Opening

'Let Me Sing...'

 

Charlie, the melancholic Everyman tramp, was the creation of Charles Chaplin, a versatile entertainer and a social critic. Our mother amused us with her Charlie routine.

         

 

Formative years

Roger Edmund Deacon (he took the name Dee in the 1970s) was born in 1937, in Edgware, north of London.

Roger's early childhood was spent during World War II. The family moved several times, including moonlight flits from rented accommodation.

He was about seven years of age when, at the cinema, he first saw newsreel film of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. The shock of human inhumanity towards fellow humans stayed with him. In his account of the experience to me years later, the auditorium lights came up immediately after the newsreel, American big band swing music was playing, the ice cream girls were ready, smiling, bearing their trays of goodies - and people in the audience were stumbling, silent, stunned, numbed. He had no recollection of his parents being with him.

The family settled about twenty miles from London, in the relatively prosperous large town, Watford. Our father, Joe, was in full-time, night shift factory work. Our mother, Dorothy, had various unskilled factory and shop jobs.  

Joe had been an amateur boxer and chauffeur to wealthy families.  He played the piano (in the key of F# only) and eccentrically performed his own satirical, obscure, comic lyrics to popular songs.

Dorothy, who had survived being a London bus conductress during the War, liked to sing, dance and play the piano. Her father had been a music hall artiste, Teddy Ostend, 'The Ostend Rabbit', who sang 'Where Do Flies Go in the Wintertime?' and claimed to have pioneered tap-dancing sitting down.

Joe, Dorothy and Roger in Torquay - Roger is 21

The family heroes were Charles Chaplin and Al Jolson. I can see the influence of both performers in much of my brother's approach to life and work. In his early career, Roger sang the refrain of the Jolson number, 'Let Me Sing And I'm Happy', but he did not include the apathetic verse. He changed the references to Dixie, cotton fields and Mammy to 'Let me sing of London's charms, the Old Kent Road and muvver's arms'.

 

Continue 

         

 

Al Jolson's singing style , by turn exuberant and sentimental, was influential at the time. His popularity was boosted by the release of the film, 'The Jolson Story', when Roger was about ten.

 

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