More than I can say … a tribute to Bobby Vee

I suppose it’s a measure of our different cultural reference points that the column inches devoted to the death of popular musicians can seem out of kilter to me. Pete Burns? My reaction was … who? Leonard Cohen I understand better, and Hallelujah is a fine, much-covered song. It reminds me of a girlfriend who listened to Leonard Cohen when she was feeling low. My advice then and now is it’s better to listen to the Beach Boys: to uplift your mood rather than reinforcing gloom.

These two had many column inches, but the passing of Bobby Vee in October 2016 earned just a ‘news in brief’ in my i newspaper. For me, the songs of Bobby Vee are wonderfully typical of the dreamboats-and-petticoats pre-Beatles era. He had a light, effortless tenor voice, with every word completely clear – which served to enhance the vocal tricks on non-words like the ‘Oh oh yea yea’ on More Than I Can Say and how he sings ‘you’ and ‘ee’ on Rubber Ball (you have to listen to get these). It sounds so easy when he sings. It isn’t – I’ve tried!

Rubber Ball, I admit, makes me envious of the song’s backing singers. Imagine being asked what you’d been doing at work today and being to reply, “Singing ‘Bouncy Bouncy’ in a recording studio.”

Bobby Vee had the bonus of performing songs written by the greatest of pop song writers, Goffin & King. ‘How Many Tears’ (the backing track sounds like ‘Young Jimmy Young Jimmy Young’), ‘Run To Him’ and, above all, ‘Take Good Care Of my Baby’.  This last song has one of those splendid eight-bar intros that I collect: ‘My Tears are falling since you’ve taken her away …’ that could almost lead into ‘Hats Off to Larry’, ‘It Might As Well Rain Until September’ and other classics of that period. But it doesn’t, and Bobby Vee’s vocal of

‘If you should discover
That you don’t really love her
Please send my baby back home to me.’

remains a lyric that tugs on the heart strings.

Bobby Vee was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011 and, according to Wikipedia, he died from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.

Chris Durdin, written in November 2016

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