new significance to me after he passed.

Thanks for reading. Go out and make it a special day.

© @U2/Hebert, 2012. 

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