Sidney man wows audiences after singing for first time at age 80
SIDNEY, B.C. -- Holly and Malcolm are walking along the waterfront in the midst of an unexpected journey.
“I was a shirt and tie guy in the oil business,” Malcolm explains of his former self. “(It was) work, work, work.”
“He’s a guy,” Holly explains. “He doesn’t react super strong to things.”
But all that changed when they travelled to Portugal, stopped at a club, and Malcolm experienced traditional Fado music for the first time.
“The very first song that Malcolm heard resonated right here,” Holly says, putting her hand over heart.
“I said to the club owner, ‘I want to come back in two years and sing Portuguese songs for my 80th birthday,” Malcolm says, matter-of-factly.
The thing was — the then 78-year-old was not musical and had never sung before.
“Oh yeah,” Holly laughs about her husband’s sudden proclamation. “That’s Malcolm!”
Holly says Malcolm practised five hours a day for the next two years, before returning to Portugal to — despite some trepidation — perform five songs publicly.
“Oh, that night was magical,” Holly recalls with a sigh.
They have video of Malcolm performing Fado that night, accompanied by a local musician on guitar. It is remarkable that an 80-year-old — with no prior experience — was able to sing the foreign lyrics and complex melodies so well.
“When the song was done, they were quite responsive,” Malcolm says of the locals’ enthusiastic applause. “So, that kind of encourages you to keep going.”
When they returned home, Malcolm yearned to sing more. He started focusing on the Sinatra songs from his youth, while studying with jazz singer Maureen Washington.
“He was so happy when he’d come back from his music lessons,” Holly says. “So, when we travel, he’s like, ‘I’ve got to go practice Holly.’”
So — no matter where they were — Malcolm would take his iPod full of instrumental music and start singing on the street. The 80-year-old ended up busking more than 35 times all over Europe.
In one video (where he sounds just like Sinatra) you can hear an audience member yelling out ‘nice voice!’
When the pandemic stopped their travel plans, Malcolm decided to start singing in his driveway to recognize frontline workers. He performed every day — rain or shine — for more than four months.
That led to his current concert series.
Every day, just before noon, the almost-82-year-old wheels his speaker and microphone along the waterfront walkway in Sidney. When he gets to the statue of the scuba diver, he sets up his equipment and puts up a sign that says, ‘Singing for Smiles.’
Malcolm spends an hour performing about 20 of the 150 songs he now knows by heart.
“Age isn’t a criteria for this. If you have an interest and a passion, pursue it,” Malcolm says. “There’s no reason why anybody couldn’t do this.”
“Go do it and don’t let yourself stand in your way,” Holly adds. “I think we all do better if we have a sense of purpose.”
And after a lifetime of not making music, Malcolm is now purposely inspiring countless smiles with his timeless songs.