“When you turn twenty-one raise a glass in the air / Let your freedom fly in the wind / Should you hear the sounds of those passing drums / You think of your old man / You know that I prayed with my last breath / A prayer for peace for all fellow man / With a smile on my face and tears in my eyes / I’m reaching for your hand / My father saw this healing hand.”
Having grown up living in the UK, I am very familiar with the significance of a simple artificial decorative poppy worn by many on the lapel every November to commemorate the ultimate sacrifices made in the name of preserving freedom during the First World War. In Canada too, the poppy is seen everywhere, a symbol of honor and a pledge of support for Remembrance Day.
Here in the US, we honor Veterans Day on November 11th to pay tribute to those serving in our armed forces, and our collective respects to the lives lost in combat and duty. Yet the poppy is a rare sighting outside of the UK and Commonwealth – something that I’d not given much consideration to until a visit to the Baltimore symphony last Sunday. Instantly recognizing that bright red symbolic gesture as adorned by an older gentleman in the audience – making him stand out head and shoulders above all others – this sole visual cue suddenly flooded my thoughts with the upcoming arrival of remembrance.
Long-time GDW visitors may recall our review of “Still In Love…” – an independent album release from Waterloo, ON singer-songwriter Timothy Scott Bignell back in 2019, who touched on themes of remembrance and commemoration with “Overpass Eulogy.” As a tribute to the Canadian Highway of Heroes, I am of the opinion that this deeply moving tune is one not easily forgotten once experienced, and is worthy of several spins at this time of year – as we remember, as we mourn, as we honor and as we respect.
With impeccable timing, Timothy (Tim) returns with his latest single, “Hands Of War (Summer of ‘39),” and offers a fictitious-but-fitting account of a father figure called to serve overseas during World War Two. “[It’s] a fictional song this old parking lot poet wrote on stained coffee cups to greasy French fry holders,” he offers. “Even though it is fictional, I’m sure it really happened to a lot of Canadian families.”
Recorded at Revelation Sound in Guelph, and co-produced with Brad Dugas (who also mixed and mastered), for Tim (vocals/guitar), this was his first full solo venture when writing lyrics and composing the musical score. Demonstrating a natural ear for the finer details, Tim combines both strings and piano keys to create the perfect vessel for conveying the emotional calling of his creation – entrusting such duties to good friends Ben Bolt-Martin (cello), Ian Tanner (piano/bass/strings) and Brad Dugas (drum programming). “I wanted the drums to have a Chariots of Fire kind of feel,” Tim adds.
The single artwork was created using a photo from Tim’s own family album. “The picture is of my father and brother before my dad went overseas in September 1939,” he acknowledges. “He was overseas serving in the United Kingdom for almost six years. He came home and lived a good life.” “For I’m only twenty-one, I want to go home / I’m scared as hell of dying alone / Then he came down from heaven for me / I saw the war scars on his hands / My father saw some healing hands.”
Photo credit: Timothy Scott Bignell