With retirement staring him in the face, Allan Markin was wondering what the next stage in his life would consist of.
That is, until the staff he worked with at Okanagan University College gave him a guitar.
“I have reinvented myself in my old age and I really thank people14 for encouraging me and for the support. Life doesn’t end when you retire but you really have to choose what you like to do and what has meaning for you,” said Markin, whose stage name is Dr. Eclectic.
The result is his first CD, which he is celebrating with a release party at Fibonacci Roastery and Cafe on Sunday at 2 p.m.
He will be joined by the Occasional All Stars as they perform some of the 10 original songs off his album What Golden Years?
This mix of tunes explores themes related to aging and people who live on the margins of society. Dr. Eclectic likes to call his music post-academic blues with touches of country and folk.
“I love blues. I have always loved the blues because of the tone and angst it conveys,” said Markin. “I like a lot of the down and out songs, not because I am a miserable guy but because they are the kind of songs that are not complicated and grab you where they should.”
Blues For the Golden Years is a song Markin said he is most proud of. He said it came from when he attended university and he would walk past what in those days was called “an old folks home.” He said the staff would line up the seniors in their wheelchairs to take in the sunshine.
“They would just be sitting there. That image stuck with me for almost 50 years. Basically I asked myself when people walk by these folks do they even notice them? Do they think about what kind of life they may have had?” said Markin.
All the songs on his album aren’t quite as insightful. Especially with lyrics like, “love them until my face turns blue, I’ll even appear on the Springer show to prove my love is true.”
“I always wanted to write a parody of a country song. You know, the she got the gold mine I got the shaft type. So, I wrote Gonna Love You To Death If It Kills Me. A lot of my songs show a fair bit of humour,” said Markin.
Above all, Markin loves telling stories in his songs. In Ballad of Hallway Harry he does just that.
“That comes from my meeting an older gentleman in a care home in the Fraser Valley. I was out visiting family and this man kept going up and down the hallway in his wheelchair. He had dementia and every time he came up to me he would stop, stare me in the eyes and say ‘I’m a given’er hell tonight.’”
While part of his re-inventing was about chasing his passion, for Markin, it was also about being able to share that with others. It is why all the proceeds raised, after expenses, from the $15 album will go towards a cause close to his heart. Since 2003 Markin and his wife have been raising funds for an orphanage in Yasnaya Polyana in Russia. Funds he raises from performing at public and private events all go towards this and a transition house for young men from the orphanage who are ex-cons that are rehabilitated but have nowhere to go.
There will be a cover charge of $5 to Sunday’s album release party and performance at Fibonacci’s, but expect to see Markin busking at the Farmer’s Market soon.
“I haven’t busked before in my life but it is good because you can do your own thing or I’ll take requests. There was a time when I knew 400 songs from memory and even if I didn’t know them I would make them up as I went along,” said Markin with a laugh.