Lyrics, Writing, Writing Process

In Remembrance

30 March 2015: Ulysses L. Slaughter, Jr. would have been celebrating 59 years on earth today, if he had not left “All Too Soon”.

He passed from this earthly plane in 2008, but I still think of him all the time, especially on days like this, his birthday, for if he was still here, all his friends would probably be loudly singing at his home, eating a ton of soul food, and enjoying a tremendous celebration of his life.

One of his favorite songs to sing was, “Here’s to Life”. He told me the first time he heard it was at a friend’s home. They had the Shirley Horn album, and they put it on for him to listen to. He said he lay down on their carpet, and closed his eyes, and was instantly transported by the song. Now, whenever I hear anyone singing “Here’s to Life” I hear Ulysses’ voice, the two are inseparable to me.  I visualize him blissfully reposing on that livingroom carpet with “Here’s to Life” in his ears, mind, and heart.  (Chokes me up every time.)

Shortly before he unexpectedly passed away, I wrote a song for him, “It’s Because I Love You”. It’s a somewhat slow, blusey kind of ballad, and I began writing it on an airplane, as I was heading back to New York from visiting family out of state, the last week in September.

It was a Monday flight, and Ulysses and I had confirmed plans to meet that same Wednesday, October 1st. We had very big plans for Wednesday: plans to make a five-year plan; plans for my songs; and immediate plans for an Autumn showcase at Minton’s with some of his other students. He said he had decided he was going to retire early and dedicate himself to music, to focus on nurturing my career and other singers he cared about.

It was an idyllic time, full of hope and promise. I was afraid something might happen to him, and as I flew back to be with him, this song came to me. I worked on it for another day and it was done. (I planned to sing it to him a capella.)

On that sunny Wednesday morning, as I prepared to leave, I gave “U” a quick call to let him know I was going out the door.  He always called right back or texted me within a few minutes, but this time there was silence. He did not return my call. I called again. I texted; he did not return any of my texts. Something was wrong.  By the time I was about to get on the train I had a feeling that he was not at home waiting for me and that I should not go there, a horrible feeling, so, I went back to my apartment and began calling friends and the foundation where he worked, but everyone said they did not know where he was. A couple of days later he was found in his studio – yes, he was gone.

My life changed when his ended. My worst fears were realized, and now, I dedicate my musical life to his memory. I continually thank him for all the joy and love he instilled in me in the very short time we were together.

I did get to sing my song to Ulysses, but not how I imagined – just the two of us in his music studio beside his upright piano that proudly had something like: “Fully Acclimatized for Florida” painted in block letters on the back of it.

I sang the song to him at his funeral, as he blissfully reposed in the front of a large Brooklyn church full of over a hundred or more people.  But, I did not see any of them, all I could see was the beautiful man that taught me how to love music again and how to trust my own instincts.  All I could do was tell him how much I loved him with my song.

One of the last things Ulysses said to me before I left on my family trip was that I should listen to “Ruby My Dear” and after he passed I remembered this instruction to me when I was tearfully reviewing my personal notebook and saw it scrawled on a page.  To me, the lyrics turned out to be the perfect instructions for grieving his loss.  I am forever grateful to him for that advice and for every little thing he did to make my life a happier one.  I hope I made his life a little bit happier too….that is my hope.

ulysses piano

Song for Ulysses
(It’s Because I Love You)
©2008 Laurie Early

You know I adore you
can’t help but let my feelings show
It’s because I love you
It’s because I love you so

My heart travels with you
no matter where or when you go, and
that’s because I love you
that’s because I love you so

It’s because I love you
I would fly to where you are
It’s because I love you
I made a wish upon that star
I asked for your protection
from illness, pain, and strife
It’s because I love you
I trust you with my life.

Why do I deserve you?
I don’t think I’ll ever know, but
Maybe it’s because I love you
Maybe it’s because I love you so

It’s because I love you, It’s because I love you
It’s because I love you, It’s because I love you
It’s because I love you, I can face any fear
but this fear I have of losing you

Why do I deserve you?
I don’t think I’ll ever know, but
Maybe it’s because I love you
Maybe it’s because I love you

I do, I do, I do love you,
Oh, sweet man,
I love you so.

sorrows garden

“Sorrow’s Garden” mixed-media collage by Laurie Early


Ulysses can be heard singing “My One and Only Love” here at YouTube


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