Victorian Seniors Festival Reimagined 2020

Shirley Billing - Week 18

 

Bec Reid

Hello, I'm Bec Reid, and welcome to the Victorian Seniors Festival Reimagined and really in the groove in 2020. This week, we're exploring all things a little bit kooky, and we are so delighted that this next artist was given a ukulele by her very wise mother when she was just a young girl. She's a ukulele maestro and she has created an original song just for us here at the festival. It's the one and only, Melbourne's beloved, Shirley Billing.

Shirley Billing

Hey, hi.

Bec Reid

Shirley, what's the ukulele you got there?

Shirley Billing

It's a midlife crisis instrument of choice. I've been playing since I was eight years old. My mum gave me a ukulele for my 8th birthday. I think I wrote a song called There's A Koala in the Tree, continued writing many great songs about animals and places and possibly Hey Mr Tambourine Man. It was my key to freedom and independence.

Bec Reid

Shirley, can you tell us what kooky means for your artistic practice?

Shirley Billing

I often feel like I'm an artist in residence and I've got the best job in the world, really, and I do singing and painting and visit as an elder clown and just meeting people where they are. You know, just I enjoy being with people where they are and finding out about their life and whether they were born on the kitchen table or in the bedroom, because a lot of people of that generation were born at home. It's endlessly fascinating. I've heard it said that older people are the toughest audience and I think that might be because sometimes they fall asleep. There's the very important part of acknowledging where we are and what's happening to us and what's happened to our lives and - and, of course, an aged care home is often the last home that people live in and they're aware of that, and that brings with it a whole lot of unique circumstances and considerations, and you have to have an open heart and a lot of kindness and a lot of patience and I just want to really pay tribute to our elders because not everyone gets to get old. I'd like to introduce the next song now. It's called The Lonely Cowgirl.

Whoa. Steady on. Easy. Ringo, you're a good horse. It's been a long day in the saddle. Time you had a lie down. Oops. I'm going to sing a song.

[Shirley singing and playing the ukelele]

I wish I could be beautiful like you

I'm as plain as toast. I know it's true

Even if you spice me up with jam, I'm still mutton dressed as ham

I walk across the street, no one turns

I dance in someone's arms, but no one's there

Stay at home each night and keep myself nice

What's the point because nobody looks twice

I'm just a lonely cowgirl

Cowgirl who's lost her crown

I'm just a lonely cowgirl (Moo)

I'm the loneliest cowgirl in town

(Who are you?) I'm the loneliest cowgirl in town

(Who are you?) I'm the loneliest cowgirl in town

I'm the loneliest cowgirl in town

I'm the loneliest cowgirl in town

Come on, George, let's go home. Take care.

 

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After growing up on her family’s farm in South Gippsland, Shirley Billing had a crack at getting a ‘proper job’, but soon decided joining a travelling circus was more her style.
‘The circus was pretty wild. It was a fun, interesting creative ride,’ Shirley Billing says. 

 

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Victorian Seniors Festival Reimagined 2020

Shirley Billing - Week 18

 

Bec Reid

Hello, I'm Bec Reid, and welcome to the Victorian Seniors Festival Reimagined and really in the groove in 2020. This week, we're exploring all things a little bit kooky, and we are so delighted that this next artist was given a ukulele by her very wise mother when she was just a young girl. She's a ukulele maestro and she has created an original song just for us here at the festival. It's the one and only, Melbourne's beloved, Shirley Billing.

Shirley Billing

Hey, hi.

Bec Reid

Shirley, what's the ukulele you got there?

Shirley Billing

It's a midlife crisis instrument of choice. I've been playing since I was eight years old. My mum gave me a ukulele for my 8th birthday. I think I wrote a song called There's A Koala in the Tree, continued writing many great songs about animals and places and possibly Hey Mr Tambourine Man. It was my key to freedom and independence.

Bec Reid

Shirley, can you tell us what kooky means for your artistic practice?

Shirley Billing

I often feel like I'm an artist in residence and I've got the best job in the world, really, and I do singing and painting and visit as an elder clown and just meeting people where they are. You know, just I enjoy being with people where they are and finding out about their life and whether they were born on the kitchen table or in the bedroom, because a lot of people of that generation were born at home. It's endlessly fascinating. I've heard it said that older people are the toughest audience and I think that might be because sometimes they fall asleep. There's the very important part of acknowledging where we are and what's happening to us and what's happened to our lives and - and, of course, an aged care home is often the last home that people live in and they're aware of that, and that brings with it a whole lot of unique circumstances and considerations, and you have to have an open heart and a lot of kindness and a lot of patience and I just want to really pay tribute to our elders because not everyone gets to get old. I'd like to introduce the next song now. It's called The Lonely Cowgirl.

Whoa. Steady on. Easy. Ringo, you're a good horse. It's been a long day in the saddle. Time you had a lie down. Oops. I'm going to sing a song.

[Shirley singing and playing the ukelele]

I wish I could be beautiful like you

I'm as plain as toast. I know it's true

Even if you spice me up with jam, I'm still mutton dressed as ham

I walk across the street, no one turns

I dance in someone's arms, but no one's there

Stay at home each night and keep myself nice

What's the point because nobody looks twice

I'm just a lonely cowgirl

Cowgirl who's lost her crown

I'm just a lonely cowgirl (Moo)

I'm the loneliest cowgirl in town

(Who are you?) I'm the loneliest cowgirl in town

(Who are you?) I'm the loneliest cowgirl in town

I'm the loneliest cowgirl in town

I'm the loneliest cowgirl in town

Come on, George, let's go home. Take care.