One of the cool things about the world today is that each of us creates a impact on the world that lives on long after we're gone. A few hundred years ago, people left behind memories, physical objects and, if they were important, portraits. Then we had photography that allowed us to see scenes from the Civil War and President Lincoln at Gettysburg. Live action came in the form of the 16mm film (no audio of course) of my father as a child that allows us to peek back into the 40's into everyday family life. In the 70's we had 8mm and Super-8 in our hands and some pretty crazy movies that we did for our Boy Scout Merit Badges! But even those are silent.
For audio, we had to rely on cassette and reel-to-reel tape recorders. My brother, Steve, had this cool reel-to-reel that we used as young kinds to go crazy and I bet he's got some priceless tapes sitting around his house. My first portable tape recorder went to Europe with me in 1972 and I used it to record hours and hours of running commentary about our trip around the Continent. I haven't listened to them in decades, but I would love to get them digitized and listen to myself at age 12.
In April of 2007, my Aunt Marta found a tape of her son Eric playing a concert for the family on trumpet. Since Eric is a couple of years older than me and he sounds about 14 on the tape, I'm going to assume that it was recorded in about 1972 as well. At the end of the tape, my Aunt thought she heard someone singing so she gave the tape to Steve and asked him if he could convert it to digital.
After Eric plays a few songs on trumpet, evidently the tape recorder remained running as everyone left to go home leaving my Grandfather Deas alone in the room. He's obviously a long way away from the microphone and it's very difficult to hear at first. We did some editing of the audio which becomes clearer when he begins to sing. My grandfather's voice! Listening to the recording, I can envision him laying on the floor looking through some book and quietly singing to himself a song from his Cuba. It's kinda neat to peek into this private moment to hear him sing.
I filtered and amplified the track to make it audible and played the song for my father and Aunt. Tears were evident! But, nobody knew the song. I listened to that song so much during the cleanup that I found myself singing it to myself in the shower. I did an internet search on some of the words but couldn't find anything.
Then one day, I'm driving in my car and listening to the new Buena Vista Social Club CD and all of a sudden I find myself singing along to a song that I had never heard before. I was jazzed, I had found my grandfather's song! My grandfather was singing Viente Anos! I was on cloud nine. For some reason, it was a really powerful moment for me and, as far as I know, it's the only audio recording of my grandfather. It was nice to hear his voice again.
Have a listen. He starts singing just under a minute into the recording. Thought I would include the version from Buena Vista Social Club as well.
And the original:
Buena Vista Social Club - Veinte Años