One Day I’ll Fly Away – Randy Crawford
…still you made your mark, here in my heart…
They say that breaking up is hard to do. They have no idea. At all. Talk about The Long Goodbye. My relationship with Mumtaz lasted for nine years, off and on, from my first term at LSE in 1976 right through to the spring of 1985 when I left for the third and final time, without doubt one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. We were about to get married. My wedding suit had been brought back from Pakistan. Shalwar-kameez, beautiful. I was doing a play called Deadlines with Joint Stock Theatre Company at the Royal Court at the time. But I’m running ahead to another time, another place. Right now, September 1980, Randy Crawford’s One Day I’ll Fly Away is released and gets to number 2 in the pop charts, and I buy the 12-inch single of this song because I love it. But perhaps there was more to it than that.
The song appeared on my mixtape ‘The Immaculate Conception‘ that I made two years later in 1982 for members of Moving Parts Theatre Company, my first equity job. So it was a real favourite – songs don’t usually hang around for two whole years. But let me re-wind because the crowd may have said Bo. (Selector).
Paul and I finally saved up enough money by spring 1980 to buy flights to Mexico City – and enough to last for a theoretical year in Latin America on ten bucks a day. It wasn’t a gap year – I’d done that between school and university and hitch-hiked around North America with Simon Korner for five months. No – this was an adventure, but more than that, it was the end of my relationship with Mumtaz. I didn’t expect her to wait for me to return, and I didn’t expect that we’d get back together again when I eventually did. If I did indeed – although the actor plan was still alive, the idea of settling down in Peru with a local lass wasn’t entirely fanciful either – and in fact one friend of mine from Edinburgh Festival days, John, did just that. Where is he now I wonder?
So I was out of there. It was farewell and goodbye. So I thought. But as discussed earlier in My Pop Life 25, I contracted Hepatitus B in Mexico and was flown back to Coppett’s Wood Hospital in North London, thence to Tower Mansions, West Hampstead, and thence to Somerfield Road and Mumtaz’ flat in Finsbury Park. We were back together again like Roberta & Donny with the exquisite irony of One Day I’ll Fly Away as our new tune.
I was grateful to be nursed back to health, and Mumtaz was gracious enough to welcome me back despite suspecting (surely? perhaps…) that I would leave again, someday. Love is always a gamble isn’t it? People around us were happy that we were a couple again, which blurs things. Very very few people are honest in the end. They’d rather say nothing and stay friends. But I didn’t know what was going on – I was 23 years old, and while intellectually bright after a fashion (I could pass exams and do comprehension – would have been a good lawyer in fact) I was emotionally dim and un-evolved. No idea. I do believe that some folk are old souls – I know a few – and some others, like me, are young souls. Born with no knowledge, expected to pick it up along the way. It makes everything fresh, but boy, looking back on those early years I wince with embarrassment at some of the stuff that was going on. I can put some of it down to youth, some of it down to a dysfunctional early family life, but the rest is just the behaviour of an emotional shrimp. Locked up within there was another dude, but he wouldn’t evolve for decades to come.
Somehow I knew in my bones that this song was the truth. Someday, I felt, I would fly away. I tried it again in 1981 in fact, Paul and I squatted in a reasonably miserable ground floor council property just off the Holloway Road for a few intrepid and vivid months after he came back from New York City (see My Pop Life 72) and then we were burgled, and I limped back to Finsbury Park and Mumtaz again after that, unable to make anything work as a single man. Weak. Needy. Vulnerable. And still there was this song with its lilting melody and gorgeous bassline, teasing me with its continued excellence. I simply didn’t have the courage or strength to leave Mumtaz, and it would be three more years before I left, for the third and final time.
Randy Crawford had been the lead singer on The Crusaders’ immense single Street Life the year before where she met keyboard player Joe Sample, one of the great 12-inch singles of all time running a full eleven minutes, jazz-funk-soul of the finest quality. The Jazz Crusaders had been around since the early 1960s, influenced by hard boppers Cannonball Adderley and Art Blakey, but were among the first jazz artists to embrace the funk fusion sound of the 1970s, and their Street Life LP was a huge success. And herewith the blog must admit to a kind of internal tension, for I find Street Life to be a better song than One Day I’ll Fly Away. Yet I choose not to blog it because my own experience of street life (rather like Bryan Ferry’s I suspect) is limited to a handful of chance encounters and a bit of busking and hitch-hiking, whereas my experience of wondering if I’ll fly away could cover several volumes. Hence the blog title My Pop Life, not My Favourite Pop Songs.
Joe Sample and Will Jennings of The Crusaders wrote Street Life and One Day I’ll Fly Away, and both songs were produced by bass and saxophone player Wilton Felder. The production is immaculate pop – the tremolo on the first guitar chord, the triangle pling ! the guitar harmonics that prick through just before the saxophone theme, repeated later by an oboe, the gentle strings just as Randy opens her mouth to sing – and what a voice she has, quite a sublime controlled vibrato with exquisite vulnerability.
Randy Crawford would release a wonderful album called Secret Combination the following year which contained hits Rainy Night In Georgia (a Brook Benton cover), Trade Winds and the title track. And then she kind of disappeared.
While searching for pictures to add to this blog I found this poster for a jazz trio gig in Japan with Joe Sample and Steve Gadd – session drummer extraordinaire on Steely Dan and Paul Simon LPs – further evidence that after the break-up of The Crusaders (Felder became a Jehovah’s Witness) Sample and Crawford carried on playing jazz together. Joe Sample died in 2014.
I could talk about this a lot more but I don’t think I will. The depth of feeling involved at the time was epic. Mumtaz kept my entire LP collection and all of my singles. This is symbolic of course, for us both. I think the fact that I’m writing my patchwork autobiography through music gives you a clue as to how important that record collection was to me. Mumtaz knew that. I felt guilty, she felt hurt. C’est la vie, c’est l’amour, c’est la guerre. If I try to analyse why the relationship didn’t work, I still don’t really have the tools available to me, young soul that I am, but she simply wasn’t the One, and deep down I knew that. I feel sorry that I didn’t stay left when I left first time, but Mumtaz now has two beautiful children and a life of her own, and I am happily married to Jenny, who is clearly The One.