My wife and I just returned tonight from a late dinner with friends at La Societe, a French Restaurant on Bloor Street in the heart of downtown Toronto . It’s a wonderful replica of an old world Parisian bistro that makes you feel like you’re in downtown Paris ( the 8th or the 6th or the 1st ) rather than in Toronto . It was for us a quick fix and escape from the banal . The concept and experience of downtown, the buildings, the lights, the experience of being around a crowd for an urban social adventure in itself is an escape . Downtown, no matter which city you may live in or around, is that destination that is easily and quickly accessible, where you can experience a difference in the texture of life. Here the mundane, melancholy, or stressful seem to dissolve temporarily . The experience itself lingers even after you leave the city core .
After an engaging dinner with our friends, on the way back home in the car I started, and my wife soon chimed in, as we took turns singing ” Downtown.” “Downtown” is a song made popular by Petula Clarke in the 60’s. An addictive tune , its’ words carry a seductive message . I have a vivid memory of the first time that I heard that song . I was about 3 or 4 years old. While playing with the radio one afternoon, I stumbled on to the song, promptly stopped fiddling, and listened. That song captured a child’s attention and imagination. It rooted itself in my psyche. Only recently have I realized that song was the reason as a teenager that I started taking long walks downtown after my father suddenly passed away one night in February of 1974. The habit continued right into my 30’s . Now I walk along the shores of the Lake Ontario, around trees, rocks, birds, and water. Back then those walks were around city lights, busy streets, and crowds. It was my escape, and the beginning of my habit of long walks that lead to the word and to poetry. it’s strange how a random childhood experience of listening to music can shape features of an adult life. Words that are put to music are important. The music can be powerful, seductive, or sublime, but the words and the way they are perceived can shape the future in many ways for the very young or the suitably impressionable. Below is a great original video that I found and would like to share, of the music that influenced one child into adulthood. it’s my hope that you are always aware of the words that are put to music, that you listen to and think about what they are trying to say or evoke, about how they may influence you now or later. I hope the music and the words you experience are sublime , beautiful, relevant or at the very least entertaining. May the word and music enhance your experience of life and of the human condition as they have mine.
P.s. I only recently found out that Petula Clarke was a great influence on Serge Gainsbourg, and that he admired her, as many still do. Here is her video: