Diggin’: Spencer Branch – Things In Life

inDiggin'on May 4, 2016

“Things in Life” by Don Stover, sung here in beautiful harmony by Kelley Breiding and Martha Spencer with simple accompaniment is a sentimental reflection on life’s only guarantee, its expiration. At Music Maker, we have the privilege of working with spectacular human beings in the twilight of their lives. It is heartening and inspiring to see the passion they put toward life, music and relationships as death looms on the horizon. The other theme that appears in “Things in Life” is longing. Perhaps, the idea of an afterlife can be distilled into the longing to one-day reunite with our departed loved ones.

Spencer Branch and Boo Hanks were scheduled to do a show together this June. While that will no longer happen due to Boo’s recent death, this song speaks to Boo’s generous human spirit that will live on through his own music:


Boo Hanks passed away last week at 88 years old. Corn and I had the chance to visit him a few months back. It was the last of many visits to his humble home in Buffalo Junction, Virginia, though we didn’t know it at the time. Boo very matter-of-factly told us that he was “getting up in years and he wouldn’t be around for long.” He told us that his head was free of worry and that he was ready. These were difficult words to comprehend standing on the other side, as a young man and as Boo’s friend and devotee.


big ron-3

L to R Dom Flemons & Boo Hanks


Boo lived his life with honesty, integrity and devotion. His greatest pleasure was sharing his musical talent with revelers anywhere, in his living room or onstage at the Lincoln center, it didn’t matter to him. Every time he finished a song, he’d drop his forearm on the strings, hunch over and look mischievously out at his audience from under the brim of his straw hat.


I took Boo to countless shows all over the country, it was my job to give him the “one last song” cue to finish his set, and I learned quickly that his last song was only the precursor to a lengthy gospel medley followed by a plea to buy his CDs in the form of “One Dime Blues.” It was always a tug-of-war between the two of us to get him off the stage, something the crowd loved. He adored an audience and he wanted to give them everything he had.


Physically helping him to maneuver on and off the stage meant I was close enough to him to hear his muffled grunts and moans at the excruciating pain from his knees, worn out from years of body-degrading farm labor. He never complained, just chalked it up to aging and remarked on the many good years he had.


Back home, Boo had a standing gig at a home for seniors in Nelson, Virginia. He took great pride in this gig and I am sure the residents there will miss him greatly. Boo knew his music was a public service and he cherished the opportunity to bring joy into the lives of the residents there. He, often older than more than half of his audience members, felt empathy for these folks and used his musical blessings to brighten their days.


Boo’s daughter told me that recently, Boo told her that he wanted for nothing, to which she responded with a smile, “You have nothing!”


He didn’t care: things were not important to him. He had peace with his god and he had music to share and that was enough. I will always remember the kindness that he showed me throughout our time together and the many lessons he taught me through both his word and his actions. Boo truly did his best and, as the song says, I hope we meet again someday.


While Boo and Spencer Branch’s show is postponed until another dimension, enjoy Spencer Branch’s version of this beautiful song.


— Aaron Greenhood (Artist Services Coordinator)

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