Annette Hughes with her partner Geoffrey Datson.
Annette Hughes with her partner Geoffrey Datson.

Song a haunting tribute to mother impacted by Alzheimer's

IN THE 1960s, singer-songwriter Annette Hughes' parents were ballroom dancers gliding across Brisbane City's famous Cloudland Ballroom floor.

They danced at weddings and parties like "Fred and Ginger", Annette recalled.

Although Alzheimer's stole many things from her mother, she kept her memories of old songs to the last.

On the day Annette recorded this soft, gentle, haunting song in memory of her parents, she received a phone call from her father advising that her mother had been admitted to full-time care.

This is a truly beautiful song - it is a tribute to Annette's parents who will celebrate their 60-year long marriage next month in February

Listen to it, sing to it, be gentle with it.

Love it.


We all know the words to that old Banjo Paterson song about the ill-fated sheep and the unfortunate swagman by a billabong, but that story is missing something, according to Sunshine Coast author and singer-songwriter Annette Hughes.

"I wondered what the guy had to be jolly about? The life of an itinerant worker at the turn of the 19th century was nothing to sing about.

"It was a time not unlike our own, with a vast gap between rich and poor which saw many homeless men on the road trying to beg, steal or borrow a living in the bush," Annette said.

"Set in the first verse of the original, before the arrival of the squatter and his troopers, this is the song I imagine him singing - the reason he is so happy."


Co-writer Geoffrey Datson said: "It was an interesting song writing process.

"The lyrics wind around a loop of music I selected from a recording of a jam with our sometime drummer, Dave Bonnefoy. I rediscovered it while going through old tapes.

"Annette's lyrics, full of love and loss and longing for reconnection and resolution, just seemed to emerge fully formed."

Hughes added: "Originally, I imagined the clip for this song being filmed in an old wooden country hall, starring my mum and dad.

"They were ballroom dancers at Brisbane's Cloudland. As a child in the '60s, to see my father spin mum around the floor at family weddings was a marvel - just like Fred and Ginger - but when Mum descended into Alzheimer's it was too late.

"The day I recorded the vocals was extremely difficult. We were set to go when Dad rang to say they had a place for Mum in full-time care.

"He was crushed by having to give her up. It broke his heart. She loved the old songs - her favourite songs were the last memories to go.

"Long after she forgot me, we could still sing songs together. This song is dedicated to them and their 60-year marriage."


Geofrey Datson and Annette Hughes make up local songwritIng team and psychedelic folk duo Datson+Hughes.

Last year they released their EP Whispering Highway. Now, they have "packed up their books and clothes" and will spend most of 2017 on the road in the lead up to the release of their debut album in late 2017.

Catch them on the Pacific and Hume Highway legs of the year-long tour during March, April and May.


Datson+Hughes in concert at the Bison Bar, Nambour, on Wednesday, January 25.

Guest artists Eb'n'Flo will also play their raw cigar box blues.

Tickets are $10. Doors open at 6.30pm or earlier, show time is 7.30pm.

Launch patrons will receive a free download of the song.


March 18 - Brisbane

TBC - Murwillumbah

TBC - Taree/Forster (potentially April 3/4)

April 8 - Newcastle

April 9 - Marrickville

April 13-17 - National Folk Festival, Canberra

April 15 & 17 - Canberra

April 29 - Northcote

For more details visit

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