Rockland native's affection for hometown goes global in song

By Staff | Jun 17, 2010
Photo by: Aaron Robinson Ervin Robinson in his hometown of Rockland.

Ervin Robinson is driving old memories around the globe, courtesy of his "Rockland Maine Song," which has been wildly received, both by local cable television channels and on YouTube.

At its core, the video and song -- "Driving Old Memories, the Rockland Maine Song" -- is a tribute to the city of Rockland, as evoked through Ervin's melodious voice, and through the camera lens and musical professionalism of his son Aaron, who created the video and put the words to music.

The song appeals to Rockland natives especially, no matter where they live, drawing Internet hits from Alaska, Canada, Brazil, Russia, England and the desert of Iraq, where Rockland troops are stationed.

"Driving Old Memories" tells the story of singer Ervin Robinson, as he drives through the town in which he was born and remembers the past when he was a boy. Together with his son, conductor and composer Aaron, the two songwriters bring the past alive and honor the memory of those gone before.

There's a little bit of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams in it, too, as the past is visited, the decades of the 1940s and 1950s, and all that the area, and country, were then.

"My father was born in Rockland in 1945," said Aaron. "The family, as did many, moved all over town from place to place, house to house, street to street: Cedar Street, Front Street, Autumn Street. My father attended every school -- South School, McLain School, the old high school, and even Rockland High (he was the first graduating class)."

Ervin retired in 2000, and it was then he began driving around town, visiting the spots he remembered as a boy.

"What developed from these trips over several years was a deep reconnection with his youth," said Aaron. "Every face and place had taken on a very sentimental and nostalgic feeling. It brought up many emotions and memories of relatives, friends and times."

As he made his rounds, the thoughts turned to melody. He remembered a song by Hank Snow with a particular chord change that he liked. So one day this past winter, while standing in line to get a hot dog at Wasses, he turned to Aaron and said, "I'm writing a song ...."

"He'd never written a song in his life but since my profession was in the music industry, he wanted my input," said Aaron. "He sang just five notes, and the words 'driving old memories.' That's all he had. But he knew what he wanted, so I told him I'd help write it with him."

Aaron is a professional musician, having worked, conducted, arranged and composed in every genre of music: Broadway, film, television, sacred, choral, classical and jazz. But he had never written a country song.

"So I told him, 'Take me on one of your rounds, and tell me about the places ....,'" Aaron said. "Two months later, and several dozen trips, what I experienced was a priceless gift. My father showed me hundreds of spots throughout Rockland, every corner, every street, every house, empty parking lots that were once houses, Main Street restaurants that were once storefronts, even every tree and bush, some still standing, had a story. Rockland was and is literally my father's childhood life realized."

Working at night, Aaron assembled the stories and set them to verse. He also listened to country artists his father admired, and slowly created a melody that would marry with the lyrics.

"We whittled and whittled until his life was sculpted perfectly into a three verse, one chorus song," Aaron said.

"My father had never recorded anything in his life and he didn't even know what YouTube was," said Aaron. "And now, he's being recognized just walking down the street that he walked for nearly 65 years. This song brought me closer to my father in a way that could have never happened. Music was the bridge that linked his past to my future. Out of all my achievements over the past 25 years in music, from Broadway to symphony halls, this one song has given me the most reward."

Ervin, a boy who played pool in the community center, ran all over town, grew up in a small fishing village, worked as a police officer, left for the service from the corner at the end of Main Street, and then returned to marry, is now a man full of Rockland memories.

He looks in the window and sees a white beard; yet what he really sees is the boy from the 1940s.

"I can safely say that I do not look at Rockland the same as I did before this song," said Aaron. "It will never look the same again. Maybe someday I'll drive through the same town with my son and share all the same memories, and perhaps some of my own of my dad and me."



Comments (1)
Posted by: Shirley A. Allen | Aug 06, 2015 09:04

Thank you so much! Don't live here anymore, but have family and friends that I visit. When I'm there I also drive around, looking, and seeing how thing's have changed. Still was so much better when we were young!Of course being young was the best thing! LOL (you & your son did a wonderful job! Congratulations! (need a cd of song!) 

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