“When the horns hit your ear like a kick in the rear, that’s the convoy. “Freedom convoy.”
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A retired Regina schoolteacher and singer-songwriter has captured the frustration of Ottawa residents dealing with the truckers’ protest in a light-hearted reworking of the Dean Martin 1950s classic, That’s Amore.
In the video that Roberta Nichol recorded on her phone earlier this week, which has already racked up more than 27,000 views on YouTube, the 69-year-old woman wears a plaid flannel shirt, dark glasses and backwards baseball cap, setting the scene with a toy tractor in the foreground. She introduces the tune with a guttural “Honk, honk.”
Strumming an acoustic guitar, her clear, strong voice picks up the lilting melody: “When the horns hit your ear like a kick in the rear, that’s the convoy,” she sings sweetly, “Freedom convoy.”
Nichol was inspired to write the new lyrics to the familiar tune last weekend, when she was awakened from a nap on the couch. She lives in Andrew Scheer’s Regina riding, not far from the Saskatchewan Legislative Building, where truckers have been showing up the past two weekends to demonstrate.
“I decided I would have a wee lie down after lunch,” Nichol said in an interview, “But I started waking up after a while and I could hear this weird, blaring noise. I thought, ‘What the heck?’ Then I realized, ‘Oh, for Heaven’s sake, it must be the trucks.’”
She opened the door to confirm her suspicions and was confronted by the noise. “Okay, I’m mad now,” she thought to herself. “I was having a nice sleep; I was like a grumpy bear after hibernation.”
The melody popped into her head and the words began to fall into place. She scrambled for pen and paper, working through the pain of tendonitis in her hand to write down the lyrics and then perform for the camera.
“That’s how driven I was to write this,” Nichol said, adding that she “really feels” for the residents of Ottawa who have been dealing with the truckers’ disruption for two weeks. “This was such a minuscule scale compared to what you folks are going through.”
While the video is collecting more views than Nichol has ever seen for one of her songs, her teacher’s mindset is wondering about the protesters’ childhoods.
“Sometimes when there’s this constant barrage of loud, I have to wonder,” she says. “Were you not heard as a child? Did your parents never listen to you? What happened to you that you feel you have to pound your chest and yell?”
As a Canadian, she finds it embarrassing. “We just don’t act like that,” she says.
Born into a musical family, Nichol has been singing as long as she can remember and playing guitar since she was 14 years old. She was in her teens when she performed at the first Regina Folk Festival in 1969, and counts folk singers like Joan Baez and Buffy Sainte-Marie as major influences on her own songwriting.
When Nichol thinks of freedom, she is reminded of a friend, now deceased, who was forced to attend the former Marieval Indian Residential School on nearby Cowessess First Nation. That’s where the bodies of hundreds of children were found last year.
“That was truly a taking away of freedoms,” Nichol said of the residential school system. “The freedoms of the children, their parents, their grandparents. When you’ve got that happening in your country and you have a problem with a poke in the arm? It boggles the mind.”