The Widow Hopkins

December 14, 2011

During my twenties, I put my college degree to good use working in a large record store.

There was a row of small stores near, the closest of which had a revolving door of tenants. One day, it was a jeweler; the next day, a head shop.

In one of its incarnations, it reopened as a clothing store, a small boutique favoring vintage stuff from the ’60s, threads that might have been worn in Swingin’ London.

As the world had finally caught up to my sartorial sensibilities with grunge, I had little reason to peruse the store’s wares, never even venturing in until I accompanied Tree Boy, a friend who was a bassist, arborist, photographer, and occasional nude model.

(“the trick is to remain flaccid, yet life-like,” he would tell us)

I wandered around the small store idly as Tree Boy chatted with the woman working there, a willowy, older woman with long, red hair and fair skin who was attired in a manner that reminded me of Stevie Nicks.

Bored, I finally shuffled over to retrieve Tree Boy and he introduced me to the woman.

She had an accent and her name was Moira.

The two chatted for a few more minutes and, from the context of the conversation, I surmised that she was married to a musician.

After we left, as I trudged back for the rest of my shift, Tree Boy confirmed that Moira had indeed been married to a muiscian.

“Moira was married to Nicky Hopkins.”

Oh, I knew the name and some of the credits of Moira’s late husband, but it was over drinks that The Drunken Frenchman educated our usual group from the record store on the staggering list of legendary albums and songs featuring Nicky Hopkins on piano.

(staggering being a staggering understatement)

“We must keep an eye out and see that no harm comes to The Widow Hopkins,” The Frenchman said gruffly, his furrowed brow betraying a lack of confidence in us, his younger compatriots, as he raised his glass.

(I’m not sure what harm The Frenchman believed might occur or what help she might need from drunken slackers, but he certainly seemed resolute in his oath)

You’d see Moira in the record store on occasion and she’d often spend a minute or two in pleasant conversation with us clerks. She seemed like a genuinely lovely person.

During one night of drinking, there was a debate regarding the difference between a jig and a reel with the idea proffered that, because of her heritage, we should ask Moira.

(an alcohol-infused idea that, fortunately, we realized was a bad one)

I haven’t seen Moira in years, but I hope she’s out there, somewhere, doing well with the spirit of The Frenchman keeping her from harm.

Here are four songs – from the multitude of possible choices – on which Nicky Hopkins performed…

Rolling Stones – Sympathy For The Devil
from Beggars Banquet (1968)

If I had to choose one song from The Stones, the hypnotic, menacing Sympathy For The Devil is the one.

John Lennon – Oh Yoko!
from Imagine (1971)

John Lennon did more than a few songs inspired by his devotion to Yoko Ono and I’ve always loved the playful Oh Yoko!.

The Who – Getting In Tune
from Who’s Next (1971)

For all of their ferocity, The Who understood dynamics as on Getting In Tune which opens with a gentle simplicity before building to a crescendo.

Ringo Starr – Photograph
from Ringo (1973)

I’m sure that I heard Ringo Starr’s Photograph at some point over the years, but I truly become acquainted with the song from hearing it often on Sirius’ ’70s channel. Ringo might have been the funny one, but he’s more than capable of delivering the lovely, wistful song with all of the pathos required.