Tuesday, July 8, 2008
I didn’t know Daniel McDonald, but after listening to his CD and reading the liner notes I feel I do and that I like him. I’m sorry that now I never will get the chance to know him. Daniel McDonald died in February 2007 at the age of 46 of brain cancer. He recorded True Love as a legacy to his wife, Mujah Maraini-Melehi, and their two young children, Fosco and Ondina. It is lovely and heartbreaking at the same time.
Among the Broadway shows the handsome actor starred in were Steel Pier and High Society. He began recording this CD right after the terminal diagnosis, while he still had the energy. Finishing was not easy; he had to be pushed into the studio in his wheelchair to record his last song, “Wonderful World.”
Most of the selections are American songbook staples -- Berlin, Gershwin and Porter -- but he included two lovely Kander and Ebb numbers -- “First You Dream” and “Second Chance” -- accompanied by John Kander himself. He also has some special voices backing him up -- the children, who were 6 and 3 at his death, can be heard laughing and singing on a couple of selections and Mujah sings “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” with him.
Mujah has written notes accompanying each song so the children will get to know their father through them. About her duet with her husband, she writes: “We wanted you to hear our voices together so that you can hear how much love there was between us. And yes, the melody does linger on.” Another explanation, for “Hit the Road to Dreamland,” is touching: “When you were babies we used to watch an HBO special called ‘Good Night Moon’ in which Tony Bennett sang this song as a lullaby. Daddy used to sing it to you as you fell asleep, and he wanted to be sure you would keep it forever.”
The CD is dedicated to “any child who has ever had to say goodbye to their Mommy or Daddy too soon, and to anyone who has had to let go of their mate, their love -- their dream.” It is filled with moving black and white and color photos of Daniel with Mujah, Fosco and Ondina, taken by Rob and Lisa Howard between the time Daniel was diagnosed and his surgery.
Not only is the CD a gift to his family and friends -- and all of us who will get to know him through it -- it is a gift to other families whose lives will be shattered by a cancer diagnosis. Proceeds go to Team Continuum because, as Mujah writes, “. . . when someone gets diagnosed with cancer it does not only affect the family emotionally, it disrupts it financially with no end in sight. . . We wanted to give back to Team Continuum because I know where the money raised is going: It’s going to the families when they need it most. Not the the labs, not to the doctors -- to the families. We were one of those families.”
It is so sad that they had to be one of those families, but it’s a blessing to experience this joyful celebration of love. I hope the CD will be ordered far and wide, and that its melody will always linger on.