Over the course of countless years, while being professionally involved in the entertainment industry, I’ve sat for many interviews. The inevitable question that almost always arises is “What first attracted you to making music?” The record companies I recorded for usually had publicists on the payroll to prompt those signed to the label roster on how to respond to such inquiries. So, my consistent answer when asked was, “Well, music has always been my first love.” But, that was a lie. Do you really want to know the reason why I make music? Okay, since this is solely between friends, I’ll let you in on the little secret as to the why: It was WOMEN!
To truly understand the true reason behind the truthful secret I’ve just shared with you we’ll have to go back quite away. Back to a time before I knew how to perform with any musical instrument other than my voice. Way back when I was only five years old; the time when I first met the then six-year-old Tamara Lipschitz, when my family lived for a brief period in Palmetto, Florida. Aaahh… Tamara Lipschitz… The first little red-haired girl I ever loved and wanted to have in my life forever and a day...
I’d just entered the first grade of Palmetto Elementary School. Tamara, since being a year older was already matriculating in a grade above mine. Class time ceased for all grade levels exactly at 3:15 PM Mondays through Fridays, with the exception of school holidays and closings during inclement weather such as tropical storms and hurricanes. Tamara and I rode the same old yellow school bus on school days to and from our classes and depending on the number of bodies crowded onto the bus, we sometimes sat together. She usually read one of her textbooks; I do believe her favorite subject was social studies, as surmised while stealing surreptitious glances at her red curls and pretty face. Oh my goodness, she was so attractive, and even at my tender age, I assessed she was way out of my league and reach of reasonably obtainable elementary school women.
Now, let us here agree to digress; we’ll leave the past, travel through the future, and hop into the present. Over the years of my often rocky road of a love life, I’ve been unhappily married and happily divorced a grand total of three times. Of each of those ill-fated unions, I had wed nary a one owning the bragging rights to naturally red hair. Although all may have had a tinge of some redness in their mane, upon closer inspection during various intimate activities, none could cut the mustard of being a real redhead. Chestnut was the closest shade any of them ever bore in regard to follicle color. Was that, in reality, the underlying reason why none of these betrothals ever succeeded? No, I guess it’s probably that I’m just so darn difficult to live with for very long periods of time. And now, shall we jump back into the past once more?
One weekday when the bus was packed to capacity and Tamara Lipschitz boarded after class with her social studies book in hand, the seat next to mine was the only one available. Sliding in beside me, and as the bus began the journey of returning each student to their own home, she opened the worn textbook to read. I, of course, sneaked peaks of her visage and flaming strands as we traveled.
“Do you like TV?” she asked while closing her book.
“Mmm-hmm,” I returned after my several seconds of silence had ceased; a silence which had temporarily paralyzed my young, male vocal cords.
“Me and my brother, David, we like to watch TV after school.”
“Do you want to come to our house today and watch some TV with us?”
Again, after an additional embarrassing episode of paralysis plaguing my voice box, and prior to my consenting with yet another “Mmm-hmm”, I finally croaked out, “Mmm-hmm, whatcha watching?”
“Probably Bozo the Clown, my brother really likes that show. Do you like Bozo?”
“Mmm-hmm, I love Bozo!”
So, instead of getting off at my stop, I remained aboard for another two until following Tamara in disembarking from the bus with Dave who had been sitting in the back all along with some of his older-than-us friends. What do you say we move on and talk about Dave for a bit now? Are you game to gobble up a bit of gossip, sport?
Dave was two years older than his sister, and thus in fourth grade, and for us smaller kids he could sometimes be scary. Looking back, he wasn’t such a bad dude, but he was unpredictable. For whatever reason, he seemed to enjoy bumping into smaller children walking through school hallways between classes then warning them to watch where they were going. Or, especially when he was with the other older boys of his own age he’d try to trip you, or steal your baseball cap if you wore one. Dave also appeared to be overly protective of his younger sister. Which, in and of its self, was not the worse characteristic for an older brother to exhibit.
I can remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday what went down the first time I accepted Tamara’s invitation to stop by after school at their house to melt away our tiny brains for an hour or two in front of the old boob tube. Dave, with the authority bestowed upon him by the superiority of age, commanded the remote control during these entertaining encounters. He’d be in charge of switching the set on and off, selecting the channels, and deciding the volume level of whatever we’d watch. In other words, during all those late afternoons he’d hog the clicker.
Up to this point, I’ve neglected to comment on the set-in-stone seating arrangement during these collective TV times when I was invited for viewing by his sister. Dave always sat smack dab in the middle of the sofa facing the television. Tamara was seated on his right. And I, well I sat a world away from Tamara, to his left. This arrangement, much like how he controlled the clicker, was never up for discussion. The older brother never left us on our own for a single second during these occasions, occasions which I had come to view as opportunities, to attest my love for his little sister. It was just what it was, and I either had to deal with it or go home. So I dealt with it, for as long as I could.
I must’ve been doing something right in my cautious courtship of Tamara Lipschitz because several times a week she invited me back. On a day when an invitation hadn’t been extended, the fair Ms. Lipschitz reluctantly explained she had an important social studies exam on the following day, so she’d be forced to study instead. Ah, beauty, brains, and self-discipline all gorgeously residing within the same perfect package, so to speak.
This mutual viewing of highly intelligent television programming continued for quite a while. The only problem was it was becoming increasingly frustrating for me to never have any time alone, time without Dave between us that is, with my intended love interest. But from the aforementioned frustration, I drew my inspiration. I liked to sing. In secret, I’d sing alone in my room in front of a mirror holding my mother’s hairbrush as a substitute for a real microphone. And in my own, humble self-opinion, I was getting pretty good at it. So it was only natural I’d come up with a way of conveying my feelings about my red-hot redhead through a song when the right time arose. And arose it eventually did.
One rainy, rainy, dark, and dreary day when the three of us had gotten off the bus to sit inside for some sweet TV time, with Dave in the middle, me to his left, and Tammy (the pet name I came up with for the love of my life, but lacking the courage, Tamara never once heard it uttered) at his right, I decided that the correct moment had arrived. Waiting for a commercial break to interrupt Bozo’s clownish antics, I loudly cleared my throat. Ms. Lipschitz quizzically glanced my way as I looked around Dave and softly began to serenade.
“The sun will come out Tamara, Tamara, Tamara there’ll be sun. Tamara, Tamara, I love you, Tamara,” and here I exercised the liberty of what I felt was an artistic dramatic pause while I leaned further from behind Dave’s shoulder, peering deeper into her emerald green eyes before continuing toward what I had planned as my show-stopping grand finale, “Tamara, you’re only—a—Dave——a———way!”*
Dave clicked the remote to turn the television off and said to me, “No more Bozo for you. Okay, Bozo, it’s time you went home!”
I was never invited back to the Lipschitz household again to watch TV, or for anything else, for that matter. Within a few months, my family moved to another state as my dad had changed jobs, and since then, Tamara Lipschitz has become only a faded, dying ember of an occasional late-night memory. And do you want to know the real irony of it all? The irony which I suspect may have an equal chance of eventually killing me, as say; cancer, cirrhosis, diabetes, or a drug OD? Well, while the red-haired Tamara may have been the first girl I ever loved, and even though I claimed at the beginning of recounting this tale that my reply to a beat and tired interview question which always dogs an artist, was a lie; deep down in my heart I know for a fact it’s always been music I’ve been attracted to beyond and above anything or anyone during my entire life.
When confronted with a choice of either choosing someone or something over my career in music, music was always what I chose. It’s been to blame for failed marriages, fallen friendships, family estrangements, forgone fortunes, lost opportunities, and ruined relationships. But no matter how dark and dismal the depressing downpours that on occasion fall upon me, attempting to drench then ultimately drown, it’s still the sunshine of my life that allows me to get through yet another day.
*Apologies to Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin for appropriating a small portion of their song “Tomorrow” from “Annie”, that wonderful Broadway musical.