The memory of a legend lives on. Toronto, provided a send off worthy of a hero last Saturday, a send off forever etched in our psyche. As one of the thousands who lined up to pay tribute to Dr. Oscar Peterson, I will remember the spirit of camaraderie and joy possessed by the attendees, all reflecting on the influence of Oscar’s work.
Those of us in line simply knew of him, listened to his albums, saw him play, attended or worked at the University he lectured at.
Unfortunately, many in this crowd would be disappointed.I came pretty close to being one of them, but the sense of unity, the essence of diversity, that feeling of pride will be most remembered about that day, for it’s the most accurate representation of who Oscar was.
His story as told by jazz icons Quincy Jones and Nancy Wilson is one of a talented, hardworking, charismatic individual, a credit to the world of Jazz as well as Canada. Governor General, Michaelle Jean provided the opening address, describing a warmhearted gentleman, proud of his community and proud of his roots.
An island themed rendition by the CBC’s Gregory Charles was an engaging and unique homage again showcasing not only Peterson’s diversity but Canada’s as well. The most moving tribute came from Oscar’s 16 year old daughter, Celine Peterson. She described her father as a role model, a friend, a motivator; amusingly, one who wore her dresses, a man who gave her the opportunity to travel the world, a father she someday wanted to walk her down the aisle.
It became clear to me that while we mourned the death of genius, those of us familiar with losing a parent at a tender age will realize that Celine’s loss is all the more heartrending, for it’s the time when you most need a father, when you most need his strength. With this in mind, many of the evenings contributors offered their support to Celine Peterson and the rest of the Peterson clan.
Being surrounded by Canadians of all classes, creeds and colour, from Adrienne Clarkson to Lincoln Alexander from Valerie Pringle to Measha Brueggergosman. I knew that this was a life changing tribute, a clear demonstration that one can unite, affect, as well as entertain all people by being Simply the Best.