F is for Free

For Brits, the opening chords of the song “I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)” mean only one thing: film reviews.

Barry Norman used it as his theme tune for the series that started as Film ’72 and is now called Film ’08, I assume, and hosted by Jonathon Ross. The opening beats of that tune, on the piano, are so evocative of that program that I bet most people in the UK could instantly ID it as “The Film XX theme”. Only because I have a music-geek dad, do I know its real title.

And I had never given much thought to that title.

This morning I listened to a StoryCorps broadcast called Seeing Red. The person talking was an African American lady from Alabama. She was talking about her great-grandmother who was born in the late 1800s. What started out as a charming story of a granny reminiscing about her childhood with her great-granddaughter, took a sudden and, if I was smarter, not entirely unexpected turn towards the dark and horrifying.

The producers followed the story with a slower, more somber, but no less beautiful version of “I Wish I Knew”.

It stopped me dead in my tracks.  I will never hear it the same way again.

What that song must have meant to so many people through the years! And how utterly oblivous I had been.

I’m inclined to think that all those things are so far in the past, and that we should all just move on. And then I hear these short stories from everyday people, and I understand the anger. A little.


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