The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - The Album Club -

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.”

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