I got a call on a Friday afternoon from my sister. “You need to get down here now.” Here, was a hospital in Atlantic County New Jersey where my father had been admitted for complications from Covid. He’d been in and out of the hospital for about a month, and it had brought out some things we weren’t aware of. The problem was, the hospital was two hours away. I left immediately for the two-hour journey South. My whole relationship with my father flashed before me as I drove there.
What do you say to a man who has pretty much taught you everything there was about being a man, a father, and someone to look up to? He had joined the military when he was 19, a proud USCG veteran. He served in Vietnam on the USCG Chase, and came back to his family, working as a clammer for a few decades before he settled into a State job that he would retire from. He was the first person who taught me about music and records, many of which I still have today in my own collection. His record collection taught me everything about Soul, Funk, Rock, and his first love: Doo Wop. We’d have dance parties in our kitchen as kids on Saturday nights, listening to The Geeter with the Heater, The Big Boss with The Hot Sauce Jerry Blavet on the radio. Coincidentally, and this is what gave me the inkling that Dad was going to die, Jerry Blavet died that same day. To me, that’s when the music stopped, and I had to face the reality of losing one of the most important people in my life. I rehearsed what I wanted to say when I got to the hospital, but when I arrived, I had five minutes or so before they intubated him with a respirator. The words I chose were “Thank You for everything you taught me” and “I Love You”. Fully aware of what was going on, he told me he loved me and it was time to go. The OG chose this way because he didn’t want to see my family and me suffer. Even writing this, it’s hard to believe that he’s gone. I will try my best to be the man he taught me, and keep spreading the music around. While he loved a lot of tunes, this tune really reminds me of him every time. He used to sing it to us when we were kids, Huey “Piano” Smith’s “Don’t You Just Know It”. We lost Huey a week or so after my Dad passed, maybe he knew that the music was over as well.
Clifford Harvey (1949-2023)
Playlist: Songs For My Father (From his vinyl collection)