My sister Angelique loved Billie Holiday. We would listen to her on our dad's record player. When the song ended Angelique would sing the words without the music: "I cover the waterfront, I'm watching to see; will the one I love be coming back to me?"
I Cover the Waterfront was my introduction to jazz. Billie's version, sad, sweet, somber, was my second favorite. My favorite was my sister's rendition. She'd looked at those old pictures of Billie, Miles, Sinatra and arrived in the living room magnolia-coifed with a bed sheet as a stand-in for Ms. Holiday's feted gown. Her voice mimicked the nostalgia laden sound of Billie's voice and the musical score perfectly. As a young, kind of emotional kid, I never knew whether to clap or cry when she finished.
Thirty years later I sat by my sister's bedside at the UC Davis Medical Center and prayed and cried, Waterfront echoing in my head. The day she died the song haunted me. Later, at the service, people shared words of hope, "Angelo, you'll see her again." Today the song takes me back to our childhood. Good memories and perhaps a hint of the everlasting in the lyrics of the last line: "For the one I love, must soon come back to me."
My sister loved jazz and I love my sister.
By Angelo Williams
West Sacramento, California