In 2008, the wife of Chris Bousquet’s friend died suddenly. He realized how quickly someone’s world can fall apart, and wondered how anyone can move on after such a tragedy.
The singer-songwriter — he led High Lonesome Plains, and has performed with Roger McGuinn, John Sebastian, Asleep at the Wheel, the Nields, the Turtles and J. Geils — started to write a song about all that.
It didn’t go anywhere. “I was maybe too close to it,” he says. “Or maybe it was not really my song to write.”
A couple of months later, he read about Westport oysterman Alan Sterling, and his boat Gloria (named for an old girlfriend). Bousquet calls it “a profoundly moving story of grief, continual struggle, and the simple triumph of carrying on.”
Having grown up in Clinton, Connecticut, Bousquet always found the sea to be “ethereal and transcendent.” Staring out at the water, he believes in the interconnectedness of all things. So when Sterling noted in the story that a gull might be Gloria watching over him, Bousquet understood.
The sea can be warm and caressing, but also brutal. “Alan was well aware of the cold and raw, but it didn’t blind him to the beauty,” Bousquet says. Inspired, he reworked his old song into a new one: “Gloria.”
Bousquet never met Sterling in person. He thought about sharing the song with him, but felt it was presumptuous. Sterling died last July 4. Now, Bousquet wishes he had told the oysterman what an inspiration he’d been.
“He made me appreciate my life — and my wife! — even more,” Bousquet says. “I don’t mean to sound trite. But he reminded me to head out on my proverbial boat, and sail on each day.”
The song was supposed to be part of a compilation CD a few years back. It didn’t happen. But it’s one of his most popular songs during his live performances. Bousquet cherishes the connections “Gloria” allows him to make with audiences.
Now, Bousquet has re-recorded it. It will be on an EP to be released this spring.
But, he says, if any of Alan’s friends want to do something with it, he’ll be glad to help.
“The best songs are the ones that feel like they came from some place outside myself,” Bousquet says. “Like in some sense that gull came down to guide me too — and lead me home.”
(Click here to listen to Chris Bousquet’s haunting song “Gloria.”)