CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – To Hancock singer and songwriter Ken Sheldon, the Old Man was not only important as a symbol of New Hampshire, but as a personal reminder of people in his life.

“It is not the natural, physical thing that touches something in us, but what it draws out of us in terms of our memories,” Sheldon said. “It reminds me of old men – of my father or grandfather.”

After Sheldon heard the Old Man had fallen from the mountain last week, his reaction was to write a folk song – “Goodbye, Old Man” – that included both the personal and the universal.

“I wrote it over the weekend,” Sheldon said. “I pulled together my own thoughts and some of the things I heard from other people.”

Sheldon, who has been a freelance writer and musician for more than 10 years, is scheduled to sing his song for the House of Representatives on Thursday. He said they called him after reading about his song in the Concord Monitor.

Sheldon wrote in his song: “It’s like a death in the family, it’s hard to believe.”

“I guess it’s symbolic of who we are, and the passing in an odd way is also symbolic … we’re put here for a while and then our time is up,” he said. “There is a sadness of the passing but a celebration of this part of the world and some of the values we share and the people who made it what it is.”

He said artists and musicians give voice to people’s feelings and thoughts.

“We give voice to our own feelings but also to the feelings of others who may not have the ability to capture that feeling,” Sheldon said. “Most people have kind of a sad feeling about the old man … and our job is to sort of capture those feelings.”

Sheldon remembers the Old Man from his youth, but has a special memory from a more recent time.

“My wife and I took her elderly father to see it back in 2000 … which meant something because he himself is getting older and slipping away,” he said. “That visit means even more to us now.”

The Old Man has made it into song before.

Mary Leonard of Laconia has been calling stations to request “Old Man of the Mountain” by Paul Belanger from the 1960s. She found an old, scratched record of it at home.

She recognized the yodeling of Dick Curless on the song. Curless, listed on the record as its co-author, owned Allgash records and operated out of Bangor, Maine, for a good part of his 40-year career in country music.

In 1977, the Legislature decided to honor “Old Man of the Mountain” as one of eight “honorary” state songs.

AP-ES-05-07-03 1415EDT



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