By February 2007 we started to look for our next batch of Comfort Doll Project participants. I spent more time on Myspace and found more musicians and bands but none ‘jumped out’ at me…. until I landed on Tom Cochrane’s page one day. I can say this because I’ve said it to Tom and he knows – I didn’t like his music very much back in his heyday of Red Rider. It was too hard edged for me, and I couldn’t seem to identify with Tom or his music on a personal level; I was much more into U2 and other acts at the time.
So when I stumbled upon his page, and listened to his Myspace music player, I didn’t hear White Hot, or Boy Inside the Man, or any of the older radio hits; I heard White Horse, The Party’s Not Over (which speaks of being in Mozambique) and Northern Star and I had a hard time believing it was Tom Cochrane. Instead of a young guy with floppy bangs and a frown, I found a mature silver haired, smiling, softer person that I was instantly drawn to. I loved the new music – much more personal (I thought), softer, more introspective and emotional than the songs I remembered way back when. On a whim I sent him a message via Myspace outlining what our charity was and how we did things – I suggested that as he was coming to Vancouver in a month, if he was interested, we could set up an in-person photo op. I sent the message off, not expecting to get anything back and then went to Google to find out what he’d been up to for all the years I’d not paid attention. I was stunned actually. I found pics of him from World Vision’s website – he’d been to Africa – Kenya and Mozambique – and there were photos of him playing soccer with the children in one of the villages. He supported the Canadian Make Poverty History campaign; had a spot in their commercial/ad wearing a white band on his wrist. There was so much I found out about this Canadian legend that I didn’t know, and I began to realize how I had unfairly judged him for all those years.
A few short hours later, I had a personal message back from Tom – lets do it. Short, to the point and wonderful So I sent another message with particulars and we messaged back and forth a few times, sorting out details (always there are details – I can never ‘just’ walk into a venue to do a photo op) and then the day came for me to meet Tom in person. Was I nervous? Actually, truthfully? No. I was more concerned about taking a crappy photo of him (I was using a 35mm film camera at the time and only on ‘auto’) than I was about meeting multi Juno Award winner Tom Cochrane. I think because he had corresponded with me himself rather than through a PR or Mgt person, and because he seemed to be a ‘straight from the hip’ sort of person, I wasn’t nervous about meeting him.
The day of the photo, it was miserable and rainy; a typical March day in Vancouver – and when I arrived at the venue, the staff weren’t sure about what I was asking, but I gave the info they needed, they called to Tom’s tour manager and out he came, and said yes, come in, and that was that. He told me that Tom was in an interview for a TV spot, then radio, then had sound check to do and would be with me after all that was finished. (busy schedule! and they still fit me in!) I’m good with waiting – but this experience was unbelievably cool… I was invited to have a seat in the venue ‘anywhere I wanted’ while waiting. I was told to help myself to muffins and juice set out for the road crew/techs up on the stage, and when I said ‘thank you’ and didn’t move to get one, I was told again, ‘help yourself; make yourself at home’. So I did 😉 The road crew all smiled at me and I returned to the best seat in the house to wait, and to visually check for the best spot for lighting. Film camera and an amateur photographer (at the time) remember?
Tom and the band came out on stage and started doing sound check. Only this was more than any sound check I’ve ever sat through – before or since. The band ran through each song they were going to perform that night – not just a few bars, but nearly half the song.. tweaking things here and there, making sure the sound was excellent in all areas of the venue. Tom’s bass player, Jeff Jones (Jonesy), saw me sitting there 3 rows up, dead center, and started smiling at me as he played, and I couldn’t help but tap my hands to the beat – and by the end of the sound check we were grinning at each other like old friends! He came over to talk to me and wanted to know what was up, so I showed him the Comfort Doll ready for Tom’s photo and explained our project and he thought it was great.
Jonesy left and Tom came over, introduced himself to me (that made me smile) and when I introduced myself back, he seemed startled – explaining that he thought I was my partner.. and then in a shocked voice said – you cut your hair! (I had long hair in my Myspace photo but after the chemo treatments it was just starting to grow back and was about 4 inches long all over). I was as stunned as he, and blurted out – no it was the chemo. That seemed to break the ice for both of us and he asked me some questions about treatment and wanted to know how I was (in truth, very tired, but very glad to be there). He asked me where we wanted to take the photos, and I told him as much light as possible was what I needed, so we did a few photos right there. Then surprisingly he suggested going out to the lobby of the venue and doing some there as well. We went out and I did 4 more photos, aware of how valuable his time was and not wanting to delay him from other things; but he suggested more photos on the stage with the lights on, so off we went for more.
All told, I did about 10 photos with Tom (without a digital, of course there is no way to know what you have until you develop the film). I was so impressed with Tom’s generosity of his time and his patience of me doing the photos slower than a pro would, of course. He and I had some conversation about his Make Poverty History support, and about World Vision. He’s supported them 110% ever since he and his wife Kathy sponsored a child, and World Vision contacted him to end that support when his sponsor child no longer needed it – he was so impressed with not being ‘duped’ into still paying, that he sponsored another child immediately. He’s also been to a World Vision sponsored village unannounced, on a fact finding mission, and again was so impressed that he’s thrown himself into helping them whenever he can – in big ways that most people have no idea about…. I was impressed too, with him. He’s the epitome of charitable giving; of being behind the scenes not drawing attention to it. Just doing it.
I finished the photos and thanked him for his time, told him I’d contact him about the auction (about him helping us promo it somewhat on his Myspace as he didn’t have a fan club at that time) and I thought like all bands before him, that was it. I was mistaken
Part 2 of Tom Cochrane is further along in our blog!