My last child and only daughter arrived just shy of my 40th birthday and is 12, so do the math. As such there are times I feel as though I sired my own grandchild. Indeed, this was said to me by a former mentor boss in a phone conversation touching base with one another after about six years when he snorted and said wryly, "Well, it's never too late to have your own grandchildren." in response to the news.
I recall attending her first swarm ball soccer game while her three brothers were 17, 15, and 13 and the family home was a testosterone- and alcohol-fueled war zone. There I was tele-ported back into time watching young mothers struggle with portable strollers and diapered children running feral out of reach of them while I was consumed with wondering where my equally as feral teen sons had spent the night and whether or not they had been driving a car impaired.
At that soccer event, I found someone in my age bracket, which calmed me a little. I sat next to her and began striking up a conversation. After a while I asked which child was hers on the field.
None was. Her son-in-law coached the team and she was there watching her granddaughter.
I wanted to reach for the hemlock.
She tried to console me by saying her daughter had started young. It didn’t work.
Tonight was my daughter’s Christmas Pageant. She loves the teacher and the activity, arriving at school an hour early three times a week to participate. It is a big deal, and I have heard the repetitive warbling of many of the songs sung tonight for quite literally months. A veritable CD mix tape for holiday elevator music, albeit coming from a voice that always touches my heart – except when in adolescent screech mode – when it can touch every nerve.
I wandered my way into an auditorium with few familiar or friendly faces, and found a couple I knew. The man had served on the Board of Selectman with me.
They were there, as well, to see their grandchild.
I am over that slight felt hard on that soccer field years ago, having evolved, however slightly.
As the songs came up, the Chorus Teacher would introduce each. Blue Skies was sung, which is a favorite of mine. Later came Rockin Robin.
And this is when my acceptance became hard, as it was introduced by the instructor as coming from Michael Jackson.
This is on a par with someone saying Paul McCartney had a band called Wings, in my book.
I leaned over to the former selectman and made a few comments. I wished my (much) older brother was there, as he is a veritable cornucopia of useful trivia around 50’s and 60’s songs. His children all can recite his annual summarization of Feb 3rd 1959 as the day the music died based on the plane crash in an Iowa cornfield that took the life of Buddy Holley, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. Waylon Jennings dodged a bullet by letting the Big Bopper take his seat on the plane because Big Bopper was feeling ill and did not want to travel on the bus.
My brother’s 28 year-old son can do a dead on impersonation of this and has roasted his old man regularly at family functions with it. Little prick has knocked me off top billing for such humorous antics. That torch was more ripped from my hands rather than passed. Brett Favre would have handled it with more dignity, assuming he did not have his camera phone handy. With phone it might be a toss up.
Rockin Robin was a 1959 song that made it to #2 on the charts before the normal looking Michael Jackson reprised it in 1972. In the Christmas concert I was convinced it was sung by Chubby Checker. I was wrong. It was a one hit wonder for Bobby Day recorded in 1959. (Checking his bio I see Day also wrote Little Bitty Pretty One sung by Thurston Harris in 1957, which triggered all sorts of fond memories past and present and a meandering through different oldies clips on YouTube before getting this put together.)
One hit wonders deserve their recognition rather than a talented singer who took a rather twisted and sorted arc into cartoon character and sordid sexual being before a tragic early death.
Below you will find the two versions and Little Bitty Pretty One. Unlike Wings versus the Beatles, Jackson’s might be better, but the original is the original and deserves attribution and recognition.
Good Night Bobby Day, wherever you are:
The Michael Jackson version.
And, of course, Little Bitty Pretty One by Thurston Harris.