- Not long after we were married, we took my brother, a college-aged daughter and another college student to the greyhound races in Phoenix. I don’t remember who, if anyone, won money, and I later felt guilty that we’d contributed to the “sport.” But on the way home, we sang “Auld Lang Syne.”
- We’ve gone to exactly one fancy dress-up New Year’s Eve party, with a couple of pretentious people whose names I no longer remember. We spent a lot of money and were bored stiff.
- On New Year’s Eve 1999, we left Washington, D.C., to return to our home in North Carolina, because some people predicted that “Y2K” would cause widespread power outages and keep gas pumps from operating correctly the next day. Those people — and the once who predicted much worse — obviously were wrong. On television that evening, we watched Bill and Hillary Clinton sing “Fortunate Son” along with John Fogerty, performing on a stage built on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In other words, one guy who managed to avoid Vietnam by joining an Army reserve unit and one who avoided the draft through a student deferment sang an anti-war song in front of a memorial devoted to our most noteworthy wartime president, while seated between memorials honoring those killed in Vietnam and Korea. Though I like the song, that jingoistic “America’s Millennium” performance irritated me far more than the conspiracy theorists who were convinced that Y2K would create chaos. There was a lot of good music, though, and you can see the show here. Performers included Foreigner, Tom Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Kathy Mattea, Bobby McFerrin, Don McLean, Kenny Rogers, Luther Vandross and Usher.
- One New Year’s Eve, we attended the wedding of a former student, and tonight we’ll attend a party for two of my colleagues who chose today as their wedding day. Some people obviously are better at tax planning than we are.
- Spokane has what is supposed to be a wonderful “First Night” celebration. We’ve never gone. Sometimes we watch the fireworks display. Sometimes we’re asleep by then. The New Year has always managed to come in without us.
One of the most familiar versions of Auld Lang Syne is the one from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But the proper way to bring in the New Year is with Guy Lombardo & his Royal Canadians, who began playing it on the radio in 1929 and continued to do so on television until 1976. Both Joanna and I still remember watching and hearing the Lombardo orchestra many times on television.
And whether you knew it or not, you have also undoubtedly often heard Guy Lombardo & his Royal Canadians — and you may again tonight — even if you were born long after Lombardo died. By tradition, the version of the song played by “Mr. New Year’s Eve” is still the first one played in Times Square as the stroke of midnight brings in each new year. Listen carefully; then have a wonderful 2014.
Lyrics here, with video below.