This Dave Barry column was originally published January 19, 1997
To be honest, I had completely forgotten that in a former life I was Mozart. You know how certain things tend to slip your mind, like where you left your car keys, or the fact that you used to be a brilliant Austrian composer who died in 1791? Well, that's exactly what happened to me.
I was reminded of my former life recently when I received a book called Spirit at Work , by Lois Grant, who has had a number of former lives. (I realize that some of you may be skeptical about the idea of reincarnation, but there's a lot of evidence that it's real. Exhibit A is Vice President Al Gore, who obviously, at some point in his previous existence, was a slab of Formica.)
Besides having been reincarnated, Lois Grant is in close personal touch with many spiritual entities, including her deceased cat, Fluffernut, and the Archangel Michael, who has written a nice blurb for the cover of Spirit at Work , which he calls "a key to the rebirth of the planet." (I myself have never gotten a blurb quite that positive, although one of my books was described as being "heavy on the booger jokes, " which is similar.)
Anyway, it turns out that one whole chapter of Spirit at Work is devoted to some correspondence that Lois Grant and I had back in 1991. It began when she wrote me a long letter, in which she said that she had been asking herself the question -- I bet you've asked this question many times -- "Where is Mozart now?" So she decided to contact Joya Pope, who serves as a "channeler" for a spiritual entity named Michael, who is "a group of 1,050 souls who have completed their cycle of lives on the Earth." (Sounds like the U.S. Congress!)
Through Joya -- who according to the book "is available for channeling by telephone" -- Lois Grant asked Michael about the current whereabouts of Mozart. The answer was: "He is a writer living in Florida." On a hunch, Lois Grant sent Joya a photograph of me from the newspaper, and the answer came back that the current reincarnation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is none other than -- you guessed it -- Wayne Newton.
No, seriously, according to Lois Grant, Joya/Michael says that I used to be Mozart. I was quite surprised to learn this, and you would have been, too, if you had seen me take piano lessons. This was in 1956, when the piano teacher, a woman named Mrs. Ugly Old Bat, used to come to my house every Saturday on her broom and point out to my mother that I apparently had not been practicing.
This was of course true. I was 9 years old, and I had better things to do with my time than sit around staring at a music book filled with tiny inscrutable black marks and trying to figure out which ones corresponded with which specific keys on the piano. As far as I was concerned, our piano had WAY too many keys on it anyway. I would have much preferred a piano with a total of two large keys, one white and one black; or maybe even just one really large gray key, so you'd never have any doubt which one you were supposed to hit.
But our piano had THOUSANDS of keys, stretching out for approximately a mile in either direction, and if I didn't hit exactly the right one , Mrs. Bat would make a federal case out of it. She'd stand over my shoulder and harangue me about sharps and flats for an HOUR -- and in those days a Saturday hour was the equivalent of 53 weekday hours -- until finally she'd give up and go outside to catch moths for dinner.
In other words, I was not a natural piano student, in stark contrast to Mozart, a brilliant musical prodigy who by age 9 had already composed his classic work Porgy and Bess . I did eventually take up the guitar, and I even played in a band in college, but we didn't play complicated music. We played songs like Land of 1,000 Dances, which only has one chord, namely, "E." In fact, a lot of our songs basically consisted of "E." Usually we'd play "E" for an hour or so, then we'd take a 15-minute break, during which we'd change over to "A."
So even though Lois Grant seemed to be a nice, sincere person, I frankly doubted that I had ever been Mozart, and I pretty much forgot about our correspondence until I received my copy of Spirit at Work and saw the chapter in there about me. I began to wonder: What if I really was the reincarnation of Mozart? I mean, I don't want to get too spiritual here, but if Joya/Michael is correct -- if I really am the embodiment of one of the greatest musical minds in history -- then anytime anybody plays any Mozart music, I should get royalties, right? So just to be on the safe side, if you use any of my songs -- The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, Summertime, Happy Birthday, Mony Mony, etc. -- I'd appreciate it if you'd send me a check. Make it out to Dave "Wolfgang" Barry.
(c) Dave Barry
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