If you love musical memories and just music fullstop then YouTube is for you. And music is but a fraction of what's available. It's a musical treasure trove, a walk down Memory Lane, a time of new discoveries and being transported as only music can take you.

I'm not at all a religious person, even though I spend a lot of time listening to gospel. I just like listening to black singers reaching impossibly high notes, indeed every note hit perfectly and effortlessly. Partial to some white singers too, like Willie Nelson and Roy Orbison, country and western singer Marty Robbins, The Bee Gees. (If you're not past a certain age you won't be reading this so there's no need to apologise.)

I'm listening now to the Jackson Southernaires' Waiting For My Child. The lead singer has a voice issuing over gravel, his backing group make it seem like the roll and powerful surge of a king tide on its way in. When you hear this same group sing Old Ship of Zion with four leads taking a turn, one a deep bass and the last finishing with falsetto, you know why American blacks have by far the best voices, though not necessarily always the best of taste. Not when they overdo the vocal acrobatics.

This song is on my funeral service list. Yep, got it all planned, just need to leave the wine selection alone to build up a decent cellar for the mourners. At least I assume most will be a little sad but will make it a happy occasion celebrating music and lines from my favourite poets, not my little life.


I first heard Stevie Wonder singing Blowin' in the Wind as a 16-year-old borstal incarcerate. I remember it like yesterday, the astoundment and the realisation that this voice was the real deal. His phrasing, the way he handled the song which we'd all heard from Bob Dylan first. I respect and admire Dylan but Stevie Wonder took hold of his song and made it a work of genius.

Years before, I had another revelation in hearing and seeing black gospel legend Mahalia Jackson on television as an 11- or 12-year-old. Television was new to New Zealand. I was at my uncle's house and next minute this Voice took over the sitting room. In a state of shock, I did not want this moment to end.

In my puerile stage I only knew I'd heard something exceptional. To this day I download her YouTube performances and play them as long as I like. If you've not heard Miss Jackson sing Trouble of the World you must YouTube her right now. She has no peer, the stage is hers alone.

She is a colossus and I'm honoured in advance that her soaring voice will preside over my funeral service. (I don't intend departing for some years yet.) If there is nothing to say of my existence I shall not mind, so long as tribute is paid to a woman who has been my aural and emotional joy for over 50 years. You must listen to her version of O, Holy Night.

YouTube also has millions of other videos, from political, intellectual debates (I separate them) to comedy shows going back years to the Cockney bigot Alf Garnett, to one of my favourite shows, 'Allo, 'Allo. You must watch Christopher Hitchens expounding on religion, an eloquent iconoclast in a league of his own.

One of my favourites is a video called A Six Minute Journey across the Universe. Watch it and be rendered speechless at how infinitely vast is this space our entire Milky Way galaxy is less than a dot in.

You can watch episodes of The Sopranos, as good as television gets (New Zealand does have the lowest standards in the world to compare with). I watch numerous world title boxing matches most weeks. Every rugby fan is in heaven with the selection of past matches to watch. You can be a voyeur and go into the All Blacks' dressing room. Aren't we all so lucky?