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BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man

alanabit 06 Apr 08 - 12:47 PM
Peace 06 Apr 08 - 01:17 PM
Leadfingers 06 Apr 08 - 02:54 PM
Azizi 06 Apr 08 - 03:47 PM
Jeanie 06 Apr 08 - 05:26 PM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Apr 08 - 06:23 PM
Peace 06 Apr 08 - 06:26 PM
katlaughing 06 Apr 08 - 06:42 PM
Azizi 06 Apr 08 - 06:57 PM
Azizi 06 Apr 08 - 07:05 PM
Rapparee 06 Apr 08 - 07:13 PM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Apr 08 - 07:47 PM
Big Al Whittle 06 Apr 08 - 07:57 PM
wysiwyg 06 Apr 08 - 07:58 PM
Bobert 06 Apr 08 - 08:16 PM
Seamus Kennedy 07 Apr 08 - 12:26 AM
alanabit 07 Apr 08 - 12:29 AM
freda underhill 07 Apr 08 - 04:21 AM
Rapparee 07 Apr 08 - 09:03 AM
Cats 07 Apr 08 - 01:15 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Apr 08 - 03:59 PM
Stephen L. Rich 08 Apr 08 - 02:11 AM
alanabit 08 Apr 08 - 04:40 AM
Big Al Whittle 09 Apr 08 - 04:35 AM
alanabit 09 Apr 08 - 04:59 AM
redsnapper 09 Apr 08 - 05:19 AM
Charley Noble 09 Apr 08 - 10:05 AM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Apr 08 - 07:01 PM
Wolfgang 15 Apr 08 - 10:05 AM
Big Mick 15 Apr 08 - 10:26 AM
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Subject: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: alanabit
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 12:47 PM

I have posted a blog on my band's website about the "The Passing of Heinrich Steinmetz." I wanted to mention his passing here, as his name came up in discussions we have had. I hope he rests in peace. He has earned it.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Peace
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 01:17 PM

"Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes over night. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down."

Eleanor Roosevelt


In the course of life we each want to exemplify/personify what is best in people, to present ourselves as that 'special' someone. Steinmetz was indeed such a man. What you wrote on your site is thoughtful and beautiful. It's a fine testament to an ordinary guy who did extraordinary things. There but for the grace of fortune . . . .

You also mention George Papavgeris, an individual who writes so eloquently and forcefully about ordinary men and women.

And you, Alan, please know the respect in which I hold you for your character and fortitude. Knowing you is an honour I hold dear.

I think Steinmetz's history--although we will never know it all--provides evidence that we, all of us, are capable of tremendous achievements, even if that be something as terribly simple as living a life despite the obstacles strewn on the pathway. Steinmetz gives hope, and looking at our world today, we do need that.

Keep well and thanks for this thread, Alan.

BM


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Leadfingers
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 02:54 PM

Nice one Alan !


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Azizi
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 03:47 PM

I tried to imagine what was going through his head on that incredible journey.
-alanabit

Steinmetz's history--although we will never know it all--provides evidence that we, all of us, are capable of tremendous achievements.
-peace

Well said!

Reading about Heinrich Steinmetz's walk back home from a prison camp hospital, I thought about how probably some of my ancestors endured untold difficulties walking away from home as runaway slaves.

I've often wondered if I would have had the strength and courage to do that.

I suppose it's up to us to remember the sacrifices others have made, and to try to meet the challenges that we face with strength & courage.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Jeanie
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 05:26 PM

Thank you, Alan, for passing this on, and for making sure that this man and his story are known: it's so important that people's stories are told.

How many wonderful stories, I wonder, *never* get to be told ?

Here is a quote from a little book I have, called "Words on Courage", that seems very fitting to Heinrich Steinmetz:

       "The courage of very ordinary people is all that
       stands between us and the dark."


- jeanie


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 06:23 PM

To hear Alan singing the song, from his band website, click on this and then scroll down the song list to As far as my feet will carry me

A really powerful song - and it's beautifully written. Precise and economic, with phrases that just fall into place.

On the blog alan linked to he writes "For me, folk singers need to record the lives of those "ordinary people", who achieve such extraordinary things." I think he's spot on. And I think that's especially so for people who live in our own time - too often people writing songs about real lives seem to feel it necessary to concentrate on events long ago and far away, researched from books maybe. But they don't write about the people they know or could know.

There's something in common between the idea of a song collector going round and harvesting songs from old people and a song maker who does the same for the stories of the lives people whom they meet have lived. Starting maybe with our own families.

Here's one I wrote a few years ago about my own parents (I'd give a link but something has gone wrong with the website where I keep the words):

Well I stood there on a chilly day and thought about the past;
and the falling leaves came drifting from the trees.
And I thought about the tangled times in which theirlives were cast
- well now for them the time of trouble's ceased.
And I thought of all the questions that I never thought to ask,
and I wondered at the journey they had come -
through war and peace and exile, till a time of rest at last.
Now they lie together, by the hills of home.
And I thought of all the times they'd known, and the troubles that they faced.
Of the wars that tore across their lives - it tore the human race.
Living through a time of troubles, as the world was laid to waste.
And now here we are together, in this strange familiar place.

Well it must have seemed the world itself was crashing round your ears,
as he marched off, in that uniform of brown.
But there wasn't any time at all to spare for foolish tears,
as you waited till the bombs came craasjing down.
With two young boys to care for, and a world to hold at bay, ......
and a search for somewhere safe where we could grow,
and ration books to queue for, just living day to day -
and you did it on your own, and brought us through.
...... And I thought about the times you'd known...

Well he came back on a sudden, after being away for years
with a bag of gifts he'd brought from far away.
And I met him as a stranger, on the landing by the stairs -
and the thought of that comes flooding back today.
He said "We landed back at Dover, now I'm finished with the war.
It's been a hard old time, I must confess.
But now the worst is over. We can start to live again.
We can start to try to clear up all that mess."
..... And I thought about the times you'd known...

Well at last the war was ended, this had to be the peace,
like some fairy story out of Mother Goose.
But now it's more than fifty years, and the fighting's never ceased.
and every time ther'e been some fine excuse.
But the bottom line is money, and take what you can take,
and the promises and dreams were turned around.
And the fixing turned to botching, and the botching turned to fake -
and now the century we shared, it's winding down.
And I think about the times we've known, and the troubles that we've faced.
Of the wars that tore across our lives - they tore the human race.
Living through a time of troubles, as the world was laid to waste.
And now here we are together, in this strange familiar place.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Peace
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 06:26 PM

I had heard Alan's before and I certainly agree with your post; however, I'd not seen yours, Kevin. That is a beautiful (and powerful) piece of writing.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: katlaughing
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 06:42 PM

Boy, McGrath, between listening to Alan's song and reading your words, my eyes are full of tears. Thank you both, so much, for sharing with us.

Alan, what an uncommon man you have told us about; your song is beautiful. I, too, note the economy and also the pacing...it does carry one along...you've really captured what it must feel like to be on such a journey of fear and depredation. Thank you.

His story reminds me of a movie we saw, recently: Rabbit-proof Fence about some aboriginal girls who walked 1,500 miles to get back home after authorities took them from their homes to be put in government school in Australia. The movie is based on a book by the daughter of one of the girls.

Such uncommon actions from what may seem ordinary people enriches us all and give us all hope. We are blessed by your seeking this story out, Alan, and telling all about it. A very GOOD reason for folk music, imo!

luvyakat


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Azizi
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 06:57 PM

Kevin,

Thanks for posting the lyrics to your song about your parents.
I particularly liked the words to the refrain:

And I think about the times we've known, and the troubles that we've faced.
Of the wars that tore across our lives - they tore the human race.
Living through a time of troubles, as the world was laid to waste.
And now here we are together, in this strange familiar place.


**

And Alan, thank you also. Your song "As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me" brought tears to my eyes. I like the lyrics and its catchy tune. And now that I know something about what inspired the song all I can say is "Wow!"

Except for the reference to the Russians, I still think the song is applicable to runaway slaves, and to other persons who had to flee terrible circumstances.

And Alan, since I was feeling so teary after listening to that song, may I also say that I was glad that your "Fat People In Love" song made me smile.

I'm in awe of the talent that is on Mudcat.

Thanks, guys, for sharing your talent with the world!


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Azizi
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 07:05 PM

I just read katlaughing's comments.

See, Alan, there's at least two women you made cry today.

And I bet your song could also make some men tear up since real men aren't ashamed of crying.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Rapparee
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 07:13 PM

I'm reminded of the American mountain man Hugh Glass -- only the idea of revenge drove Glass and not Steinmetz. What Glass did to survive Steinmetz must also have done; Glass went about 200 miles and Steinmetz far, far further. Both traversed country filled with hostiles, both were wounded, both are triumphs of the spirit over odds that seem insurmountable.

I can picture Steinmetz in the hospital, waking up alone, saying to himself, "Well, dang! If this is all the Wehrmacht cares about me I'll just go home. Didn't want to be here in the first place. FTA.*" And so he just went home.

For many years I've thought...no, known...that people are capable of far more than anyone, including themselves, think they are.

Steinmetz proves it.







*FTA: An abbreviation popular during the Vietnam War, found on latrine walls and in other places enlisted men gathered. It means "F**k the Army."


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 07:47 PM

Someone's who has from time to time written some pretty good songs about people he's known is Vin Garbutt - here is a link to one of them that I posted the words to on Mudcat one time in response to a request for them - Lynda.

There are all kinds of heroism.

And InOBU on the Mudcat is another. Maybe he'll turn up on this thread.

I rather hope this thread stays down in BS - I like the idea of bridging the chasm some people see between songs/music and life. And that's one of the things this thread is about, it seems to me.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 07:57 PM

Dear Alan (open letter)

Your song is like one of those little triumphs that make the day of Ivan Denisovitch worthwhile.

Its one of the reasons, this music is worth fighting for. Sure there will be footage of men like George Steinmetz, but how will another generation know how we related to them and what we felt. In a way our songs are like Steinmetz's journey - every step of the way is through hostile country.

The media has been hi-jacked capitalist prats playing the same five songs across Europe. The very essence of the artform - writing about ones life is constantly being rubbished by those who are only comfortable in some sort of folk museum.

If our children grow up not knowing that WW2 scarred and hurt nearly everybody of our parents generation. If they end up with just the images of Jack Hawkins and Errol Flynn type heroism and Dad's Army silliness. If they have with no idea of the unquantifiable suffering - well then at least, YOU had a damn good go at getting it right.

best wishes

al


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: wysiwyg
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 07:58 PM

Alan, I apprecited the opportunity to read your blog. "As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me" was sort of the mode of life for a US vet of similar vintage who I knew slightly here, who was gracious enough one day to let me carry him in my van. "Do I know you?" was his criteria for accepting rides, but he would take your word for it that you did-- he no longer could recall, but he had a good handle on whether people were truthful. Benny. Known all across these mountains where we live, in all the tiny towns that exist now or ever did, places that are mere memories (STRONG ONES) to the Benny's of the area. He'd walk over the mountains to volunteer at a blood drive, etc., because he was needed and if he was needed-- well, he just went. ("That's what a man DOES, if he's worth anything.")

By the time I knew him, he would no longer have been able to tell what he had thought all those miles of beauty he walked. I wondered, of course, but that was OK. His character was evident and had evidently been shaped by the places he had known and the people who had known him.


Sometimes when I think about my faith, I think about the people who I have known, who I will see again in Eternity. But it's even better to look forward to meeting all the rest of the inhabitants, who are friends-not-yet-met, like Mudcatters. Like you.

love,

~Susan


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Bobert
Date: 06 Apr 08 - 08:16 PM

Kudos for thes song, Alan, and double kudos for Heinrich...

Bobert

p.s. Really liked the song... As good as any on the CD I have of your band...


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 07 Apr 08 - 12:26 AM

Alan - you got a tear or two out of me as well.
Great story and a great song.
You captures the Steinmetz saga perfectly.

One of the things mentioned in your blog that I find to be true is that the people who do these kind of "superhuman" deeds don't consider them to be anything special - just something that had to be done - and are reluctant to talk about them.

As WYS said about Benny "because he was needed and if he was needed-- well, he just went."

One of my uncles on my mother's side was awarded the George Cross in WWII, and never told anyone in the family what he got it for...took it to his grave. We still don't know.

Kevin I liked your piece too.


Seamus


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: alanabit
Date: 07 Apr 08 - 12:29 AM

Thank-you so much everyone, who has posted so far. It is unfair to pick out any one sentence, but WLD wrote:
"If our children grow up not knowing that WW2 scarred and hurt nearly everybody of our parents generation..."
Nearly every day, I see some small sign of that catastrophe. It ranges from the little brass plaques on the streets of Köln, which mark the houses, from which the death camp victims were transported. There are the obituaries, the missing houses or the notices to keep off areas of the nature reserve, in which I go jogging, which are still believed not to be fully clear of ordinance. The whole scale of it was so great that even events, which would fill the newspapers for days if they happened now, are minor tragedies. Of course, for the people involved, they were life shattering calamities.
I am going to keep a trace on this thread always and look back into it from time to time. It feels good to remember it with friends.
I don't know how how Heinrich Steinmetz did it, but he had something, which made people - even Russians and Poles - see beyond a hated uniform and see the man inside it. That is the part that gives me hope.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: freda underhill
Date: 07 Apr 08 - 04:21 AM

I've looked at the site Alan but can't yet access the song (this old computer) but am very moved by the telling of his story. I agree that stories like these need to be preserved, and folk music is the best way. will keep perserving to hear it, since that song's about perseverence. yes, the way people put aside their differences to help out and accept someone that's suffering is a wonderful thing.

freda


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Rapparee
Date: 07 Apr 08 - 09:03 AM

PS: I really like the song.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Cats
Date: 07 Apr 08 - 01:15 PM

What an amazing story. Excellent song too. There are so many stories of ordinary people doing remarkable things like this that must be recorded before we lose our real history. I suppose this links in with the more in song than in history books thread a bit. I wonder what his own thoughts on the war really were?


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Apr 08 - 03:59 PM

Set me thinking of Spencer the Rover:

On the fifth of November, I've a reason to remember
When first he arrived home to his family and wife
They stood so surprised, when first he arrived
To behold such a stranger once more in their sight...


And of course that would have been a song about a real person too, who came through a bad time.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 08 Apr 08 - 02:11 AM

I posted the following on alanabit' MySpace page. I'm re-posting it here for those of you who might not have seen it.
*********************************************************************

Over the years I've listened to a number of stories told by a number vetrans of a number of wars -- from WW I up through people who have recently served in Iraq. The common thread that I have found is that each feels that one of the keys to his or her survival was the ability to focus on the idea of getting home alive. I strongly suspect that this is what drove Mr. Steinmetez.
   What gave him the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other was a refusal to accept the idea that he might not get back to home and family; to wife and daughter; to the nomal work-a-day world. People are capable of some of the most amazing things and are sometimes motivated by the most mundane goals.
   I agree that Heinrich Steinmetz was a hero. The signature wich I use on my e-mails contains the following quote. I believe that it applies here.

"It is inevitable that some defeat will enter even the most
victorious life. The human spirit is never finished when it
is defeated... it is finished when it surrenders. "
-- Ben Stein

Obviously the German word for "surrender" was not in Mr. Seinmetz's vocabulary.

Stephen Lee Rich


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: alanabit
Date: 08 Apr 08 - 04:40 AM

Too right Stephen.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 09 Apr 08 - 04:35 AM

interesting, don't we all surrender? I think the sociologists call it being socialised.

That's the great malaise....we just see nothing to be done about our situation. And somehow it was worse when I was younger. When you're young, youknow damn well your life is going up in flames and something precious is being wasted, but you seem powerless to affect the outcome - because in part you don't have the life experience necessary to take on the problems. Frequently your parents don't seem able to help you, because they grew up in a very different world.

Eventually we all sort of surrender ...don't we?


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: alanabit
Date: 09 Apr 08 - 04:59 AM

I guess it depends on what to and under what circumstances Al. Heinrich Steinmetz's ambitions would have been modest under most circumtances. He wanted to work for a living and raise a family. To survive and still have the sanity to prevail under those circumstances was what made him so extraordinary.
Some people seek out challenges to test them, which others do not hanker after. Steinmetz had them thrust upon him.
I go along with those, who say heroism is more common than most of us realise. People everywhere are struggling to overcome some sort of adversity. Without standing in their shoes, we can never really know what they are dealing with.


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: redsnapper
Date: 09 Apr 08 - 05:19 AM

Thanks for posting the link Alan... a very moving and courageous story which put me in mind of my best pal at school's father. He was Polish and was captured twice in WWII, first by the Germans from who he escaped and then subsequently by the Russians who put him in a camp in Siberia. He escaped from there towards the end of the war and walked and otherwise travelled over a period of months to one of the Baltic ports from where he stowed away to the UK.

Such extraordinary stories of courage and perseverance against all odds deserve to be told.

RS


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Charley Noble
Date: 09 Apr 08 - 10:05 AM

Alan and Kevin-

Fine songs and how I wish they were just historical commemorations.

There's a song that Si Kahn wrote about his grandfather's escape from Czarist Russia which belongs here as well.

When will we ever learn!

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Apr 08 - 07:01 PM

I think that there's not much in common between the kind of dogged persistence in getting back to a normal human life (with all its shortcomings) of Heinrich Steinmetz and the "great malaise" of human existence that weelitle drummer referred to.

The thing is, life buffets us, and we have to learn how to keep upright in it all. But sometimes things happen that knock us right over, and that's when the kind of persistence of Heinrich is called for.

Not just in war - there's a song and story cycle called "Take These Chains from My heart", somgs written by Jim Woodland, about storytteller Taffy Thomas's experience of having a stroke (at the age of 36), and getting back from it. And that is very much the same kind of story, in its way. (There's something about it on this link.)


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Wolfgang
Date: 15 Apr 08 - 10:05 AM

I nearly missed this thread.
A remarkable song about a remarkable man.

Alan can write deceptively simple songs telling stories of extraordinary but still in another sense ordinary people. I know this is only deceptively simple for I failed each time I tried. I envy and very much like story telling songwriters.

As far as my feet will carry me is also a title of a book and of a film. Though both book and film had happy ends, the man on whose flight the book was based had not a happy end: Cornelius Rost came back a broken man both physically and mentally and suffered all his remaining life from panic attacks involving persecution by the KGB, most likely not based upon reality.

It is good to read that a man with a similar fate to Rost's has survived sane and healthy until old age.

I'm glad I have found this thread.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: BS: The Passing of a Remarkable Man
From: Big Mick
Date: 15 Apr 08 - 10:26 AM

Alan Moorhouse is one of my heroes here on the Mudcat, and as a singer. The opening post of this thread shows exactly why this is so.

Herr Steinmetz, God be good to him, was indeed a remarkable man. But it takes a remarkable bard to understand the larger duty s/he has to remind folks that they have heroes all around them. In my work as a Union Organizer, and a Social Activist/Organizer, I see these heroes all the time and have detailed some of them here on this site. I love dearly George Papavgeris' work because he understands our role in cutting through the glitz driven hype to get to what it is really about, and consider him to also be one of my idols and role models, just as I do Alan.

Your heart shines through, Friend Alan, and I like what I see. I am proud to "know" you, and hope one day we can share a song. I will look forward to hearing you sing "The Passing of Heinrich Steinmetz."

With fond regards,

Mick


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