, , , ,



by Norman Warwick

Helen Reddy

Australian singer Helen Reddy has died aged 78 in America.

Her children – Traci Donat and Jordan Sommers – confirmed her death in a statement on the star’s official Facebook page.

Helen, who was best-known for her hit I Am Woman, died in Los Angeles. The trailblazing songstress and activist’s life was recently crafted into the hit movie I Am Woman.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved mother, Helen Reddy, on the afternoon of September 29th 2020 in Los Angeles,” the family wrote.

“She was a wonderful Mother, Grandmother and a truly formidable woman. Our hearts are broken. But we take comfort in the knowledge that her voice will live on forever.”

Earlier, her son posted a picture with his mother captioned with three purple hearts.

Alex Harvey (right) first found success in song-writing with the pop and country hit Reuben James which was recorded and released by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition.

Just days after the news broke, in April earlier this year, that 73-year-old country music songwriter and actor had died, the woman who took his early-70s song Delta Dawn to the top of the country charts took to social media to say

´I don’t guess I’d given a lot of thought to what my life would have been without the great song, Delta Dawn. But this morning I started thinking about it a lot with the passing of songwriter Alex Harvey. The song started everything off for me and has kept me going ever since. Even though my record was released in March of 1972, the song is still just as great 48 years later! I am so sad today with tears flowing.

I thank God for him, his song, my life, my career and my fans – as I find myself grateful and thankful knowing my life would have been so different without the iconic Delta Dawn and her creator Alex Harvey. I know Alex was a man of God, and today he got his wings, to that mansion in the sky! Thank you, Alex. I’ll meet you there someday, when it’s my time to fly!´

She signed off ´from an indebted Tanya Tucker.´(above left)

Now only six months later, on Tuesday 29th September, the lady herself has passed away

Tanya Tucker, who was just 13 years old when she recorded Delta Dawn, also became well-known for other hits like Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady.

Not only have we lost two great female country artists this week, but we also lost Mac Davis, a charismatic performer who enjoyed a world-wide ´novelty´ hit with the wonderfully titled Lord It´s Hard To Be Humble, a hit off his 1974 album Stop And Smell The Roses.

Mac Davis, the pop-country crossover star who wrote hits for Elvis Presley and had a No. 1 pop single of his own with Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me, died on Tuesday 29th September in hospital. He was 78.

His manager and friend, Jim Morey, said death was caused by  complications of Mr. Davis’s recent heart surgery.

Mac Davis enjoyed early success as a songwriter in the late nineteen sixties, supplying Presley with Top 10 pop hits like In the Ghetto and Don’t Cry Daddy after spending much of the decade working in sales and publishing for independent record companies.

He also wrote Something’s Burning, a Top 20 pop single in 1970 for Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, and I Believe in Music, which was recorded by the Detroit pop group Gallery, reaching the Top 40 in 1972.

I Believe In Music was recorded by scores of artists and became Mac´ssignature song; he closed his concerts with it for decades. Watching Scotty Grow, another of his best-known compositions, stalled just outside the pop Top 10 for Bobby Goldsboro in 1971.

Singing in a warm, resonant baritone, Mr. Davis recorded many of these originals himself, working in a Southern pop vein akin to that of Presley, whom he often cited, and his fellow Lubbock, Texas, native Buddy Holly, whom he called his greatest musical influence.

´He was like nothing I’d ever seen before,´ Mr. Davis said in an interview with the website Elvis Australia about the first time he saw Presley perform onstage, in a parking lot at the county fairgrounds in Lubbock.

´Of course, I was just a kid, you know,´ Mr. Davis went on. ´So was he.´

Genial, photogenic and fit, Mr. Davis had his own television variety hour, The Mac Davis Show, from 1974 to 1976 on NBC and was a regular guest on The Tonight Show and other talk shows in those years. He made his acting debut in the 1979 movie North Dallas Forty, a comedy that starred Nick Nolte as an aging football star and Mr. Davis as a calculating quarterback.

Having noted the sad passing of these three more or less contemporaries we will post a feature article to Sidetracks & Detours over the next few weeks.

Having so simultaneously lost three artists of a particular generation of country music there is much solace from seeing so much new, young talent emerging in a different musical genre.

Shektu Kanneh Mason

Since posting Family Harmony on 11th September 2020, profiling a newly published autobiography by his mother about her seven amazing musically gifted (and hard practiced) children and looking at the career in particular of Shektu Kanneh-Mason I have since received an e mail from Shektu telling me  he is proud to ´announce the first ever Kanneh-Mason family album!´

´It features Carnival Of The Animals and other favourites of ours,´ Shektu says, ´as well as brand new poems written by Michael Morpurgo and read by the author with Olivia Colman. This has grown from our passion as a family for making music together and we can’t wait for you to hear it.´

´As young children, the power of combining music with storytelling is truly magical and we are honoured to have collaborated with Michael and Olivia and the wonderful musicians who joined us, to create music that celebrates our connection with the natural world. Together, we want to inspire children and adults to listen more closely, to value our world and all the diversity within.´

His mother´s book, House of Music, is a beacon of hope and common sense in these dark times and the happiness the Kanneh Masons share in their family life has recently been perfectly illustrated in a BBC tv documentary, and Shektu and Islata played beautifully in that tv prom we also reviewed in our post.

Now there is this new album to look forward. Those of you already familiar with these seven siblings and their music will probably already be heading to your computers to place an order.

Others of you, hopefully inspired by this article to buy an album by musicians you had not heard of until now, are the ones I really envy. To be coming out of lockdown to meet all the challenges of a ´new normal´ what a joy it will be to discover a new generation of classical musicians who can make the world feel a better place and even add a perfect soundscape to life.

With the island´s record over the years for inviting the best musicians from around the world to play here on Lanzarote, who knows, with a fair wind, we might even one day see them performing here live.

Sign Along With Us

Another initiative we have featured in previous posts is the wonderful Sign Along With Us, recently featured on Britain´s Got Talent.

Sign Along With us is a Rochdale group created by local girl Jade Kilduff who wowed the nation in an early round of the tv show and again in the recent semi final for which viewer votes are still being counted. They performed This Is Me, a song from The Greatest Showman musical film. The group joined forces with Rochdale Music Service Choir to give one big performance of singing and signing in BSL / SSL which basically means British sign language singed in the order of the words in the song.

Jade initially set up the group to help her adopted brother, Christian, to communicate. The boy was born ´asleep´ and although he was brought back to life, he had suffered cerebral palsy and a brain injury. Jade formed a group made of family, friends and community members who joined together to spread jade´s message of inclusion. Her dream is to see sign language taught in schools and she and the group should win the tv competition she would like to fund disabled-accessible holiday homes.

There is no doubt how much thisd all means to members of the group. Scarlet, aged only ten, told all across the arts that ´it was the best day of my life when we got the Golden Buzzer, (the signal from the judges that they have passed into the next round of the competition).

She added that ´Jade helps me to learn the signs so that I can be like everyone else. Sign Along With Us makes me feel good inside and happy.´

Her friend Bella Ashton, aged eight, expressed similar sentiments.

¨I am proud of myself for having the confidence to go out on stage. I love being part of the group and I love learning sign

Bella´s mum, Liza, admitted that ´as a parent I didn´t fully appreciate the challenges that some of the group face on a daily basis. becoming part of it all has given me full-blown respect for anyone learning sign and stepping out of their comfort zone. The line that got mer was Reece´s mum saying the decorations would overwhelm him. So to go out on that stage in front of all those people was just amazing. In fact, everyone was amazing.´

Sign Along With us appeared on the semi final of Britain´s Got Talent on Saturday 19th September and although voting is now closed the results will not be announced until October 10th .

However far the singers and signers might progress, Katie Haigh, (above) writing for our sister organisation, all across the arts, in The Rochdale Observer, concluded people by reminding the townsfolk that ´this is a local group of local people spreading a message of inclusion for all´ and that they ask for support from not only their local area but also from across the country.

Meanwhile Katie´s fellow poets and writers and musicians and in my old home town of Rochdale are getting the hang of this ´zoom´ thing, and are joining forces to deliver busier broadcasts of any one, two or three of jam sessions, creative writing group meetings and poetry readings. These will feature lots of poets and writers known to Sidetracks & Detours like Robin Parker, Eileen Earnshaw, Ray Stearn, Michael Higgins and the ubiquitous Katie Haigh, as well as musicians like Dave McKeon and Maureen Harrison of the local Ukelele Band.

These are likely to be forty minute events for an invited-only audience, but its easy to get your name on the guest list no matter where you are in the country. Check out the all across the arts web page for details.

Rochdale artists are generating other positive forces merging from the coronavirus confusion. local art groups are coming together in mutual support. In fact an article giving details of this on the all across the arts page of The Rochdale Observer on 23rd September 2020 was written by a member of each of the Borough´s three writing groups; Eileen Earnshaw of Sanctuary Bolton, Robin Parker of Langley Writers and Ray Stearn of Touchstones Creative writing Group. This, surely, is true collaboration,

This has really emerged from the fact that several members of each groups also convene together at monthly ´folk n´poetry´ nights previously presented on Sunday evenings at The Baum but more recently delivered by zoom technology. On line video conferencing has provided the opportunity to continue with the popular poetry readings and even with the delivery of creative writing workshops.

The experience was led by Robin and Eileen who jointly run the poetry nights at which, often, up to twenty poets usually read a couple of poems, many of which are their own compositions. Now they can share their work ´live´ on line and enjoy the fun, too, of creative writing. Perhaps the only drawback might be that it doesn´t take place in the excellent real ale pub providing the creature comforts the writers had become accustomed to.

Eileen, who has just seen a few of her unpublished works posted on to the web site for Rochdale based artists at


now continues to deliver her Bolton Sanctuary creative writing workshops via video conferencing. More importantly, she invited members of other writing groups to join the conference calls and that they have done so has increased the dynamics of the event.

This encouraged her colleague Ray Stearn to trial a zoom workshop with his Touchstones Creative Writing Group members which also proved successful. Ray reckons that ´the sharing the workshops with members of other groups is a very important element.´

Ray Stearn

Ray is thrilled that he has already received requests from other groups to facilitate communal sessions in future and is no doubt busy designing his session-plans even as you read this.

Robin Parker followed suit, encouraging his members of Langley Writers to similarly host zoom conferences and invite attendees from members of other groups.

Robin Parker

Robin explains that ´not only does using the on-line facility allow writing to continue but it aslo, and vitally importyantly in lockdown, we feel it has given a lifeline to some members whoi have felt very isolated and who have welcomed the chance to talk to another human being as instead of the wall. From that perspective tools such as the zoom app have facilitated lots of things to happen. Isolated Faith groups and other Community groups have come together to share concerns and seek solutions. While personal contacts, post-pandemic, will be a welcome return, our groups are looking to maintain our zoom links; It is considerably more convenient than booking and paying from a room, and personal transport costs to a venue.´

Many top writers, comedians and musicians now share their work on line. There is general agreement, of course that an audience provides an ambience that is crucial to the way a performance is delivered, and that work has to be altered to accommodate this change.

To make any enquiries about zoom conferences, writing groups, poetry readings or musical on line performance around the Rochdale area contact

Eileen Earnshaw at                Eileen.earnshaw@yahoo.co.uk

Ray Stearn at                          barneydog70@hotmail.com

Robin Parker                         robinparker@hotmail.co.uk

Incidentally Robin concluded this Sidetracks & Detours post for me by including me on an e mail saying that Rochdale Arts And Heritage Services (Link4Life), through funding via Ambition For Ageing, are offering free online creative workshops for over 50’s in Rochdale. No doubt this news will very quickly be circulated around Rochdale creative groups.

Finally, just to let you know that things went swimmingly for our friend Richard Boyle (right) who completed charity channel paddle on 28th September, as previewed on these pages a few weeks ago. He has exceeded his target of raising £20,000 for Altzheimer charities with his so far collected £17,000 being swelled by ´gift aid´  to just more than £20,000.

Richard had to twice postpone his swim because of adverse weather conditions , and even on the day he made the crossing the clouds closed in so that even as arrived at the French shore-line the coast seemed to disappear into the distance. The swim had taken place mainly at night, and had proved quite gruelling, with Richard acquiring a slight shoulder strain in the choppy waters. Of course, even when he made his first footprint on the foreign soil it was time to turn round, jump on the boat that had accompanied him, so that there would be no contravention of quarantine laws.

Step ashore, Sir Richard.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.