You Are Beautiful - Ed Kenney and Juanita Hall
From Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel" to the "Flower Drum Song".
When I was sent away at the age of twelve from my home in the middle east, I suffered terribly from homesickness. People think that homesickness was just a thing that happened when you thought about your mother or family or home and missed them. But it was much worse than that. I knew from a very early age that in Bahrain where I was born and brought up, at somewhere around the age of 12 or 13, you were sent away. It was like the movie "Logan's Run". At a certain age you disappeared into a fearful world of bullying and rugby that seemed like a death. Inevitable and indiscriminate.
And then suddenly it happened to you, you were put on a plane or a train, and were whisked away to a motherless land where men and boys only were the environment you had to fight to survive in. Looking back, I was lucky. I knew that there was no alternative for my parents - there were no education facilities for English speaking students passed the age of 13 in Bahrain. But the other guys at the school, often put into public schools from the age of six onwards by parents who lived in the UK, could only conclude that their parents, and their mothers in particular, didn't want them around. It was a desolate place, with many angry companions who took their sense of rejection out on others, hence the culture of bullying. As a parent now, I cannot understand why people have children if they don't want to be with them for as much time as possible. To leave your child in the care of surrogate parents who for the most part have never in their lives left the shelter of the education system to me is a massive national tragedy.
Homesickness was a real sickness, You didn't need to be thinking of your mother, though this was sometimes a trigger. You could be doing anything, playing sport, watching tv, eating, talking to a friend, when suddenly this thing would out of nowhere well up inside of you and you would cry uncontrollably. Sometimes it would be difficult to stop. Sometimes it would go on for twenty minutes or so. You never knew when it was going to hit you. Gradually over time it abated. But you were always on guard in case it came back. But it was more than a sadness, it was more than a constant consciousness of loss. It was a sickness, no matter what they say.
For years, when I went to sleep, I rolled my head on the pillow, and thought of home, alone in the dark, surrounded by the breathing of other posh orphans. The tune that came into my head was this: "You are Beautiful". I didn't know where it came from, there were no words, just the tune, and a feeling of infinite sadness and loss, and a yearning for something which, looking back, was probably my mother. This tune in my head every night, gave me such solace, more than anything, more than fortnightly letters from my parents, because the lilting, sad melody had a such raw, unashamed beauty that it gave me a hope I could cuddle in the night like the teddy bear at home, like the sound of my mother moving in the next room. Sometimes I think it saved me. From what I don't know, but I think it saved me.
I had no idea where it came from. I thought I might have made it up myself. But years later, when I had children myself, I inherited my father's record collections, including the soundtrack to the little Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Flower Drum Song" about Chinese immigrants to America, and discovered this track, the tune I had been singing all those years. It was there, lodged in my memory, from when my Dad played it at home. So beautiful, so pure, the words, missing for so long, were always there in the tune, haunting it like the ghost of the life I had lost.
It's no surprise that the two men whose words and music combined to create the most moving and uplifting football club anthem of all time, "You'll Never Walk Alone" from "Carousel", could also compose the song that comforted a little boy in his loneliness, thousands of miles away from home.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein I salute you and thank you with all of my heart.