Music from the heart

I was taking a stroll for a bit of early Christmas shopping in beautiful Copenhagen earlier today, and passed a street musician on my way from point A to point B. He was so talented. Great voice, so much heart and soul in his music, it was just him and his acoustic guitar.

I admire street musicians so much, because they are certainly not playing to get rich and famous. They are playing because it’s in their blood, it’s in their whole being. If you want to contribute with a buck or two, feel free, but it’s not mandatory. THAT… is true, unspoiled music the way it’s supposed to be – played for all the right reasons.

The little girl who was singing outside a mall in Manchester recently, stood there for quite a while and I remember her genuine smile as she was singing covers- she had a great voice too. There are just so many people out there who will never “make it”, who will never become stars, never record an album, never be in any music magazines – but they will entertain people in maybe the only true, pure way.

Back in the early 90’s, I was a big fan of two Irish street musicians who used to come to Malmo every summer and perform on the streets during the Malmo streetfest.

The first few years they came here, they arrived with their truck, and they would use the truck platform as their stage. Quite original, but it worked. It was father and son – Adam ‘O Henry (Adam and Henry Kelly) and they would sing predominantly Irish folk-songs, which they made their own – but as the years went by, they started adding some of Adam’s own songs as well – fantastic music, amazing voices… I still get shivers when thinking about it.

[Adam Kelly – started out as a street musician, touring the streets of Europe]

They would have three “shows” a day if I remember it correctly, and I would sit there all day long, because I didn’t want to lose my spot, I loved them.

When they first started, they had pre-recorded backing music that they played and sang to, but later they brought a band and played everything live. They became very popular and I bought their home-made cassettes that they sold after the shows and also their two CD’s.

It was a family business, the band consisted of family members (and others I’d assume…), I think Adam’s mother and uncle, were walking around with hats in the crowd, in case anyone wanted to chip in.

Actually, they even got arrested for singing on the streets, as mentioned in this interview with Henry Kelly:

I heard that you were in Switzerland several times in the prison. What happened there?

Henry Kelly: Oh, that was merry. It was in 1990 and we played in the streets of the large cities, however without public permission. We were taken in safekeeping five or six times, but in a few minutes we were released again. 

It’s insane that musicians get arrested for entertaining people, while it’s perfectly legal to attack people on the streets because you want to SELL something… Well, just my humble opinion.

Anyway, I don’t know if the story was true, but Henry, was a cross country truck driver in the States (lived somewhere right outside of Boston) and he asked Adam what he wanted to do with his life. When Adam answered that he wanted to play music, Henry quit his job and took Adam out on the road to play on the streets of Europe – mainly in Germany. The duo eventually made it to indoor venues as well.

I asked them at some point howcome they didn’t try to get a record deal. Adam’s voice was out of this world, it’s one of the most beautiful voices I’d ever heard. Turns out that they had actually BEEN offered a deal by EMI, but declined.

The reason being that they thought a label would kill their creativity by telling them what to do. It could also mean that if they didn’t fall in line, they would get dumped, and their career would be over. They wanted to stay in control of their own destiny, just be free to do what they wanted to do – their own way. So they produced their home-made music, which was definitely worth every buck.

Things went well for Adam, when he joined the popular Kelly Family and went on world tours, even making TV-appearances.

Found a fan-page with a bit of background:

Adam Kelly and his father Henry Lawrence Kelly formed their duo, which they called Adam O’Henry in 1987.

With a guitar, their two voices and their believe in themselves and their music they went to North of Spain where they sang on the streets.

In the years 1988 to 1995 Adam and Henry travelled through Austria, Italia, Hungry, Spain, Sweden, Norway and other spectacular countries, singing on the streets.

In the years 1988 to 1994 Adam O’Henry toured with The Kelly Family, warming up the audience and singing in the Kellys’ breaks.In 1996 they had gained a big fan crowd and went on from the streets to music- and concert halls. In 1997 Adam started performing with his cousins in The Kelly Family.

Henry was tired and felt too old to travel around. But in the summer 1999 at the Malmö-festival in Sweden, father and son made a comeback (with Angelo Kelly on the drums). He now lives in America.

I don’t know if Henry is still alive, the last I read was that he had passed, but I’m not sure… I just wanted to share music that was played in the streets here in Malmö, that many people probably still have very fond memories of. Far away from everything that has to do with big business, just stripped down to what it’s supposed to be about – pure music.

Here they are – from 1995, Adam’s own song “Flames of love”:

Adam in a more recent video – minus the hair. :)

2 comments

  1. Anton

    This remember me of myself, recently I heard two teachers in my music school talking about music as a profession. I didn’t listen to the whole conversation but I heard him saying something like “I don’t wanna do music for a living, it makes you weak and lazy”. I took a minute to think about what he just said…I realized just how stupid my goals in music were right at that moment. Music should be about everything else than fame and fortune…

  2. Daniela

    You’re right. I think that if you manage to touch just ONE person with your music, you have succeeded. Everything else is just a bonus.

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