It was over fifty years ago that the thin, keening croon came to touch Guyanese hearts, move their feet, and fill their ears with a sad sweetness that seems to flow all the way from the deepest valley of the soul.
That special sadness and sweetness, emanating from somewhere behind the jangling harmonies of that time from before, captivated and caused many a longing in boys and girls, young and grown, touched and reaching to touch or for a touching from that special someone.
That time is now gone. But Johnny Braff lives on. He may have passed a few days ago. But he will remain in the lullabies of Guyanese, as they think and dream of love. Of love thwarted. Of love denied. Of love betrayed. Of love savored and relished. That is part of the grand story, the simple, yet profound, legend of the life of this great son of Guyana that brings so much back; and that will carry the remnants of singers and listeners, and all those who throbbed with and to his stories in song of love robbed. There is a burning inside. For some Guyanese that burning will last forever and then a day more. It has been that kind of unquenchable burning.
Always will be for those who remember and reminisce about lyrics dedicated to and poured out about the teenage yearning for that “Neville” elusive, so unhearing, sometimes so unloving. About something as simple and endearing as “A shower of tears” that was anything but a pail of water, and which captures the eternal pathos of romance and to be young and in love, sometimes unrequited. The man had a magic that addressed every heartache, soothed those weary souls that knew because they were there, are still there fifty years later though, like Johnny, the mists rolled in and covered some in that glorious shroud that ease a hard, heavy passage.
In the early years, his was. But Johnny survived. He survived them all: genres, sounds, rhythms, mediums, new definitions of cool and his art. Johnny Braff triumphed past the long exodus of those who knew him, identified with his times and music, and embraced his songs and the stories in them with the closest of intimate hugs. Sometimes, it was personal; their own story being sang and sang over tiny transistor radios and huge jukeboxes, and finally those monstrous boom-boxes that split ear and mind and tear apart whatever shreds were still left in hearts that suffered and sang along with him.
It has been a storied life -full of ups and downs, heartaches and heartbreaks, and always a heartbeat away from the big break and the big times. Life for Johnny Braff, indeed, was a reflection of his own journey; and of a calling and profession that rewards too little one who gave so much and now leave so much behind. He did leave a lot behind, hasn’t he? Through it all, and true to his sweet, soft, caressing melody, that reckless, headlong plunging embodies in “I don’t care.” A likely tribute to himself.
And now it is over fifty years later, almost twice as long as the life of this paper. It is as if it is still just yesterday. And Guyanese have the rare good fortune, unlike Matt Munro, to bring back yesterday. In their quiet moments; in their long look back at the way we were. Through the moaning cadences of this man and musician, the lovelorn and lovesick and those who lived for love were graced with something almost mystic in its aura that encircled and cocooned with that wisp of a touch that is a sorcerer’s wand.
It was an extraordinary gift he had. It ranged from that which was part a plaintive cry from the wellsprings of the heart to the searing emotional resignation of losing to the wistful reaching into the Yuletide Season to grace with the fairytale that was his style and voice and the story of his words.
Fifty years later and the Guyana of today is as he sang from way back in the day; it is the, “Same time, same place.” It just might be the same man and same woman; and now blessed with the rich nostalgic company of those memories that are of a lifetime. As it is of their children (and their neighbour’s children) who grew up wondering what this is all about; maybe even becoming ardent followers themselves, such was the magnet of his pull, the force field of powerful yearning provoked; of me being me and only with you. Always with you. And even when you are not there.
Thanks for the memories of this grand story, Johnny. So many of them. The extraordinary joy of them. The beauty of them. Now go sing for them and move them above, way high over there. Just like you did for all of us. God bless this great son of Guyana. Son who gave so much good feeling, who lived dreams. Son of those lovely melodies of love and which make us fall in love all over again every day.
Feb 26, 2020Narayan Ramdhani (The Kings University) and Priyanna Ramdhani (Olds College) were both selected to represent the Province of Alberta at CCAA (Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association) national...
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