“You might want to shelve that manuscript…or song…or artwork.”
Many of us have heard that advice from well-meaning mentors. While it is often given with the best of intentions, sometimes that advice should be ignored. And if it has been followed, it should be revisited.
Serendipity can happen at any time. As it did with the following song.
In 1971, British-Kenyan folk singer Roger Whittaker hosted a radio programme in Great Britain. To increase ratings, he invited listeners to send their best poems or lyrics. Of the over one million entries received, Whittaker selected twenty-six. With the help of orchestra conductor Zack Lawrence, he recorded the songs and played them on the radio over a six-month period.
One of those poems was written by Ron A. Webster, a silversmith from Birmingham, England. Bittersweet and poignant, the lyrics became even more compelling when Lawrence added a French horn solo to the opening. The song was also featured on Whittaker’s 1971 album, “New World in the Morning,” but failed to reach the music charts.
Fast forward four years.
While traveling in Canada, the wife of a program director for a radio station in Atlanta, Georgia heard the four-year-old recording on the radio. Moved by the haunting lyrics describing a young British soldier’s anguish about going to war, she couldn’t get that song out of her head. When she returned to Atlanta, she asked her husband to play the song on the radio.
Listeners began calling the station for more information about the song and the recording artist. Soon after, “The Last Farewell,” made its way onto the charts. It became a Top 20 hit in 1975 and sold an estimated 11 million copies worldwide.
More interesting facts and statistics about “The Last Farewell”…
- In 1976, Elvis Presley included the song on his album, From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee. When this version was released posthumously in 1984, it reached #48 in the United Kingdom.
- Chet Atkins recorded an instrumental version on his 1986 album, Sweet Dreams.
- AIK, a Swedish sports club, adopted the music together with alternate lyrics as their official anthem.
And most impressive of all, “The Last Farewell” became known as Roger Whittaker’s signature song and helped launch his career in the United States.