In full voice
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”
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.