Back in catholic high school, we had a retreat where we watched a movie about a sweet young college girl. One day, the girl heard some jazz music, saw a clarinet player on stage in a bar, and the next thing you knew, the girl was drinking, smoking and doing some other clearly non-catholic things. Later in our all-girls class, the nun explained the movie to us by saying that the musician was Satan, the clarinet was a phallic symbol, and we would probably end up in Hell if we dated musicians. She stressed that drum sticks, guitar necks, and anything that could be squeezed, stroked or blown into was a phallic symbol and should be avoided at all costs.
I spent the better part of a week reading Webster's Dictionary trying to figure out what the heck a phallic symbol was. There was no spell-check back then so I concentrated my search on words that started with the letter "F" not "PH". And I was a little shocked when I finally found it. Let's face it, I doubt Scripps ever used that word in their National Spelling Bee.
Despite the warnings of Hell and damnation by the Sisters of Mercy, I was thrilled to learn when I met him, that Wingman played the bass. The bass has the L-O-N-G-E-S-T neck of all guitars, so if I am to believe what I was taught, please pack my coffin with ice when I die, because Hell is mine.
Wingman's band played all the big and small hits of the time; Steely Dan, Elvis Costello, Dean Friedman, even a little Flo and Eddie. But the song that always got to me and made me leave the dance floor and stand in any disgusting bathroom, so as not to hear them playing it, was Stevie Wonder's "Golden Lady".
"Golden Lady" was Wingman's song with his old girlfriend, who seemed to have a fascination with tormenting me in the early years of our relationship by always being wherever he was playing. And it would royally tick me off, because WE didn't have a song. In fact, in the 36 years that I knew him, we NEVER had a song. When we got married, the band showed up at the reception and claimed that they couldn't find sheet music for the song I picked out, which was not our song, but a nice little dance ditty. We hurriedly scanned what they did know so we could dance our first dance. But in all our time together, there was never a song that would come on the radio where I could say "Hey, they're playing OUR song."
Working at my part-time job, there is an eclectic assortment of background music from the 60's to current selections. Better than half of them I couldn't tell you what it's called or who sings it. But every couple of months, Stevie Wonder saunters through the stereo, swings his corn-rows and belts "it" out. My spine steels and I grit my teeth just like listening to the squeak of fingernails on a chalkboard.
After Wingman died last summer, I gathered my wits and returned to work, eager for any distraction. On the Sunday I went back, I walked in and what else, Stevie welcomed me back and stopped me dead in my tracks at the door. Satan made sure I wouldn't forget him and who was in charge.
Over the past year, I've seen concerts, Broadway shows, folk musicians and rock bands in bars. I've played old cassettes and new CD's, and listen to the radio whenever I'm driving somewhere. Music calms me, excites me, even sometimes makes me a little sad for the good ol' days.
But it was last Friday, the exact one year anniversary of Wingman's death, when I stopped into work to pick up my schedule, that I was once again left speechless by Stevie singing about a golden lady that he had never seen. And I smiled and thought of Wingman. And sent him and Satan a silent warning.
"Remember and be prepared. Hell has no fury like a woman without a song she can call her own."