1975 was a great year, if not the greatest in my life for lots of reasons - most of them I cannot remember given they were very much a magical mystery tour post Woodstock and pre Sweet Waters.

Who was zooming who wasn't quite clear but one thing was for sure, we gave life the best of our love and 1975 was full of this. Me and my mates lived the classic anthem recorded by The Eagles, drifting along the Mount main beach without a care in the world.

Saturday night was indeed one of those nights at Rotorua Stadium when the Steamers rewrote the record books by beating Taranaki on Te Arawa turf, a wero in itself given it hadn't happened since 1975. That was 43 years ago when Greg Rowlands was king of the Cadets castle, Muldoon was king of the Beehive and Brad Thorne, Jonah and Kylie Bax had just landed on planet Earth.

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Time waits for no one - just as juju lips Jagger told us back in '75, and still reminds us every year since. Sometimes, like a life-long friend giving up the ghost, we let life slip by and it is not until a bunch of hugely talented Bay boys show up on our telescreen - as a superb Steamers team - are we reminded how quickly 43 years slips by so much quicker than a Brodie Retallick 43-metre dash to the try line.

Has much changed since '75? Have we learned to love longer, laugh louder and look after each other? I guess the jury is still out on that one.

Back then, Indira Ghandi, the PM of India, was found guilty of corruption, the United Kingdom voted "yes" to stay in The European Union and Dame Whina Cooper left Te Hapua in the far north where I wrote the first Kapai kids book and she marched all the way to Wellington.

The movie Jaws came out, causing a global panic on anything that looked like a mako near the water's edge, and the Vietnam War ended, sending home our brave boys, who were never given the parade of honour they justly deserved.

Close to Home kicked off our first soap here and the very first Telethon thanked us all very much for our kind donation. Mona Blades disappeared and not one single psychic has come close to finding her since, nor have we found out why pods of whales keep stranding themselves for no apparent reason.

Perhaps the saddest of all the highs and lows of the past 43 years is today we don't post letters any more, just fake news. We have allowed the keyboard warrior to post all of our thoughts, beliefs, theories and conspiracies online, thinking we have the essence of life in the palm of our hands on a screen. Some call it truth decay by allowing Facebook to eat away the very fabric of values we inherited from our ancestors.

Forty-three years ago we sat down at the kitchen table and we talked kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face not Facebook to Facebook). We listened to the Queen of Soul sing it like it truly was and we valued the concept of caring for each other and our community without ever asking for anything in return.

These last weeks on the beaches of Rarotonga and in my own backyard have been a time of reflection. An internal audit on where life has taken me and where it is I am looking forward to arriving at.

The recent departure from the planet of Aretha Franklin has been like an answered prayer in many ways. Most of all her wise words in passing have given me a newfound direction to map out a rough route to get to where I can spend more time with those I know and love and who know and love me, and less with those who take all they can and give nothing back in return.

It was not so much what the Queen of Soul sang about that moved me but more what she stood for, and the message she sent out across the universe to an audience - just like we were back in 1975 - looking for love, laughter and a reason to belong.

To try a little tenderness makes so much sense in these troubling times when the world seems to be burning out of control. Walking with soft feet on the freeway of love is the journey of life we could all hikoi on if we are to make each other feel as Aretha sang - like natural men and woman.

See you on the other side of the album sister and be sure to say a little prayer – God knows we all need it back here.

"Being a Diva is not all about singing. It's about your service to people and your social and civic service to your community" - Aretha Franklin 1945-2018.

* Tommy first started work as a paper boy with the BOP Times in 1966, then as a letter writer and columnist in 2002. He has published 31 books and is now Executive Director of Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services. He can be reached at
broblack@xtra.co.nz