Wednesday, March 30, 2016

16 Tons On A Rooftop in Cascais, Portugal - 16 Toneladas - Noriel Vilela

My father was not musical.  Not even a little bit.  He could not carry a tune.  He would sing in the car sometimes,  It was usually some old country song.  It did not matter what the song was because everything Dad sang sounded the same.  Dad was a monotone.  But he loved to hear Tennessee Ernie Ford sing.  Dad never bought music.  I don't think he ever entered a record store.  But he done own some Tennessee Ernie Ford albums.  Now my Dad was not a church goer either.  But he loved to hear Tennessee Ernie Ford sing gospel music.  He would ask me to put on his Ernie Ford gospel album and he would sing along in his monotone.  He would sing along to His Eye Is On The Sparrow and How Great Though Art with Ernie.  Both songs sounded the same when Dad sang them but that didn't matter.

Tennessee Ernie Ford had a big hit record in 1955.  It was called 16 Tons.  Anyone who grew up in the 1950's and 1960's will recognize this record just listening to the first few notes.  There is a flute playing and then a little bit of snap to the beat and Tennessee with his bass voice starts to sing.  The song is about coal mining and the great depression.  My father liked this song a lot.  He would sing it in the car and try to do Ernie Ford's deep bass voice.  It still sounded like Dad's monotone voice but you could tell the sound meant something to him.  Growing up during the depression I am sure the lyrics meant a lot to him.

 "You load sixteen tons, what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt"

Mark and I went to Portugal in the spring of 2015.  It was our second trip to Portugal and our second time to stay in the ocean front city of Cascais.  Cascais is a beautiful small resort town with many small bars and restaurants.  We stayed at an ocean front hotel named Hotel Baia.  The hotel had a sign in the lobby saying there would be a DJ on the rooftop lounge on the weekend.  This sounded like the perfect way to spend an evening and watch the sunset.  So we found our way to the rooftop bar.

The view was beautiful  The drinks were cold and comforting.  It was a wonderful way to end a busy day of walking in the heat.  

I decided a strawberry daiquiri would be a great choice for my cocktail.  Something about the ocean breeze and the cold strawberry drink appealed to me.  Mark decided to have one also.  We sat down in two reclining deck chairs and waited or the D.J. to start playing his music.  Then out of nowhere I heard that opening flute introduction that was unmistakably the opening notes to the song 16 Tons.  I thought for a second it was the daiquiri going to my head.  But no.  It was definitely the opening to 16 Tons.  For a moment I immediately thought of my Dad and how he loved to sing that song.  Then I was suddenly slapped with reality.  I was on a rooftop in Cascais Portugal.  I was not at home listening to some old country radio station.  And this was not Tennessee Ernie Ford singing.  It was an upbeat dance version with some deep voiced man singing in Portuguese.  Mark asked me "What is that song?  It's so familiar."  Then he too realized it was 16 Tons.  

Suddenly you realize just how small the world really is.  I had been to Casais before so the city was familiar to me. I had heard the song 16 Tons many times so it was familiar to me.  But it all became very surreal and unfamiliar to see the two being combined together into one memory.   Other than going to Italy in World War II my Dad never traveled.  But one day in May 2015 on a rooftop in Cascais he was with me once more.

Click on the link at the top of this blog to hear the Portuguese version of 16 Tons Mark and I heard in Cascais.  It's fascinating to discover something new but also something very familiar.

1 comment:

  1. I have to admit that I heard my own father's voice "singing" 16 Tons as I read this post in his very non-musical voice.

    Thanks for sparking a memory for me that is so very similar to that of your own dad.