In full voice

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - The Shape I’m In - Irene Feighan

HE may be 71 years old but rock/blues vet­eran Rob Strong is still, as his name sug­gests, go­ing strong. He’s grate­ful his blues voice has stood the test of time.

“The most im­por­tant thing is to know how to use your voice — to know when to back off if you’re un­der pres­sure,” says the Derry na­tive who is now liv­ing near Naas, Co Kil­dare.

I ask what ad­vice he’d give to Bono, who had to can­cel a Ber­lin con­cert re­cently when he lost his voice. But he re­fuses to be pre­scrip­tive.

“He’s a great singer, a great song­writer and he’s got a great voice, all singers go through bad times — they go on stage and they can’t sing. That’s just colds, flus or you could be tired. It hap­pens to every­one — you find most singers can­cel gigs and it’s all down to throat prob­lems.”

A proud fa­ther of three, and dot­ing grand­fa­ther to two, his son An­drew hit the big time at the ten­der age of 17, when he wowed au­di­ences na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally with his ren­di­tion of ‘Mus­tang Sally’ in the hit 1991 movie The Com­mit­ments.

Rob is glad he was there to guide him through the melee that fol­lowed.

“He was very lucky he had me, who’d been in the mu­sic busi­ness for so long. If he hadn’t had me he wouldn’t sur­vive it... He sur­vived and is well able to look af­ter him­self. He knows the busi­ness.”

And do they still do gigs to­gether? “We haven’t done any in re­cent years. I’d stick out like a sore thumb on stage. All his play­ers are in their late 30s and 40s — young fel­las.”

Don Baker and Rob Strong are pre­sent­ing An Evening of Blues and Soul In­spi­ra­tion at The Olympia Theatre to­mor­row, Oc­to­ber 6. What shape are you in? I go out and give my wife Noreen a hand with the gar­den, which can be dif­fi­cult at times. I look af­ter my­self and eat rea­son­ably well. I like walk­ing and cut­ting the grass — noth­ing too stren­u­ous. I’m fit enough for the hour and a half you’d be do­ing on stage. What are your health­i­est eat­ing habits? I eat por­ridge ev­ery morn­ing with nuts. Still, you can’t beat a fry ev­ery now and again. Peo­ple are liv­ing longer and they are look­ing af­ter them­selves.

I wouldn’t eat in any of the fish and chip shops — although I do like a McDon­ald’s burger from time to time. I think you have to be care­ful of all the fast-food stuff. but you can’t be too hard on your­self. Ev­ery­thing in mod­er­a­tion. You’ve got to live as well. Do you have any vices? I don’t smoke or drink. I had a prob­lem with the drink — I was drink­ing too much. I’ve stopped it and I haven’t drunk in 36 years. You do all that stuff when you’re younger. Fur­ther on down the road, you get a lit­tle bit of sense. I might have smoked a bit of pot now and again — but I was more into drink­ing. How do you re­lax? I do a lit­tle gar­den­ing. I trim the trees. I watch a bit of tele­vi­sion at night. I take the dog for a walk. He’s a cocker spaniel called Cop­per and about 13 years old. You can’t beat a dog — they are like chil­dren. Who would you in­vite to your dream din­ner party? Close friends and my fam­ily — my two girls and boy — they’ve gone out in the world and set­tled down. Were you ever star-struck? I was al­ways a bit fan of Joe Cocker, one of the great­est. I sup­ported him in 1984 in the Ul­ster Hall, Belfast. Just to see him live was as­ton­ish­ing. I had a good chat with him af­ter the gig, and I’ve got some great pho­to­graphs of him. He was a down-to-earth fella. What’s your favourite smell? Lemons — I like le­mon drinks. When is the last time you cried? When my mother died more than 20 years ago. You don’t re­ally cry that much when you get older. What traits do you least like in oth­ers? I don’t like rude­ness. What traits do you least like about your­self? I sup­pose I’m a wee bit laid­back and I don’t ad­dress thing im­me­di­ately. That’s my only down­fall. I leave things on the long fin­ger. Do you pray? I would say a few prayers now and then. You’d be think­ing about things when you’re ly­ing in bed and say­ing a few things to God. I wouldn’t say I’m ter­ri­bly re­li­gious. I think re­li­gion is the way you live and the way you treat your neigh­bour — kind­ness is ev­ery­thing and good man­ners. Hope­fully, that will al­ways come back. What would cheer up your day? Col­lect­ing my eight-year-old grand­son from school and tak­ing him out for a burger.

“You can’t be too hard on your­self. Ev­ery­thing in mod­er­a­tion”

Pic­ture: Pat Moore

BAL­ANCED LIFE: Now in his early 70s, Rob Strong is still per­form­ing but he also loves the sim­ple plea­sures of gar­den­ing and tak­ing the dog for a walk.

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