- Historic Sites
More Mr. Nice Guy
How Pat Boone seduced a rock critic
February/March 2006 | Volume 57, Issue 1
I tell you, there were many tears in the crowd. I got choked up too. And I thought, That’s what this music is all about. There’s something magical in pop ballads. They worm their way into your heart and your memories and associations and life. It’s the one way, except maybe a beautiful picture or some old film that you find, that you can go back and revisit a time that’s long gone. For that four minutes—and I stretched that version of “Star Dust” out, I didn’t want it to end myself—we were all transported back 35 years to a time we thought was gone forever, and now suddenly we were all living it again in the context of the song. And if you look at the lyrics, that’s what the song says. It’s about how that melody helps the person relive that vanished time.
I think that’s the appeal of songs like “Harbor Lights” and “Dream” and “Goodnight Sweetheart.” They’ve ended so many high school dances. “Dream, when you’re feeling blue / Dream, that’s the thing to do.” Those songs were the ones that everyone did the last romantic slow dance to. They have tremendous emotional meaning to millions of people.
Just then Pat looked at his watch and realized we’d been talking for more than two hours. “I’ve got to get home!” he exclaimed. “I haven’t wished Shirley happy birthday. This is her birthday, and she wasn’t up when I came over.” He told me that Shirley had been fighting clinical depression. The lifelong demands of his career had drained her; she had realized that he would never slow down, and they would never have the quiet, intimate life together that she had envisioned so long ago. That was why he told her he would semi-retire at 65. “She was saying things like ‘I know now that as long as I live, I’ll never have the life I once thought I might have—just you and me together, me being Mrs. Pat Boone and you being my husband, and us going where we want to go and doing what we want to do.’”
We shook hands and said good-bye. I wanted to ride the elevator with him, but I forced myself to sit in the lobby and wait for him to go down by himself. He deserved a little peace, after giving me so much. As I waited, I thought about his wife. I wanted to tell her: “Shirley, you’re not alone. None of us can get enough of him.”