Woodstock, Carl Wilson, Irish Setters, Sha Na Na…just what are you talking about?

Irish Setter - Cutrer | Hansen-Spear Funeral Home - Quincy, Illinois

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.

6 Responses to Woodstock, Carl Wilson, Irish Setters, Sha Na Na…just what are you talking about?

  1. Connie Koch says:

    I had an Irish Setter for 20 years. She was beautiful and smart and my best Friend. Her name was Kerry and she was my companion wherever I went.

  2. Marilyn Gross says:

    Thanks for the beautiful tribute to “Shannon.” Henry never tires of singing the song…
    Marilyn Gross

    • William Spear says:

      Marilyn, we are glad to share his beautiful song and the story with it…our dogs are a special part of our family and this song has so much meaning and love in it that it brings tears to our eyes.

      Cutrer is our one year old Irish Setter in the picture for the Blog.

      All the best,
      Jeff & Theresa

  3. Bob says:

    Bailey had a tumor and at only 10 he could no longer see. One of my very best irish setters, letting him go two years ago still grieves me. Finnian had but two years with dear Bailey, but the pair, a mere puppy and a grand older adult were quite the sight, galloping also together and living life to the fullest. Dear Finn lives on and is loved all the more because he, too, got know dear Bailey.

  4. Ann Pesce Adams says:

    Hi. I never knew that Shannon was about Carl’s dog. I have always loved this song. I cried last night of great memories with my Sandy (Irish Setter). I lost her when she was 16 years old. The saddest day ever. Thank you so much for sharing all the great pictures

    • William Spear says:

      Our pets are such an important part of our lives…they live on in our memories even thought they take a piece of our heart with them when they leave us.

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