|Evergreen at Stone Mountain|
One of the nicer things about travelling with my wife to her annual AADA Leadership Conference is that the venue changes yearly. This year we flew into Atlanta and then made the thirty-mile drive to a lovely resort called Stone Mountain: a family retreat with hiking and biking trails and two nice to very nice Marriott hotels.
Because our meeting was booked to capacity and we were sharing space with another group of 500+, we got to stay at both of them.
One of the regular events is an awards event honoring relatively new and active members of the Alliance to the American Dental Association with the Beulah K. Spencer Award. Beulah was a dental spouse who followed Thelma Neff and my mother as a National President of what is now called the Alliance.
This year as part of the ceremony we were treated to a presentation by the DeKalb School of the Arts, a prestigious 8-12 independent high school dedicated to providing close to 300 students an opportunity to grow in their chosen arts endeavor. Their program was varied in song and dance but not in energy and the audience was carried along as the program developed. Somewhere close to the finale I heard a familiar strain that caused me to literally scratch my head. They came up with the song, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”
The reason for my feeling of incongruity was that I had always connected the song to Boys Town, which although still in existence, became part of mainstream culture because of the 1938 movie of the same name, starring Spencer Tracy as the founder, Father Flanagan and Mickey Rooney as the troubled child, Whitey.
Turns out I was wrong in my timeline.
Although Father Flanagan did in fact secure a copyright to the name attached to his Omaha orphanage, the song with the title wasn’t written until 1969 and gained almost instant popularity on its own right, first as released by the UK group, The Hollies and shortly after by Neil Diamond. Both renditions made the top 40 charts.
As did several other subsequent releases. But most likely the reason the song attracted attention to this group is that it was considered the featured song of one of the best 12 stars of American Idol in the show’s fourth season.
Whatever, The DSA presentation was not only enjoyable, it accomplished what so many songs do for an audience; it reminded us of pleasant past memories and, at least for me, got my mind working and stimulated me to do some interesting research.
In my next post I intend to explain why the recent purchase of a GPS seemed to have a special meaning in my life.