June 4th, 2009

Kelley’s Story

My memories of Dad as a songwriter are mostly little tiny bits and pieces.

I remember Dad writing with Charlie Black, probably when I was about six or seven. I used to love giving Dad verses for songs, basically anything that rhymed. I came up with some rhyme about “God above” and “all he does is love love love.” And Dad would tell me that I couldn’t give him verses, that a song needed a solid idea behind it, not just a catchy phrase. A song must have substance.

I remember going to Cleveland, Ohio, for Dad’s family reunion in about 1994. Dad had made tapes of his music to give to family and friends. One copy made it into the men’s room (boy’s room) at his grade school. He left it on top of the paper towel dispenser, just as a message to possibly inspire younger generations. Or as a statement of some of the things he had accomplished until that point in his life. It reminds me of a story he told me, how when he was a little boy growing up in Cleveland, he went up onto the roof of his parents’ house and yelled to the whole neighborhood, “I AM RORY BOURKE! I AM RORY BOURKE! I AM RORY BOURKE!” over and over again.

I remember being maybe about eight years old, and Allyson and I were home with a babysitter while Mom and Dad were out at an awards show. Honestly, I don’t know if it was the Grammys or what. But you know how during those shows they’ll be just about to go to commercial, and they’ll flash a shot of some celebrity sitting in the audience? Well, right before they went to commercial, they flashed a shot of Mom and Dad, and actually had their names there at the bottom of the TV screen! They were both beaming, Dad there in his tuxedo and Mom in her sequins. Well that pretty much thrills any eight year old to death, let me tell you.

The whole family will attest to Dad’s ability to make any statement into a verse of a song. “Pass the potatoes and gravy” acquires an interesting country twang when transposed into a country song at the dinner table.

I remember being ten years old, and I had complained about not having a song written about me. So Dad got together with Mike Reid one day and wrote “Beautiful (All That You Could Be),” and gave it to me for my tenth birthday. One of Dad’s best songs in my opinion, which is saying a lot considering how many great ones he’s written. I remember it got cut in Germany, which I thought was cool—they were singing a song there that was written about me. Later on Kenny Rogers cut the song, and called Dad on the phone to tell him how glad he was that people are still writing this quality of material. Dad didn’t mention that the song had been written eighteen years previously. Even after Kenny cut that song, I still felt that the best rendition was the original that Mike sang, with only piano for accompaniment. And nineteen years after the song’s inception, I danced with my Dad (and my whole family) at my wedding to the same song. How many daughters get to do that?

I’d say the best thing about my Dad being a songwriter is not the fame, it’s the hours. Dad could work any day or time he pleased. What this means to his family, is that I don’t remember an event or time he wasn’t able to spend with us, whether it was a play, a sporting event, going to get a Christmas tree, or parent’s weekend at college. What I remember is that my Dad was around a lot all while I was growing up, and I loved that.

Dad’s got the kind of creativity that doesn’t dry up. I once asked him if he thought there were a finite number of songs to be written, that if one day all the song ideas would be used up. He said he didn’t think so. And with his talent, I understand why.

I love you, Dad!!!