A Letter from Michael Wolff : Through Music

Since I was six, music has always been an intimate companion

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Since I was six, music has always been an intimate companion. I’d hear my parent saying words like ‘foxtrot and quickstep’ and arguing about when to change the needle. This first piece of music by Victor Sylvester always restored the household calm.

Mexicali Rose/You’re Dancing On My Heart (Victor Sylvester & His Ballroom Orchestra)

“Music became my refuge. I used to emphasize sadness and joy. During WWII from BBC radio signature tunes to military marches filled my head. The most enduring was Lilly Marlene by Marlene Dietrich. She was my introduction to erotic fantasy”

Marlene Dietrich – Lili Marlene

“A jump of ten years- I spent hundreds of nights with Dixieland, New Orleans jazz and blues, dancing in London’s jazz clubs-Sidney Bechet and American who lived in Paris was my next music hero”

Sidnet Bechet – Rose de Picardie

“Adult life ran alongside my own kind of life, and my musical taste became so eclectic it gradually became impossible to explain it. The singer that reflected all this and epitomised the central role of humour in my life was the joyful and exhuberant Fats Domino

Les Paul’s guitar playing, his multi-track arrangements with Mary Ford and Count Basie interweaving with his juicy and immaculate big band, were both special to me. This piece and this one are permanently embedded in the ‘easy to reach’ part of my music memory

By now, some rocknroll groups were far outstripping the creativity of the design world in which I worked. I stood next to a battery of speakers throughout a deafening live performance by The Who and was transported to a place I can’t even begin to describe. And the ‘acid’ did no harm.

Paul McCartney – Blackbird

This miraculous aria from the Marriage of  Figaro has always, and will always, stop all thinking and hold me in awe. Simply the purest singing of a great soprano and Mozart- Von Che Sapete- Joan Sutherland

America became an unexpected fact of my life. My family extended again to embrace more ‘growing up children’ from the US, more best friends and more American music- Beach Boys- Good Vibrations

This account of music now stops being any attempt at personal history, because all the music I’ve selected from now on, is really music I have loved for many years. Sometimes, music in my life has played a defining role in the start of a relationship- George Harrison- Apple Scruffs

There’s always a mixture of tragic and sadness and a love of love in Billie Holiday’s music. Listen to these lyrics. They’re quick, short and tell the whole story- Billie Holiday- Riffin’ the Scotch

Although my family was from St Petersburg, and all my life has been an English one so far, songs like this one make me feel as though my roots are from Tennessee- Maria Muldaur- My Tennessee Mountain Home

At one time I was flying to Kansas every week. One of my daughters, two grandchildren and my favorite New Yorker cartoonist and friend Charlie Barsotti lives there. His home is where I recharge my sense of humour, and where I relax most deeply- Fats Domino Kansas City #22

Dear God, this is amazing music. As far as Gods are concerned, Charlie Parker is one of mine. I hated ‘bop’ until I loved it. At any point I needed to loosen up and find a feeling of fluidity, it’s either the miracle of cranial osteopathy or listening to any Charlie Parker- Barclay Verve- Charlie Parker 3651

It wasn’t that long ago that I realized how valuable and wonderful tears were. I was always uncomfortable with mine. This timeless duet is at least as miraculous as two summer sky larks singing together- Sull’aria- Le Nozze di Figaro

This was completely irresistible the first time I heard it. It reaches all of me, and it connects my very first experience of what music did to me when I first heard it, to my experience of music today. For me it makes a mockery of age-This is England (54-56 Was My Number)

This last ‘song’ will probably mystify those of my friends who aren’t English. It’s a kind of cultural poem set to music. The music behind the ‘auction of gloom’ is timeless- Another Lot- Spike Mulligan

In the end, all there is to do is to laugh and laugh, and eat and love and appreciate friends and all the miracle in life– find something good in everything, avoid causing harm, do your best to bring what you can to the world, and love again and laugh again, and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Happy days

**

Recognised as one of the world’s most experienced practitioners in establishing corporate identities, Michael’s body of work has spanned more than 30 years. He enjoys encountering situations where he doesn’t know what to do or think. That’s when he needs, and so far, can count on, his creativity. Most of all, he enjoys old friends and new ideas. 

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