Paul (Grace) and I learned Here I Go as soon as we got home from our honeymoon in 1976, but never really "worked it up" for performance. After viewing the film An Inconvenient Truth, I decided that it was time to work it up and "get it out there" for the world to hear. I communicated with Bob to make sure our version was true to his intention, as no one else that we knew of seemed to know the song and Bob had not recorded it. I had kept the song up in his mental repertoire by bugging him to play it every time I was in a jam with him - since 1976! He was not well enough to hear the debut of the song at First Night Columbia 2007, but it was very well received, which he was happy to hear.
Through the years, we learned more than 30 of Bob's songs and performed them all over North America. We recorded a Bob Dyer song on every album we made. His songs draw a beautiful picture of our home state and its people, and so when we were performing far away from home, they helped us bring home with us onto the stage. The unique story-telling style of his songs always went over like gang-busters with children and in schools. However, Bob's historical songs were our real bread and butter. Dry history they were NOT! They truly brought history alive. And it was simply not possible to do a River Song Workshop at a folk festival without at least a couple of Bob's songs.
His songs spread far and wide, and almost became traditional! In 1988, we were performing at a festival in northern Michigan, and were listening to an open stage show when the singer said, "Here's an old traditional song," and proceeded to sing Bob's River of the Big Canoes! When we told Bob about it, after setting her straight of course, he was quite amused, but always the pragmatist, wanted to follow up on the royalty situation with her. He was unique in that he had a free-flow of inspired creativity in so many mediums, and yet was able to be pragmatic enough to bring it into reality.
Through the years, I often urged Bob to travel and perform more widely, as I believed so strongly in his talent and wanted more people to hear him. He finally made me understand that he was a homebody and didn't want to spend time on the road by himself, away from his family. I finally accepted that, and from that time on, I felt that part of my mission as performer was to let the world see into the amazing spirit of Bobbie Lee who I am honored to call friend.
When I was just learning to play music, Bob was already a well-respected local musician, and was one of the people who I enthusiastically asked to listen to my radio performance debut on the accordion. The accordion turned out to be much more difficult to perform on than my first instrument, the autoharp, and my debut was embarrassing to put it mildly. I ran into Bob a few days later, and asked him if he had heard me. Unfortunately he had, and somehow in his magical way, he acknowledged that it was pretty bad, but no big deal and I would get better (which I did!). We had a great laugh over it, and I was able to stop kicking myself. Bob was an essential part of who I became as a musician and performer.
I miss Bob, but I find comfort in the knowledge that he was truly ready to put on his spirit wings and leave this world. I am happy to be able to carry on his wise, gentle and yet slightly mischievous spirit through his songs.