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April 3, 2014

Richard Tucker remembered during centennial

(Continued)

His flip side was a father who played baseball with his kids in the neighborhood and took the children to the prop room of the Met so they could play with the swords.

Tucker was immense that evening, with only a pianist for accompaniment. I just had to meet him in person, given my editorial privileges as a journalist. Passing myself off as a critic, I rapped on his door backstage with my family behind me. Out he came, looking like a guy from a train wreck. He appeared exhausted as any entertainer would have after such a vigorous recital.

He saw my two kids and gave them each a hug.

“Bravo,” he said. “I love seeing kids at my concerts. I wish more people would bring their children.”

Four years later, Tucker died of a heart attack just before an evening performance in Michigan. I was processing photos in the darkroom and heard the tragic news on my radio. I was broken with tears.

Without further ado, I sat at a typewriter and rekindled our wonderful encounter in Nashua and the indelible memory it left with me. A few months passed before a letter arrived from the Met. It was addressed from his wife, Sara Tucker, thanking me for the memorial tribute to her late husband.

“Children were a big part of Richard’s life,” she wrote. “He mentioned that interlude in Nashua and we’re forever grateful. Please continue to enjoy Richard’s music.”

I had the tribute laminated with his wife’s letter, and it’s kept a venerable place in my files ever since. As for his music, it continues to be part of my listening pleasure. I still play the old 33 records.

This past Nov. 17, Tucker’s memory was celebrated at The Lincoln Center on the centennial of his birth. Many of the greatest voices of our time paid proper tribute to the singer while I melted on the couch.

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