DAD OPERATED A FIVE-COLOUR PRINTING PRESS. It was so big that you had to climb up to get to its second storey. And Mum was a homemaker. They were great parents. They were honest as the day is long, they were hard workers and generous to a fault. I inherited my love of music from Dad and his record collection, and Mum had a nice alto voice and would sing along to the radio in the kitchen.
I WAS FOUR WHEN MY SISTER KAREN CAME ALONG and I wasn’t too happy about it at first. I guess I’d gotten used to my little existence in my cocoon, then along comes this new baby to disrupt things. But as we grew older Karen and I became fast friends and we enjoyed all the same things—the same music, the same type of comedy, everything. We got along wonderfully.
I STARTED PLAYING PIANO AT A YOUNG AGE, studying technique and the classics with one teacher and learning to read chords and arranging them with another teacher. By the time I was 16 I was quite proficient and could play by ear so if someone asked me to play, say, “My Melancholy Baby” I could. I looked and played a little beyond my years—I had glasses and my hair was slicked back—and I taught piano as well as earning extra dough by playing dives at weekends with a couple of older friends.
WHEN I STARTED WRITING MY OWN SONGS I’d ask Karen, who was already a gifted drummer, to sing them and at first she sang in an upper register, like a falsetto. It was in-tune but there was nothing special about it. Then when she was around 15 the lower voice—the voice— started to show itself. By the time she was 17 it was fully there and had she had a recording contract, a producer and the right song she’d have had a hit record right then.
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