My father Tom Swift was a recording artist for London and Decca Records in the early 1960s in Canada and he never quite made it, although he had several top ten songs in Canada. One of the reasons was because they had battles of the bands on the radio and he would go up against 45 singles by The Beatles or Elvis and Elvis and The Beatles would always beat him. This poem was written after he died and I wanted to recall that aspect of him that was more positive in his troubled life, his beautiful voice. I open with a quote from Johnny Mathis, his favourite singer.

The Recording Artist


‘Wonderful, wonderful’ Johnny Mathis

My father, among other things, was sometimes sad
And he also sang, just like Johnny Mathis, to us
At night, seated on the left hand of our pillowed heads

His face turned slightly upwards, gracefully, to the side:
The image and sound of him I had when he died
So that, despite the many hours when he cried out

This memory, not the others, will rise to mind,
Not in order to prove that love is better than suffering
But to record, in my deepest groove, his tenor’s loveliness.

from Seaway: New and Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry, 2008), © Todd Swift, 2008), used by permission of the author

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