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2016 has been a particularly bad year already for ‘celebrity’ deaths. As well as being a huge personal loss for their friends and family, they have also touched so many people around the world.

If you have been brought up to a soundtrack of Bowie then it’s easy see how his death would have bought you to tears. Or if every morning you woke up to the soft tones of Terry Wogan. I’m sure that you would easily have had a lump in your throat listening to all the tributes after his recent death. You might have even have looked up the Janet and John stories. If not then do click on the link.

One that really touched me recently was the loss of Victoria Wood. Comedian, musician, writer, actor and director, her death at 62 was very unexpected. She found fame in the 70s on the talent show New Faces, and has produced some of the finest UK comedy. She was brought up in the same part of the country that I was, and her comedy was very ‘northern’. She has described her upbringing as quite eccentric. Her parents bought a cottage up by the moors. Her father was a workaholic and her mother would collect wood from old World War Two bomb sites to ‘do up’ their house. Being interviewed by Kirsty Young for Desert Island Disks she explained that she wasn’t bought up in a particularly cuddly household. But out of the four children it was her bedroom that had the piano. And it was such a good thing for us that she took to the instrument so well. She was fantastic at comedy songs. By far her most famous tune is The Ballad of Barry Freda. The song charts a middle-aged woman trying to convince her husband to make love to her. He is not at all willing, coming up with every excuse as to why it wasn’t going to happen. Every line is a classic.

In the late 1990’s I lived in Germany, but was able to get the comedy series that she wrote, and stared in; Dinnerladies. Set in the canteen of a northern factory it had that slow pace that British comedy writers do so well. It helped make me feel connected back to my homeland. It was also the comedy that launched the career of Maxine Peake. Most people think of ‘Wood and Walters’ or ‘As Seen on TV’ as her finest work, but I would say her shows at the Albert Hall were her best. Although a couple of Christmases ago her TV film ‘That Day We Sang’ was shown on the BBC and I greatly enjoyed that too.

Last month just after she died, I downloaded the 2 Desert Island Disks programmes that she appeared on, to listen to them again. It was fascinating to hear her being interviewed, and nice to hear the different music choices that she made for both programmes. Given her prolific career it is such a shame that she died at a relatively young age. I am sure that she would have gone on to create some other classics.
For now I will leave you with the Ballad of Barry and Freda. Enjoy!

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