Yesterday-Roy Clark

There are events that, because of their sheer impact, will play over and over again in your mind. Some of these events are traumatic and some are beautiful; I recently had one that was both.

l to r   Buck Owens, Lisa Todd and Roy Clark
l to r Buck Owens, Lisa Todd and Roy Clark
Lisa and I were watching old country music performances on television one night. Roy Clark was one of the performers and as he slowly made his way to the stage he told a story. It seems baseball great Mickey Mantle had asked that Clark sing at Mantle’s funeral. The song he’d requested was “Yesterday, when I was young” written by Charles Aznavour. Clark then re-created this performance for a crowd of piers who gave him a standing ovation. This was the performance Lisa and I enjoyed.

The performance was so beautiful. Clark was born in 1933 and the performance was about ten years ago so he would have been in his mid-seventies. His voice was delicate like parchment paper, almost ready to break but fortified with the courage of strong emotion. He told the story of a life lived foolishly only coming to real wisdom when it was too late. He told the story not only with his words but with his eyes- Clark is a real performer.

“The thousand dreams I dreamed, the splendid things I planned I always built alas on weak and shifting sand” is a favorite lyric from the performance. It’s hard to go wrong when you paraphrase the Bible and this is taken from the book of Matthew 7:24. When a person builds their life upon earthly pleasures and worships only themselves then they are like a fool who builds his house on shifting sand.

Miss-spent youth is a popular theme in music but when an artist can sharpen this concept and stick it right in your heart, then it’s more than a theme; it is a message. “I used my magic age as if it were a wand And never saw the waste and emptiness beyond” bypassed my ears and went right to my soul. When you are young, you can use your energy and vitality productively or waste it. Too many people see youth as something used only in the pursuit of that which they crave. When the youth and vitality are gone, all you have left is a runner who cannot run. It is better to use youthful vitality to build a life with someone and put something aside for later.

I always hope that a writer’s words are not completely true to their life. I can understand if they take a little poetic license to drive home a point; I prefer it. “I feel the bitter taste of tears upon my tongue. The time has come for me to pay for yesterday when I was young.” This sounds to me like words of regret delivered lyrically from a death bed. I hope the phrase is there to inspire change in the listener because its literal translation is too awful to consider. I believe in an afterlife however I don’t want to waste this life. I don’t believe in reincarnation because I don’t remember a past life. If this is my one crack at living life right, then I am going to do my best. I don’t want to have regret, it would cause me much sorrow. It would be Hell.

Roy Clark’s performance stuck with Lisa and I after its conclusion. The impact of the song on the listener may be a great irony as someone who could write lyrics that stir the human soul did not waste their life after all. Go ahead, take the time to listen to this video.

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