ALL THE CARE IN THE WORLD
Dave O’brien is dreading Christmas. On Christmas day 1995, he lost a brother. On new year’s eve last, he lost a second. “Christmas to me is not Christmas, you know? Fifteen years between them. Christmas is a haze.”
Again and again, what helps him reconnect with better, happier memories is music. “I can remember before my brother died in ’95, we were at Glastonbury that year. Oasis were headlining. We had a good time then, so a lot of bands that played there, you know, their songs bring the good memories back.”
Another happy memory, one from even farther back, has made the selection of a favourite album an easy task. “I was only a young lad, about 10. I was sitting with my sister and her friends and they were listening to Legend by Bob Marley and The Wailers.”
It was love at first listen. O’brien went out and bought himself a copy on vinyl, his first-ever such purchase. “From there on, it just opened doors for me. I went on to get earlier and earlier Bob Marley editions and I have nearly every one of them now. Legend opened up a big doorway to reggae for me, and Rastafari, the whole religion. I’m not a believer, I don’t believe in God. But there’s a lot of passion in that music. The rhythm hits you, the people, the lyrics.”
Jamaican music has always evoked something that is very close to O’brien’s heart: a sense of community. His favourite track on Legend is No Woman, No Cry. Like Wild World, it is a tender, protective song sung by a man to a woman. As O’brien quotes the line, “Then we would cook corn meal porridge/ Of which I’ll share with you”, you can just see how powerfully affecting he still finds it. “When they sat around and cooked, if one family hadn’t got enough, they shared with another family. That’s the way they were, you know? They were a caring people.” Caring. That word again. O’brien makes a plea to readers of The Irish Times for greater understanding of just how frightening the experience of homelessness is. “Walk in their shoes for a day. See what it’s like being homeless. You become invisible when you’re homeless. People look down on you. But you’re just the same as the next person.”
Whenever O’brien sees someone homeless on the street, he makes a point of going over and having a chat with them. “If I have a cigarette, I’ll give them a cigarette; if I have the price of a cup of tea, I’ll give them the price of a cup of tea. But I’ll stand there five minutes talking to them, because that means more than anything, a lot more.
“You’re not just being passed, you’re being recognised.”