Music Memory – Debbie Levere

Music Memory is sponsored by the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, offering the “Music For Memory Project”:  a program based on the effects of music and stimulation on people with dementia, by providing them with iPods containing personalized music. For more information, visit

This week, listener Debbie Levere tells us about a show she saw while working at the legendary El Mocambo in the 1970s.

“I worked at the El Mocambo in Toronto in the glory days of the 1970’s. One night a musician whose name meant nothing to me was scheduled to play. I was fairly new there and had a lot to learn about music, so I was accustomed to not knowing many of the performers’ names. Anyway, I was having difficulty getting used to carrying the large, heavy quart bottles of beer. By then I felt as if I were in training for Olympic arm wrestling! Once the night began, I could feel my arm throbbing as I served beer to the people in my section.

Suddenly the performer came up on stage and in very broken English introduced the song he was going to play. At that moment my world changed forever. As the magical sounds came from his saxophone I floated down the aisle, effortlessly carrying the tray of beer as though in a trance, thinking “where has this music been all my life?”. The incredible musician was Gato Barbieri. I went out the next day and bought his album Caliente and have just about worn it out since. After that I was lucky enough to hear such greats as Grover Washington, Tower of Power, the Downchild Blues Band, and of course the Rolling Stones but no one has ever transported me to another dimension the way Gato did that night!”