Woodstock, Carl Wilson, Irish Setters, Sha Na Na…just what are you talking about?
We just got home from dinner out and I was listening to 70’s rock and roll on the radio when one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard came on, ‘Shannon’, a one hit wonder song by Henry Gross. It’s a beautiful song about Beach Boy Carl Wilson’s Irish Setter, Shannon. Henry toured with The Beach Boys in the 1970’s and visited Carl’s house, learning about Shannon being killed. Henry also had an Irish Setter named Shannon, so the loss resonated with him and he composed the song as a tribute to Carl’s Shannon.
The song depicts a story of Shannon swimming in the Pacific Ocean surf and being swept out to sea. It’s a dream for a dog leaving as opposed to the reality of being hit by a car.
“Shannon is gone I hope she’s drifting out to sea
She always loved to swim away
Maybe she’ll find an island with a shaded tree
Just like the one in our backyard.”
Any loss brings grief. Being the owner of two Irish Setters, their loss would be devastating to Theresa and myself. The loss of pets or the loss of family or friends causes tears. It’s okay to cry. That’s one of the good things about a funeral home. It’s one of the few places where people know that there will be tears. Mama doesn’t have to pretend. Our society wants us to believe that acting like nothing has happened means one is ‘handling it well’. Psychologically it is much better to show one’s grief. Noted grief expert Rabbi Earl Grollman wrote that, “Joy shared is joy increased. Grief shared is grief diminished.”
“Mama tries hard to pretend
That things will get better again
Somehow she’s keepin’ it all inside her
But finally the tears fill our eyes
And I know that somewhere tonight
She knows how much we really miss her.”
Being a lover of rock and roll trivia, there are some other historical connections. In addition to being a great song (it reached number 6 on the Billboard charts in 1976) the performer, while mostly unknown, is the answer to a great Woodstock trivia question. Henry Gross, while performing with Sha Na Na, was the youngest performer on the main stage at Woodstock in 1969 at the age of 18.
What is always surprising to me was…what was Sha Na Na even doing at Woodstock? They were a variety show staple in the mid to late 70’s with frenetic versions of doo-wop classics and 50’s style rock, not the type of act one would associate with Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and many of the other psychedelic groups and future rock hall of gamers associated with Woodstock.
The point of this is that when one delves into the history of rock and roll, there was a lot of, for lack of a better term, a lot of incestuous relationships. The pool was not very large so the acts all knew each other and worked together. The producers and studio musicians were the same (watch the documentary ‘The Wrecking Crew’ to fully realize who the rock musicians of the 60’s really were), so tying together a one hit wonder, The Beach Boys, Irish Setters and Woodstock is not that much of a stretch.
The other point is that it is better to talk about a loss than try to ignore it. We would not have this beautiful, cathartic song if Carl Wilson hadn’t been willing to talk to Henry Gross about his beloved Shannon. Tell the story of your loss. It’s not only an important story to tell, but it will help on the road to grief recovery.