Ed Ames was performing (with the Ames Brothers) before I was born and he is the same age as my Dad, 89. I first knew of him as Mingo on the Daniel Boone TV series. To me, Ed Ames singing The Impossible Dream at 82, the way he does, reminds me of my Dad, and I think it’s because there is a familiarity of spirit and discipline.
Daddy has done a lot of things during his life. He was in the Navy during WWII, then the Air Force after he finished college, and then the Army National Guard after that. He went on to become a building inspector for Orange County, California and it was during that time (in the mid-eighties) that he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I’ve mentioned before in this blog that he was a crooner, sounded a lot like Perry Como to me. Their enduring love has now expanded from five kids to, oh, I lost count, but about 17 or more grandkids and numerous great grandkids.
Daddy underwent quadruple bypass surgery and in spite of all that and more, (he has a hard time singing these days) he walks. Painful it might be, he determined long ago to not use a wheel chair.
My mom, I can’t discount her can-do spirit. Not only has she stuck with Dad, she’s endured some dramatic physical and emotional crises too. She also remains active and optimistic. When she broke her leg beneath her hip a few years back both of them refused to let my brothers build them a chairlift for their stairs at home. Mom and Dad told us,” These stairs are our exercise program, even if we have to crawl up and down them.”
They are disciplined and joyful, most of the time, anyway. But it’s this self discipline and can-do spirit that, to me, defines not only my parent’s long-lasting marriage, but their generation.
Whether someone is an accomplished vocalist, instrumentalist, artist, or writer, figure skater or whatever, these are all considered “disciplines.” That means, for those who might not know, that these are skills that one is not necessarily born with but that happen over the duration of years and years of training.
Individuals continue to strive, not for perfection, necessarily, but for the joy of the harvest. And this is what brings me to Ed Ames. Just listen to Ed Ames at 82. Here is the harvest. Wow.
A vocal coach I once had told me that singing was the healthiest exercise one could do. To me, Ed Ames is the proof of that.
My coach exhibited the power of his vocal discipline to me on a hike we took around 1984. I was behind him as we trekked along the Skokomish River, headed back, downstream. When he sang, his voice carried stronger than the current over the rapids, it carried backwards—upstream—so I could hear him clearly. That was no small feat. That man’s age was unknown to me, and I wondered then, what his age might be. He had gray hair, yet he was so vibrant; his mastery of voice as I listened to him praise God in song, his notes ringing through the valley along that river trail I’ll never forget. His name was Rabbi Eliakim Ben David. Disciplined. Teaching me, even as we walked. Teaching others. Strangers even. And, I discovered, this master of music was of the same generation as my Dad, Perry Como, and Ed Ames.
Rabbi David, if you ever get to read this post, do you recall what we found that day? Someone had painted on a simple gray river rock. They’d painted a rainbow and the name Jesus on it. It was nothing fancy but whoever did it was disciplined enough to listen to that “inner voice” and that Spirit that was within that artist connected with us. You might not recall who I am—just another one of the throngs you’ve taught a bit of music to—but thanks to whoever painted that rock and left it for us to find, you might remember me from our hike.
As I was writing this post I googled Rabbi David to see if I could discover what he’s been doing since that day —around ’84— when he and I took that hike. And it just so happens that I found someone, a blogger named Carey Fuller, who discovered, like I did, that he is something very special. You can read about his story from her by clicking here. I emailed her, letting her know I linked to her story. I hope both she and Rabbi David are doing well. Her story that includes him was posted back in 2010.
But all these thoughts connect me to yet another vocal master, Phillip Bailey (of Earth Wind & Fire,) who represents, to me, an example of the following generation— continuing connections.
My Dad said he never felt closer to God than when he was flying the Air Force fighter jets over the mountain ranges of Alaska and from his old slides of pictures that were never developed that he took while in the air, those mountain ranges looked a lot like the mountains used as a backdrop in Phillip’s video.
Somewhere within the expanding Spirit circle is eternity.
Thank you to all who have vision and who, in spite of barricades, begin on that quest. Thank you for holding fast to your hard-wrought integrity and your investment to the discipline it takes to hone your skills. Thank you for teaching and sharing your knowledge and skills with us.
Whether we are with you in person or separated by time and distance, may we meet at the juncture of SPIRIT and DISCIPLINE where we can find our wheel and watch it round and round . . . . in our heart’s a song with a brand new sound . . . . as it leads us to the One we love. . . .