It started as a casual remark, a vague notion, six years ago. A glass of wine, a late night and the comfort of relaxed companionship made us explore something neither of us had contemplated before. ‘What if?’ changed to ‘why not?’ and we smiled and said ‘maybe’.
Time rolled by. Words trickled on to the computer screen, ever so slowly at first, but later – when the situation changed – it became an unstoppable torrent. A lot has changed: we’re both older, maybe wiser, and an unwelcome diagnosis clouded the horizon.
Randall Wicomb is a biographer’s dream. He remembers details with such clarity that it creates vivid pictures for a writer to put to words. He is accurate, honest and humorous. Add to that a lifetime of highs and lows, the influence of politics on his life and the many people that have had an impact on his life, and you have a heady mix of humor and tragedy.
Now, at last, the book is on the shelf. Brilliantly edited by Daleen Malan, I am proud of the final product.
The launch on the 14th October was memorable for many reasons. Leone Pitts arranged an evening that will remain with me forever. It had all the glitz and glamour a writer can wish for – and more. Randall was the star of the show and entertained the guests with his music and words. The ATKV (the organisation for the preservation and promotion of Afrikaans) honoured him during the evening – in recognition for not only his years in the Afrikaans entertainment business, but also for the remarkable work he’s done in preserving the music and words of previous generations.
The book also explores Randall’s family life, something that had to be done with brutal honesty. The breakup of his marriage meant the end of the Randall-an-Koba duo, one of the most loved and admired couples in the South African music scene. Their three children were interviewed and contributed additional insight in to their family life. Now, with the launch, it was a privilege to see Koba and the daughters there. Once again, like at the launch in Pretoria, Koba joined Randall on stage. It had been a long twenty years since their last performance…
The event was graced by the presence of Rosalie and Adam Small. What an honour it was to meet them there! Adam did, of course, write the introduction to the book; but that was all done via e-mails. The Small couple lives up to their name only in physical stature – Adam’s contribution to South African literature is undeniably huge. Rosalie, the quiet power behind the throne, is the subject of a recent column by Adam. This endearing piece appeared in the Cape Times, and is well worth reading.
Johan Rademan was the MC for the night. As a famous radio personality he needed no introduction and he navigated the audience through a most entertaining program with considerable skill and consummate ease. His interview with Randall illustrated why he is such a popular voice on the radio. Poignant and funny, but to the point, the conversation had audience spellbound while he guided Randall through some of the incidents in the book.
The catering by Hester Hoogendijk was superb while Distell sponsored the wine. There were reporters and TV crews. And, most important of all, there were the fans, the friends and the family of a man whose life touched them all. I’ll remember the night as one of kindness, compassion and many smiles. It passed all too quickly. Then again: that’s the nature of life, isn’t it? However, knowing that books tend to have a longer lifespan than the conventional three-score-and-ten, there is some consolation in imagining the the words on the pages are alive and well and living on bookstore shelves, waiting to tell you a story of triumph and heartbreak.
It has wings…let it fly!