Passive Echoes

 

A Heart Broken


When teenagers fall in love, what have they fallen into? The answer is: into a depth of caring more complex and compelling than they have known before.

From what little I’ve seen in counseling, the majority of dating adolescents in high school do not fall in love. They don’t experience in a single relationship that magical match that includes: sexual attraction, mutual enjoyment, emotional knowing, social compatibility, sensitive consideration, physical affection, friendship feeling, and romantic excitement all combining to create a sense of caring, commitment, and completeness that make the other person the only one for you. This experience is reserved for a comparative few, for no more than about 15 percent would be my guess.” - Carl E Pickhardt Ph.D


Larry:

"Years later Marcia and I discussed the day we officially ended our 'keeping company'. When I arrived on a Sunday afternoon in late November to retrieve my albums I initially went to Sanford dorm. Not locating her, I inquired as to her whereabouts and was informed that she was eating in the cafeteria.

On arriving I observed her laughing and joking at a table with her new friends. I approached her as she carefully watched me and asked to speak with her in private. The table became quiet, perhaps because of the hurt and anger reflected in my countenance. She immediately left with me.

We said very little as we left together except that I requested my albums. She went to her room to bring them back as I waited in our memorable place in deep reflection. I mused about how I had rehearsed what I would say and had decided that I would attempt to plead with her to forgive me and accept me back one last time.

However, that changed as I watched her interaction at the cafeteria table. I sensed that she felt no loss, no pain, and no regrets. She seemed happy and I felt that I meant nothing to her. I had pleaded with her almost daily for more than a week for forgiveness. After witnessing her apparent relief and joy of being liberated from me, I decided to salvage the remainder of my dignity and self-respect and to bow out with the remainder of my pride intact."

Marcia:

"Upon entering the cafeteria Larry looked so fine and amazingly handsome, but somber and angry. I still recall that he was splendidly dressed in a dark burgundy bench warmer, a black turtleneck, and black dress pants. He misread me and underestimated the extent of my regret and sadness of having to stop seeing him.

In fact, I sincerely believe that if he had asked again for another chance on this occasion and provided me with some genuine assurances that he would make changes, I would have yielded. I truly wanted to make our relationship work.
 
Ironically, our relationship had begun to stabilize and Larry's behavior had improved significantly before that horrific last date. I had already decided that if our official 'coming out' in public as a couple at this basketball game at his high school went smoothly, I would inform my boyfriend at home that I was now dating Larry. I was planning on ending my three year relationship with this boy during the Thanksgiving holiday break when I returned home, just a few weeks away."
 
Larry:
 
"Marcia had never seen me this serious or saddened, and I believe that it was very appealing to her. She began to flirtatiously play “keep away” with the albums and to put her enticingly soft and silky face against mine as I stood behind and wrapped my arms around her, grasping for the albums.
 
My head was becoming like three sheets to the wind from the enchantingly sweet scent of the 'Chanel No.5' perfume sprayed strategically on her delicate neck. However, the cafeteria scene raced through my mind sobering me to back to reality, especially her laughing heartily and having a joyful time. I had suffered a week of intense remorse and pain and apparently she was unfazed by our break up. 
 
Embittered and wearied of her playful flirtation, I spoke to her softly but firmly stating, 'I am not here to play games, just to get my albums and go.' She immediately ceased her activities and solemnly gave me the albums and I departed wihout any further discussion. 
 
Marcia confided to me years later that she did not want us to end, but desired and needed me to change aspects of my conduct and to fulfill all promises that I had made to her before her arrival to Winston-Salem. This included 'taking care of her' as well as introducing her to my family, inviting her to my home regularly, and simply sharing my life with her. She wanted me to cease 'hiding' her away on campus and to be open about our relationship. We had discussed these issues when we resumed seeing each other after a previous break up..
 
I recall that several times she had mentioned that from her dorm she could hear the distance cadences of drums and a marching band performing on Friday nights and so desired that she could accompany me to football games. I shared this desire, but I was fearful for her emotional well-being since I had recently broken up with a girlfriend of more than a year, because of my love for Marcia. This girl was a very popular high school senior and was the head majorette.
 
Hence, I was uncertain about the reception and possible retaliation from friends of this girl that she would receive if she accompanied me to games once it was discovered that we were dating and she was the reason for the breakup. I recalled how it effected Marcia at A&T when she was falsely accused of 'stealing me' from her girlfriend, just a month earlier.
 
She would have been especially vulnerable to remarks and ill-treatment while I was performing on the field before, during half-time, and immediately after games. They would not have approached her when I was present because the majority of them thought that I was borderline insane and unpredictable. Marcia discovered this when she visited me at Anderson in 1970."

The two albums were very special. One was an album featuring two of Larry's favorite jazz trombonists, JJ Johnson and Kai Winding. The album was given to him by his father and was entitled, "Israel".

It is a very rare album today. The other was a recording made at A&T that featured both Larry and Marcia performing in the chorus, concert, and the jazz band. Larry was the featured soloist on the album performing the jazz classic "Misty" with the jazz band. He patterned his solo, the style and technique, after JJ Johnson's version and practiced for the recording session for hours.

Mr. Harry Wheeler, the band director that summer was also the band director at Atkins High in Winston-Salem. They were rivals in sports and with their bands. He attempted to lure Larry and Luke to Atkins. They refused but Larry did perform with Atkins jazz band for several years with Mr. Hunt's permission.

Less than a year after their breakup Larry still lacked genuine remorse. This is especially evident in a card that he sent on her 16th birthday. The card epitomizes his obstinacy and lack of consideration.

Marcia sent him into emotional exile due to his drinking. His callous disregard for her feelings is displayed by sending her a card with this theme on her sixteenth birthday.

Larry was a paradox, sensitive and thoughtful to remember her sixteenth birthday, which was considered a special one. He also sent her a rather expensive and lovely gift, the only boy that did. On the other hand, it was almost as if he was thumbing his nose at her in sending such a card, although that was not his intention.

Despite this, Marcia called him long distance to express her gratitude. She was not his girlfriend at this time, but she was the girl that he was in love with. He would have given her the moon and the billions of stars if he could have done so. All that she desired was that he stop drinking and share more of his life and family with her.


Perhaps a factor in his behavior is that he had very liberal parents and was given considerable freedom in his early teens. Similarly, while a student at NCSA, Marcia had few restrictions with the exception of a curfew until she turned 16 during her senior year of high school.

After her senior year and from the age of seventeen she had little or no curfew while at UNCSA. These factors were significant, the lack of parental constraints and limitations. This left them vulnerable and exposed to the adult world before they adequately developed coping mechanisms emotionally and mentally with matters of the heart and mind.

Nevertheless, they always had each others interests at heart and honestly expressed disapproval of detrimental actions of the other when warranted and when they were aware of a potential problem. This was especially true with Marcia when she sensed that Larry was withdrawing and isolating himself when he attended the School of the Arts years later.

She knew the full array of his personality, but felt that others would misconstrue his tendency and preference for privacy and independence. This was a desirable quality for composing but not for one's social life. Occasionally, she still has to remind him to be more outgoing and collaborative.  

It was not until they began dating for the second time around that Marcia came to appreciate from discussions with Larry's friends and relatives that he was very devoted and faithful to her during the first time when they spent time together.

He did not inform her that he broke off with his steady girl within weeks after they started seeing each other in August '68 until three years later when they began dating exclusively.

Marcia also became completely convinced of how deeply he loved her after meeting his family for the first time on their initial date after reuniting in 1971. Additionally, she discovered from heart-to-heart discussions with Larry that there were several reasons for his insecure and inconsiderate behavior in 1968.

For instance, he was extremely proud of dating such a beautiful, talented, and intelligent girl like her, but was concerned that he could lose her. Especially if he invited her to weekly after-game parties at his home and so forth.

He was concerned that she may become bored with him due to his distaste for dancing, a passion of hers, or become interested in someone she found more interesting among his many acquaintances. Thus, he kept her concealed on campus and only introduced her to a few of his most trusted friends.


Marcia:

"Larry is the only completely honest and faithful guy that I have ever been involved with or that truly and utterly loved me. There were memorable years of history between us, meaningful and insightful conversations, and his many beautifully written love letters which I especially treasured.
 
Sadly, he insisted that I destroy all of his letters except his first note at A&T after we were married because they brought back depressing memories to him. Wanting to please him, I reluctantly acquiesced to his request. Years later he apologized. As he matured and mellowed with age, he acknowledged that he did not have the right to request that of me.
 
Those letters belonged to me and were part of our history of love. I especially long for the "18" page letter that he wrote a week after I returned home from A&T State University. That lovely letter convinced me that he was special and I wanted to start afresh with him when I arrived in Winston-Salem to attend the North Carolina School of the Arts.
 
We were involved when I turned fifteen. Thinking back, he is the only boy that ever kissed my hand, gave me flowers (although they still had roots on them where he dug them up from the interstate near his home), or remembered and gave me the lovely and thoughtful gift on my sixteenth birthday.
 
We were not dating at the time nor seeing each other. Nevertheless he spent his entire hard earned weekend 'gig' money on an expensive gift that he asked his mother to assist him in selecting.
 
Larry played trombone, piano, wrote and arranged for jazz and R&B bands and was permitted by his father to perform in night clubs on weekends since he was sixteen. They didn't check band members IDs and he always looked and acted much older than what he really was. Although he expected nothing in return for sending me the gift, I asked my mother for permission to call him long distance to thank him, which she granted."
 


Larry had composed simple pieces and written songs from the age of 12 in Nashville. He started composing seriously after his breakup with Marcia in 1968, at age 15. At that time he requested assistance and was taught formally the rudiments and fundamentals of composition and orchestration from his band director, friend, second dad, and mentor at Anderson High, Mr. Robert L. Hunt.

Mr. Hunt arrived at Anderson the same year, 1967, as Larry did. He loved him as a father and says that because of Mr. Hunt, he cultivated a genuine passion for composing. During the three years before integration he spent many memorable hours assisting Mr. Hunt with the scoring and arranging for the school's "Fall Festival" and "Talent Show".

In those days black schools did not have adequate funding and these two shows generated a large portion of the school’s funding for a variety of activities and material needs. Larry would be working in the band room for hours after all other school activities were over, and long after most students were home and in bed.

Such was the cost for apprenticeship as a composer and arranger. He would often stay until midnight with Mr. Hunt starting in the tenth grade with the permission of his parents, with the understanding that he also had to maintain his GPA and remain on the honor roll.

His curfew was midnight prior to studies with Mr. Hunt. However, his time before was spent nurturing his love for Marcia. While dating her until mid November, he would leave the campus of UNCSA at 11 P.M., which was Marcia’s curfew in high school. He would intentionally miss the last bus to his home at ten forty-five.

They would watch it come and go as Marcia mildly protested, concerned about his safety in walking home late at night. Larry would ignore her gentle urgings, wanting only to spend every second with her until the eleven o'clock curfew.

After escorting her back to Sanford dorm a few moments before eleven he would joyfully walk and run for the 2.3 miles "long way home" to arrive a few minutes before his midnight curfew, then call to let Marcia know that he had arrived safely.

The lyrics to "Troop's" song "All I Do" is reminiscent of what he felt, especially the beginning of the second verse: "I begin to take the long way home, just so I can be alone, to think of how to say, my heart's here to stay".

Long Walk Home

(Click to enlarge)


Initially Larry would only listen to Mr. Hunt’s detail explanations and observe his process of listening and transcribing into a score the popular songs. They had previously been selected through auditions by a panel of judges chaired by Mr. Hunt. Larry was also a member of the panel as was NCSA alumna Vickie McFadden until 1969 when she graduated from Anderson. 

NCSA Alumna Marilyn Griffith, also a student at Anderson High until 1969, would often perform as a background singer for various groups. She was especially needed in songs requiring a soprano with the capacity to hit the high notes.

Marilyn had a magnificent voice and at UNCSA in 1969 she became a very close friend to Marcia and occasionally informed Larry of her well-being, at times sarcastically. Larry's relationship with both alumnae at Anderson was somewhat cordial but they were not by any means friends nor did they have any association outside of school activities. This was typical of any female that Larry was acquainted with, unless he was dating her.


Once the individuals, groups, and songs were selected then the arduous task of orchestrating would begin. Mr. Hunt only assigned Larry to arrange the brass section for these popular R&B songs. He was also given the chore of copying all the individual parts for the jazz band after Mr. Hunt would create the condensed score. Larry developed calluses on his right middle finger from copying hundreds of individual parts for the 25 or more songs performed.

As Larry became more efficient, he was assigned the responsibility of completely orchestrating and arranging ten or more complete songs. This was decades before Finale and Sibelius notation software and computers, so everything was done manually. The method they used was the only method available in those days.

In early December 1969 Mr. Hunt assigned Larry to arrange and orchestrate a top ten song entitled, “Going in Circles” by Friends of Distinction. Larry kept listening to the song over and over with the earphones on but was just sitting near the piano for more than thirty minutes and not transcribing. Mr. Hunt expected at least the piano and bass line to be completed. Thus, he walked over to Larry and asked if there was a problem because it was not a difficult song to score.

He had noticed that Larry had been unusually quiet for several weeks and had asked if everything was okay and Larry assured him it was. On this occasion, Larry wiped away the tears from his eyes as he approached and Mr. Hunt did not inquire, just soothingly patted him on his back and kindly said “let’s exchange records, okay”.

Larry nodded his head and retreated to the bathroom to release the hurt. He returned a few moments later to finish the new song before leaving for the evening.

The song he exchanged was also a love song (one that he was living through) by the Temptations, “I Can’t Get Next to You.” However,  this was a good challenge and exciting to orchestrate because of the fast tempo and use of piano, electric guitar, bass, and percussion. Additionally, he added brass and saxophones to it to make it sound even fuller. He was able to transfix on the music only while totally blocking out and ignoring the lyrics.

(Click to Enlarge)


Larry had become increasingly anxious and distressed in late November 1969, a year after their break up. He was especially discouraged over the apparent hopelessness of ever reconciling and renewing his courtship with Marcia. His life was becoming unbearable.

This was despite the irony of actually being in a relationship with the girl that Marcia had attempted to intervene with during the previous summer. They had officially started dating for the first time during the summer of 1969 while attending a summer session at Bennett College along with Marilyn before she started attending NCSA that fall. 

This intelligent and attractive young lady was aware that Larry was still in love with Marcia because he discussed it with her in depth. Nevertheless, she chose to enter into a relationship with him despite this. 


Larry:

"Why did I begin dating her now? She had played such an intricate role in my life and relationship with Marcia that perhaps I felt a bizarre kinship of sort. Furthermore, she met all of my criteria with regards to beauty, grace, and intellect.
 
Additionally, prior to the first day of classes I had encountered she and several of her friends on campus and sighed aloud, 'Oh no, not the three of you again!' It was spoken in jest but she took it quite seriously. I immediately noticed that she walked ahead of the rest of us quite dejectedly with her head down.
 
The next day it became apparent that she was distancing herself from me and I was informed by several of her girlfriends that she did not want to be a pest and irritant to me. I regretted that I had been unkind to her and initiated efforts to discuss our relationship. After several honest and intimate discussions or 'dates', we decided to make it official that we were a couple.
 
Perhaps the foremost reason is that she had always been very kind to me, a compassionate and patient listener, and there was a comfortable familiarity with her. Nevertheless, despite earnest and sincere effort on my part I could not compel myself to develop a legitimate romantic interest in her. I had unreservedly given my heart to Marcia and 'no girl', despite their beauty or charm, could ever change my heart. Hence, nothing seriously happened between us and she was more like a confidant and friend.
 
Nevertheless, she desired more and was very persistent. I recall composing at the piano one evening in the guest reception room in our dormitory where we rehearsed, as she leaned over my shoulders with her arms loosely wrapped around my neck. I was writing a song for a male R&B singing group that I had been introduced to. They needed some original material and asked me to write something for them.
 
I wrote two songs, both inspired by Marcia. One was entitled, 'Just A Lonely Man.' The lyrics were typical of breakup songs. They seem rather childish now, but I still recall a portion of the song in part because Marcia asked me to sing and play the song for her several years later in 1971. It was written in the key of A minor (relative major key of C), because as a novice composer I did not want to deal with sharps or flats.
 
The lyrics to the first verse were: 'As I walk these streets all alone, I can't help wondering why she is gone, I was a fool to let her go, and true love failed to show, what is this I see, I know it can't be me, A lonely man, I'm just a lonely man, etc.....'
 
The other song was entitled, 'Because', written in 6/8 time meter.  I can only remember portions of the hook such as: 'Simply Because - I love you, every night is the same, crying tears just like rain. Simply Because - I love you, kissing you in my dreams, nothing's ever like it seems. Simply Because - I looooove you.' The three piece horn section then led into the verse with a tight harmonic: da, da, da, da, da, da, daaaaaa. I decided to be slightly more adventurous and wrote the song in the key of F minor, which has four flats in the key signature (relative major key of Ab).
 
These were by no means the first songs that I had written that were inspired by Marcia. In fact, the first song was entitled, 'To Be Without A Way (To Love You).' I composed the song the day after returning from A&T in August, 1968. I first played it to Marcia from a tape recording made in 1969, when we reunited in 1971. She loved the song then and now. 
 
Also, "Lonely One", was inspired by Marcia's sad eyes which I observed when she visited me at Anderson High in 1970. I wrote it with my younger sister's, Yvette, beautiful and youthful 12 year-old voice in mind. Yvette and I performed it many times and recorded it together in our living room. The lyrics started off as a question to Marcia: 'Lonely one, why so lonely as me?'
 
Later, when Marcia and I performed together I rearranged it for her far maturer voice and awesome range. She adored the song and would often want to perform it along with another song of my youth entitled, "Maybe". This song was a song about hope. The first two sentences of the first verse were: 'Maybe, someday we will be, in love together, endlessly. And maybe, one day we will be as one, I'll keep waiting 'til that day comes.' As stated in the previous chapter, love coupled with our mutual pursuits in music always seemed to be a catalyst that sustained our relationship.
 
However, Marcy was especially amused and loved hearing me sing, 'To Be Without A Way', the first love song that I wrote for her. Listening to the first recording of the song, she heard me performing it as I accompanied myself on the piano while singing and mimicking the sound effects for the drums and other instruments. This was very audible on the tape when I would make the sounds of cymbal crashes, hi-hats, drum rolls, and horns and string sounds. It was quite humorous to me to listen to it years later, but it was extremely touching, sentimental, somewhat saddening, and very special to Marcia.
 
I recorded it in the band room at Anderson High School on a Saturday evening with a cheap school tape recorder. Mr. Hunt and Mr. Clark gave me a key to the band room so that I could hone my songwriting and composing skills uninterrupted from 1968-70. This was decades before technological tools for composing such as Finale, Encore, ProTools, digital keyboards, and computers, which I use now for creating tracks such as are demonstrated in the video below:

During this phase I was a spontaneous songwriter who thrived off of "inspiration". I had not developed the skills to compose without it, as I did in later times. Hence, during that summer night at Bennett, as I was beginning to enter my mental state and focus for songwriting, this "girlfriend" asked me why I did not write any songs about her."

Larry:
 
"Perturbed by her intrusion and without forethought, I essentially informed her that she did not inspire me by stating that I was not in love with her and she could never break my heart, two components for a love song. It was not my intention to be quite that honest and blunt but she was interfering with my creative process. I hurt her feelings and immediately apologized for being so straightforward, but then I kindly asked her to give me some privacy. She retreated into another portion of the dorm where the group was rehearsing another song that I had written for them. The songs were performed that summer at a concert on campus by my band and the singing group."

Larry embarrassed this girlfriend by thoughtlessly dedicating the songs to Marcia on stage when he introduced them. Most knew that they were dating. Yet, he was dedicating the songs to another. He later apologized for his thoughtlessness and promised that he would write a song dedicated to her. He never kept that promise 


Larry:
 
"After the summer session was over we communicated from time to time and she called to request that I escort her to her prom in April, 1970. I declined gracefully citing that I was confident that there were guys far more worthy locally to do the honors. This was several weeks before Marcia visited me at Anderson High School.
 
In early September, 1970, I received a rather strange letter from this same girl, Marcia’s former friend at A&T. She was now a freshman attending a prestigious woman’s college in the South. The lengthy letter reminded me of her undying love and that she had been very patient and tolerant. It served notice that she was going to desist in doing so and that I had thirty days to respond and to notify her if there was the possibility that we could have a serious relationship.
 
She placed me on notice that my failure to do so would provide her with convincing evidence that I did not care about her and she would be free to pursue other male companionship and to date. I was thoroughly perplexed by the letter and did not appreciate being given an ultimatum by her.
 
This was baffling because an entire year had passed since we last dated and our communication was very sporadic. We only lived thirty miles from each other and we both were licensed drivers. If either of us were truly serious it would not have been difficult to visit and discuss our relationship.
 
She was a pre-law student and the letter was written in legal jargon, so I assumed that she understood our "de facto" liberated status. Thus, there were no binding ties and she was free to do whatever she wanted. Nothing had changed with regards to my love for Marcia. Hence, I did not respond to the letter nor the ultimatum. In fact, Marcia is the only girl or woman whom I dated that had ever given me an ultimatum that I heeded."

Regarding young love, Larry read at a later time:

"One research survey asked 1,079 young people (ages 18 to 24) for the number of “romantic experiences” in their life up to the present. The average was seven! Did they consider these “romantic experiences” infatuation or real love?
 
Researcher Dr. William Kephart stated that “respondents invariably described their current experience as love rather than infatuation, the latter term usually being used in the past tense. In other words, during a romance, it was viewed as “love,” but past experiences were recognized as infatuation—a passing, fading emotion. Only by looking back did they realize it was infatuation."
 
Wearied with the frivolous and hormonal vicissitudes of girls his age, Larry began dating a woman six years older than he before receiving what he perceived as a nonsensical demand from this former girlfriend.

Reverting to the narrative, after their separation in November '68, Larry and Marcia adhering to their custom continued corresponding through letters frequently and occasionally they telephoned each other. They also rendezvoused on several occasions during those years.

Whenever they did they displayed warm affection preceded by a caress and later followed by a gentle kiss. On several occasions, when Larry was in Newport News and she was in Norfolk, they attempted to spend substantial time alone but were hindered by others in this endeavor.

 


 
 
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