The Big Yin and me

The Big Yin and me

Musical_Tour_of_ScotlandYears ago, after a call from Steve Brown, I spent an hour in Fulham with Billy Connolly, leading to my production involvement in the making of an album called Musical tour of Scotland.  The art by my uniquely talented art director Stuart Catterson looks wonderful even all these years later. (Reproduced here with permission by the artist.)

Billy is a uniquely sweet man of many skills, although banjo-playing is not the most memorable. What is outstanding is the huge story of how much he learned from what might otherwise have been considered terrible misfortune and I will be sorry and sad when he goes. Abandoned at age 4 in Glasgow docklands, under WW2 German bombing by a teen Mother so desperate she left two kids, while her husband was at War, to be raised, awfully, by the fathers sisters.
What a shame Soldier Connolly returned and did what he did to a 10 year old – for five awful years.  I cannot imagine the feeling of being abandoned at 4. Being taken in by two ignorant cruel unhappy punishing Glaswegian aunts and then the huge innocent luminous unbridled joy seeing your Dad come home from the war. To free you from this hellhole and be your dad.

Not only did that child learn to process the crippling misfortune of a degraded father to his advantage, but he learned to how to share the lessons as they were revealed to him. The student became the teacher. To the extent I will thank him for therapy in my own life. Which I think is how he will be remembered by many if not most.
A great and articulate therapist. Motivated by the highest good.

After seeing his news announcement of  his Parkinsons decline,   I googled Billy today for the first time. And that’s where I read  he is six feet tall. That struck me as remarkable, thinking back to our meet, throughout which I recall all too well, he stood at the same eye level as me.
I am 5.8. I realize now, because much of our time was spent standing, that he must have been slouching slightly to not make our height difference uncomfortable for me. That required some effort and some intention.
I left that day thinking he was the same height as me.
Interesting on some level because he is known onstage as a very tall man. The big Yin. I see now that it was a very sensitive interaction skill.
He smiled a lot too. And asked about me. Personal stuff. Smart. “As I live and breathe.” I came away convinced he was grateful to have met me. I thought. ‘What a humble man‘. He mirrored me. Same height, same civility, same impression of humility, same pace of delivery, same gratuitous use of the smile.
 
And even now in dying, raging against the fading of the light is not his style. Again, he articulates the final chapter, the exit from stage right, so beautifully we all have a lesson to take from this ascended master in the making. Of course it is no less than obvious that he would be an atheist of long standing and vocal about the Brexit idiots and the Trump morons.
I  feel like all religious people, all Brexiters and Trump voters, should be forbidden from participating in his funeral celebration. Did you lot learn nothing?
 
Screen Shot 2019-01-04 at 14.07.03“As bits slip off and leave me, talents leave and attributes leave. I don’t have the balance I used to have, I don’t have the energy I used to have. I can’t hear the way I used to hear, I can’t see as good as I used to. I can’t remember the way I used to remember.
And they all came one at a time and they just slipped away, thank you. It is like somebody is in charge of you and they are saying, ‘Right, I added all these bits when you were a youth, now it is time to subtract’.”
Catch the BBC show if you can.