Here’s the story, and I warn you, it made me weep. All right, I’ve been weeping at a lot things lately. Maybe I’ve reached a certain age. But this is a story about a little girl, Colby Curtain, who was dying of terminal vascular cancer. She was only 10 and had been fighting the disease for four years. But she had a goal in life. She wanted to see “Up!” Yeah, “Up,” the Disney/Pixar movie about the 78 year old man, who ties balloons to his house and flies away.
The movie came out on May 29, 2009. But by the time Colby’s parents could get a wheelchair to take her to the cinema, Colby was too sick to leave the house. A friend of the family called Pixar. They didn’t have a contact, so when they got to the automated answering machine, they just dialed random numbers until they got a person on the line. They explained that Colby’s wish was to see up, that she was too sick to leave the house and could Disney/Pixar please send a DVD copy.
Well, you can’t just mail an unreleased DVD of a movie that just debuted in theaters! That’s insane! So Pixar did the next best thing. They sent a courier with the movie and a few toys too. When Colby’s Mom told her that the movie was on the way, Colby said, “I’m ready, but I’ll wait to watch the movie.”
The movie came. But by this time, Colby was too sick to even open her eyes. It was too painful So her mother sat at her bedside and gave her a play-by-play of what was going on in the movie. And when it was over, her mother asked Colby if she liked the movie. Colby nodded. And seven hours later, with her family beside her, Colby Curtain died.
Mike Lombardo wrote a song about Colby Curtain seeing the movie, “Up.” Mike Lombardo is a friend of mine. He’s also a piano-rock, songwriting monster, and a certified Master of Song Fu. Mike said, “I wanted to do something and as an artist, all I could do is write about it.” Mike claimed Colby’s Song that took him 10 minutes to compose. That is a lie. Or that’s like a track star saying, “That mile only took me four minutes to run.” That discounts all the years of practice, work and training that went into that moment of achievement.
Sometimes a song comes at the perfect time. This was a comment left on Mike’s YouTube video for Colby’s Song: “I am Colby’s Auntie Carole and I have to tell you what an amazing songwriter you are, and how much you have touched our family. Thank you thank you thank you! Colby meant the? world to us and suffered for so long, so to have someone write about her story is nothing short of amazing. Thank you again! You have melted our hearts.” -carole3162
Colby’s Song was that perfect song for me too. But not because I knew Colby Curtain. I knew Zachary White. I had gone to Zachary White’s memorial service on Monday, June 15. Zachary had died of brain cancer. I had performed at a fundraising benefit for Zachary in 2008. I was part of the entertainment at a silent auction. His family were fans of “Kit and Kaboodle,” a comedy duo I had recorded three albums with that broke up in 2004 over musical differences. (Kit was musical, and I was just different.) So as I left the event, I gave Zachary a set of Kit and Kaboodle albums.
Then in the Spring of 2009, I got a call from The Miracles of Mitch Foundation. Miracles of Mitch is a Minnesota Charity that raises money for families with children struggling with cancer. They help out financially with bills. And sometimes help kids struggling with illness to see a little joy. Miracles for Mitch asked if I could play another concert for Zachary White. I said, sure, was it another fundraiser? I was told that it would be more of a block party for Zachary’s friends and neighbors. A way for Zach to say, “Good-bye.”
I played the show. Zachary was there, but he wasn’t “all there.” The year before, Zachary had been a happy, bald, tired little fellow. But on that Mother’s Day, the day of his backyard concert, Zachary was exhausted, wasted, beaten-down and over-whelmed. Not really conscious, not really present in the moment.
After the show, Zach’s dad helped me carry my equipment back to my car. He slipped me a tip. I mumbled something about how Miracles of Mitch was already paying me, and that I hadn’t really expected to get paid at all. Zach’s dad told me how Zach had taken the Kit and Kaboodle CDs and some Weird Al Yankovic CDs and put them on his iPod. He said that listening to silly music help ease the tedium and pain during chemo-therapy.
I was stunned. Shocked. I’m a children’s entertainer. I sing silly, simple songs for a living. “Down by the Bay, where the watermelons grow…”, that kind of thing. I’m not used to thinking about my music having much consequence at all. I felt important that day.
Several weeks later, at a Celebration of Zach’s Life, a memorial service, Zach’s father again talked about the things that Zach loved. Again, he mentioned Weird Al and Kit and Kaboodle. I was sitting in the back of the church a blubbering mess of confused emotions. Pride and grief. And Zach’s dad told about Zach’s affinity for small birds. How he loved watching the birds from his window. How watching birds gave Zach a sense of joy and freedom. He said that the day after Zachary had died, a large flock of wrens or chickadees came to sit in their backyard and deck. It seemed like the birds had come to say good-bye as well, or maybe to escort Zachary onward and upward.
I sat in the congregation and thought, “There should be a song. I should write a song! I wish I could write a song. There’s no way I can tastefully and successfully write THIS song. Is there?”
It’s been two years, and I guess I’m still working on that song. Some songs take ten minutes, some songs take longer. But that same week, I heard “Colby’s Song,” by Mike Lombardo. For me, it was the perfect song at the perfect time. It was the song that I needed to hear. It’s still the kind of song I wish I could write.
After graduating a year early from the prestigious Berklee College of Music with a degree in songwriting, Mike Lombardo set to work sharing his music with listeners all over the world via the Internet. His current album, “Songs for a New Day,” was released by DFTBA Records in 2010. It contains the studio version of “Colby’s Song.” This demo version is from Mike’s album, “Internet: A Series of Tunes (Vol. 1).” You can get Mike’s music through iTunes, order from DFTBA or download it from his bandcamp page. Mike next album, “Road Rage,” should be coming in 2011.
Russ Rogers is a songwriter, comedian and children’s entertainer. He has a show called Rusty’s Rocking Jamboree and has recently recorded an albums worth of more grown up songs in the duo Godz Poodlz. “Musing on a Song” features a different Creative Commons Copyright song each week. Hopefully this will introduce you to some songs and artists with which you’ve been completely unfamiliar. So, if you know of some Creative Commons Artist that deserves more attention, let me know in the comments.