I was invited to exhibit some artwork as part of a centennial celebration of a school in my hometown this fall. It’s funny how the brain can boot you into the deep recesses of your mind and make you think of past experiences and memories that you hadn’t thought about for ages. As I thought about the school, I recalled schoolmates and teachers, neighborhoods and neighbors. One neighbor that came to mind was an organist for a church in another town and also the piano teacher from whom my sister and I received lessons. I will call her Florence Bass and her husband Arthur Bass. When my sister and I spoke to or about them, we had to say, “Miss Florence” or “Mr. Bass.”

On special occasions, Mr. Bass would sing a solo, and Miss Florence would accompany him. Mr. Bass had a very deep voice and often sang “Asleep in the Deep.” My sister and I looked at each other excitedly as we waited for Mr. Bass to go down to the extremely low note in the song. I can still hear and picture him taking his time to get to that very, very deep note.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that the words in Mr. Bass’ song were about love, caution and sadness. As children, my sister and I had focused so much on Mr. Bass’ voice that we had not actually listened to the words.

Awareness of the words as an adult has not diminished the memories of my childhood fascination and appreciation of Mr. Bass’ ability to go so far down into the deep register of his voice. The words to the chorus below are what I vaguely remember as Mr. Bass ended the chorus with a lengthening and lowering of the word beware.

    Loudly the bell in the old tower rings,
    Bidding us list to the warning it brings sailor, take care – sailor, take care
    Danger is near thee, beware, beware, beware, beware
    Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep, so beware, beware
    Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep, so beware, be-e-e-e-ware.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...