Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bob Seger: Never give up!

(Edited: I've had such a great response to this post that I've dug up a couple more pictures.)

At any time, day or night, you can turn your radio on, flip through the stations, and almost always come upon a Bob Seger song. Much of his music exudes deep loneliness and nostalgia, but it is also affirming, celebratory and uplifting. At the end of a Bob Seger song, you feel there is hope.

Although I had always enjoyed his music, the first time I was stopped in my tracks by one of his songs was in 1980. My daughter and I had moved back to Kentucky, and I was depressed and overwhelmed about starting over. Suzanne, like most teenagers, loved her music and spent most of her allowance on albums. One day she burst into the house.

“I got it,” she yelled, sprinting up the stairs to her bedroom, “I got the album!”

Loud, uplifting music burst from her stereo, followed by a familiar, soulful voice; a voice that articulated exactly what I was feeling. Against the Wind is still my favorite Bob Seger song.

Years later, my husband, Costa, and I often visited his family in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. And in August, 1990, we were there when my birthday rolled around, so my sister-in-law, Rita, decided to take us out for drinks and dinner to celebrate. She said her friend, Nita, and her boyfriend and another couple would be joining us.

“I have a surprise for you,” Rita said.

“What kind of a surprise,” I said, picturing a testosterone-pumped guy in a thong, thrusting and bumping around me to Play that Funky Music.

“You’ll find out when we get there!”

When we got to the restaurant, the other couple was there, but Nita and her boyfriend had not arrived. A short time later, people around us began whispering and looking toward the entrance, where Nita and her boyfriend were coming through the door.

When they reached our table, Rita jumped up, “This is my friend, Nita, and her boyfriend, Bob Seger.”

Before I could say anything, Bob grabbed my hand. “Happy birthday!” he said, smiling, “Set everyone up at this table with drinks,” he said, “It’s Brenda’s birthday!”

Bob was down-to-earth and very friendly, and when he smiled, his whole face lit up. He was a very good conversationalist and listened intently when others spoke. Several people around us asked to join our group, and Bob graciously invited them over. Rita rushed out to her car, bringing back party hats and favors for everyone, and the party accelerated.

When we finally decided to have dinner, it was past closing time, but the restaurant was still full. After dinner, Bob bought a round of drinks and made a toast to me, and then he led the group in singing happy birthday. By the time the song was over, everyone in the restaurant was singing along.

As we were preparing to leave, Bob invited us to his house for a swim, so we piled into our cars and followed Bob’s Mercedes out to the suburbs. We were all pretty well loaded, but Rita rose to the occasion and drove our car, and we hung on for dear life as we careened down Telegraph Road.

At Bob’s house, Nita took us out back to the bath house and gave us swimsuits, and then we all cavorted in the kidney-shaped pool. Later, we gathered in his family room, where we talked and listened to music, and in the early morning hours, Bob asked us if we would like to listen to a tape of songs that would be coming out on his next album. Two of them were Real Love and The Long Way Home, which I really liked. I was struck by Bob’s face as he watched our reactions, and I realized that no matter how successful entertainers have become, they are still vulnerable to the opinions of others.

Later, Rita, Nita and I went into the family room and plopped down on the carpet in a circle so we could talk privately. Nita was very nice and unaffected. She reminded me of Suzanne, in her honest, straight-forward approach to life. Bob later joined us, his cat at his heels. The cat was black, with a strange shock of yellow over one eye. I tried to pet him, but he backed away and curled up close to Bob, looking at me suspiciously.

We talked about all kinds of things, and in the course of the conversation Rita mentioned that I wrote short stories. Bob asked if I had published anything. I told him I had only published a few human interest newspaper stories and one poem.

“It’s hard to get anything published,” I said.

“Just keep on,” he said, petting his cat and scratching him behind his ears, “If you keep on, you will get your stories published. That’s the way I was with my music. Never give up.”

Bob went on to say that he almost gave up in 1969, to go to college, but he decided to give his music one more chance. That’s when all of his hard work began paying off.

It was around 4 a.m. when we began running out of steam, so Bob insisted we spend the night. And it was around noon the next day before we began meandering downstairs. We were all suffering from hangovers, so after consuming gallons of coffee we headed home.
"Have a safe trip back to Kentucky!" Bob called as we drove away.
We visited with Bob and Nita again a couple of years later, and Bob asked if I was still writing. “Remember,” he said, “Just keep on writing; never give up!”

I lost touch with them after Costa and I went our separate ways. Through the years, though, I’ve kept up with them through the tabloids and television. He and Nita had a baby boy, Cole, and when he was a toddler, they got married. They had a daughter, Samatha, a few years later. I was thrilled when Bob was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and his song, Old Time Rock and Roll was named one of the Songs of the Century in 2001. I felt the accolades were long overdue, since he more than paid his dues by selling 50 million albums and writing songs, singing, recording and touring for over 40 years.

Nowadays, as I write, I listen to all kinds of music—oldies, classical, blues, country—but sometimes I get stuck on a particular story, and that proverbial little voice whispers, Why are you doing this? That’s when I put on a Bob Seger CD, fast-forward it to Against the Wind, turn the volume up and get a great big dose of inspiration.

Never give up, I tell myself, never give up!


ChristaD said...

I love it! It's comforting to know that Bob is so unaffected by his stardom.

Chris said...

What a fantastic story!

laura k said...

Wow! He is amazing...what a treat for you to have met him and for his encouragement.


kid said...

I wish you would publish the rest of the left much of it out this time.

Alex said...

what a great story and what an event to be with Bob Seger a whole night. Am jealous. Very very nice read. Thanks for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

I would love to hear more about your second visit with Seger:)

amanda said...

Brenda, my dad was a huge Bob Seger (and the Silver Bullet Band) fan in the 70's. I remember when dad took me to his concert in Memphis at the Mid-South Coliseum, a place where we eventually saw Eagles, Elvis, Fleetwood Mac, Judas Priest, Foreigner and Foghat. I doubt many children under the age of 10 can tout that list! I always thought he was handsome and sounds like a genuine guy too. Great story!

Brenda said...

Thanks, Amanda. Bob is a wonderful, down-to-earth guy.

How sweet of your dad to take you to those concerts! I can only imagine how excited you must have been. Back in 1957, it was rumored Elvis was coming to Paducah, and oh how I wanted to go. But I knew I couldn't; the price of a ticket was way too high: $6.50. As it turned out, he never came. And I was!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a wonderful experience. I have been a huge fan of his for years and my son grew up hearing his music and is a fan as well. He is also a musician and was very inspired by much of his music. He phoned me in October saying he had heard rumours that Bob Seger would be here in Ottawa Dec. 6/11 so absolutely we went to the concert and it was awesome. He still has that voice that gives you chills. That would definitely be one of my top dreams, to meet Bob Seger. Funny too, I always told my son to never give up and to follow his dream.
Terry - Ottawa Canada

Brenda said...

Sorry for the late response, Terry; I just discovered it. Thanks so much for your kind comments!

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley