I don’t have the words to convey how much Blue Rodeo’s music means to me.
But I’ll try.
I fell in love with Blue Rodeo while I was falling in love. My ex-wife was a huge fan. Blue Rodeo’s masterpiece “Five Days in July” was released the same year we met, the same year we got engaged, the same year we went to our first concert together. The same year Jim Cuddy sang, “Find the face you’ve seen a thousand times.”
The face you’ve seen a thousand times.
You expect to see that face forever.
When our marriage ended almost a decade later, I went months without listening to Blue Rodeo. I didn’t know if I ever would again. The link between the music and our relationship was so strong that every song was bound to hurt. We’d played “Lost Together” at our wedding.
Instead Blue Rodeo helped me heal. Often on long runs, cradling my Sony Discman, listening to their latest CD.
Time passed. I moved – to a new relationship and a new city – small town Ontario colliding with expanding suburbia. My long runs got longer and longer. Hour after hour, slow and steady along busy country roads with commuting cars speeding past. So sometimes I just stepped out my front door and ran lap after lap around my new home, a 100 acre farm. Peace, solitude, and endless repetitions of songs that left me feeling like Cuddy and Greg Keelor had crawled inside my head and torn their lyrics from my life.
Years passed. Apple conquered the world. Music accompanied all of us everywhere. Blue Rodeo moved with me across the country. A new province, a new job. The same relationship. Another face I saw a thousand times. Until I didn’t.
A break-up that surprised neither of us. Warning signs appeared at a Jim Cuddy concert in Victoria. I was so excited to be there. An intimate venue, a new album, old favorites. She was sad. A death in the family that day. Someone who lived far away. My sympathy was real but perfunctory. Selfish. The concert trumped all. I was angry when she didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did. Or I wanted her to. A great concert. A bad night.
The next day Cuddy’s band was in Vancouver. I didn’t have tickets or any plans to be there. Instead, on a cold January morning, I strapped our Christmas tree to the roof of the car and drove it to a local school. Trees chipped for charity. One of the chippers was a friend. It was early afternoon. Six or seven hours until the concert would begin. Still no plans to be there. I mentioned it to my friend, almost jokingly, “hey do you want to go?” He did. His wife said he could. I raced home, booked tickets, a helicopter ride, and a hotel. Sped back to his house to pick him up. We flew to Vancouver. I saw the Jim Cuddy Band for the second night in a row. Totally spontaneous. A good night.
A memorable weekend. Capped off with an 8k road race back on Vancouver Island on Sunday morning. Hung over, tired and catching the first float plane of the morning back to Victoria just to get to the start on time. A weekend that showed the importance of Blue Rodeo, and running in my life.
The band and running intersected again just weeks later. Early spring, not long before I was scheduled to run the Boston Marathon. A bucket list race, and an iconic experience for marathoners around the world.
Training was going well. I felt as strong and healthy as ever. Including regular one hour early morning runs along the oceanfront in Victoria. A 6 mile run that I always did listening to Blue Rodeo’s album, “The Days in Between.” There’s a song on that album that gives a glimpse of Blue Rodeo’s brilliance. The song is called “Truscott.” I did not expect to like it. The song title itself got my back up. Steven Truscott was a teenager when he was convicted of the rape and murder of a young girl named Lynne Harper in the 1950s in Ontario. He was sentenced to be hanged. The federal government commuted his sentence to life in prison. Decades later his conviction was overturned.
I didn’t expect to like the song. As cops go, I’m pretty liberal. Maybe very liberal. But Lynne Harper was the ultimate victim. She deserved a tribute. Her once convicted killer didn’t. But then I listened and heard a song about perseverance, strength and love:
When the fever was breaking,
I was sweat soaked and frail,
I dreamed I was Steven Truscott,
A child in jail.
And when I awoke,
And I felt your cool breeze,
I wept like an ocean,
Sweet tears of relief.
Subtle. Simple. Beautiful.
Blue Rodeo has remained with me into the next stage of my life. A wonderful woman, a lovely daughter. Cool breezes.
My love for the band is as strong as ever. I listen to them daily. I see them in concert annually. They are so talented, their set list so deep, that after a three hour concert, dozens of their best songs still haven’t been played. They are that good.
They are more than a band. More than a collection of songs. They are a part of my life.
If you don’t know them, I hope you’ll listen.
If you already love them, you know what I’m talking about.
And if neither is the case, then I hope you have your own Blue Rodeo. Something special accompanying you through your life.