Their Last Song

Most of us have heard about the orchestra that continued to play aboard the Titanic as she sank on April 15, 1912. Rather than abandon their instruments and try to save themselves, each member of the 8-piece orchestra chose to stay and play for the passengers as long as they were able. The youngest, a Frenchman named Roger Bricoux, was 20 years old. The oldest, 33-year-old Wallace Hartley, served as the leader of the group.


Titanic’s White Star Line did not employ the orchestra directly. They worked for a firm from Liverpool called C.W. and F.N. Black, which placed orchestras on all the British ocean liners. During the Titanic’s voyage, the eight musicians were usually divided into a quintet and a trio, playing for first and second class passengers in various rooms of the ship. After the ship hit the iceberg and the order came for the lifeboats to be filled, the orchestra members joined together. They hoped to calm the passengers by playing popular dance tunes.

titanic from lifeboat

As the last lifeboat was lowered to the water and the ship continued to sink, the orchestra played on. Many survivors recalled hearing the music, even from the lifeboats. Some were certain the orchestra’s last song was Nearer My God to Thee. Others recalled hearing the song Autumn before the ship’s stern rose out of the water and plunged beneath the Atlantic. Regardless, the fact remains that all eight members of the orchestra died at their posts. Only two of their bodies were recovered, including Wallace Hartley’s. He is buried in Colne, Lancashire, England, where he was born.

Ruth Becker, the main character in my yet-to-be-published novel, is a budding violinist who happens to meet Wallace Hartley and the rest of the orchestra during the voyage. Their friendship and courage in the end have a profound affect on Ruth. I hope to be able to share her story soon.

That Motown Sound

I’m changing things up this week and jumping to a time period many of us remember. I’m also going to tell you how you can win two free books! The books are brand-new, recently released Christian romance novels. But first, join me as we look back at an exciting time for the music industry in Detroit. Stop! In the Name of Love, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Reach Out I’ll Be There, My Girl...The list of hit songs goes on and on, all produced and recorded in Detroit at Motown Records. Started in 1959 by Barry Gordy with $800, the first group to record for Motown Records was Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, while Smokey was still in high school. Their #1 hit, Shop Around, led the way for Motown Records to become the top seller of hit singles in the country by the mid-60s. The Motown Sound was fun, sophisticated, and recognizable. Many of the artists were drawn from Detroit’s working class neighborhoods. Among them were Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Jackson 5, and an eleven-year-old blind boy named Little Stevie Wonder.


Motown Records began in a modest white house on Woodward Avenue that Barry Gordy converted to a studio. He hung a sign over the door that read, Hitsville USA. He soon purchased the house next door, adding a round-the-clock recording studio, booking agency, music publishing department, and room to practice the well-known Motown stage choreography. Artists were also given lessons in etiquette and media relations. Gordy later moved the company to an office building in downtown Detroit, and eventually opened an office in Los Angeles, but Hitsville USA remained known as Studio A. He sold Motown Records in 1988.

hitsville usa

Today, Hitsville USA is filled with memorabilia from Motown’s heyday. My family and I had the opportunity to visit last summer. On our tour, music filled the rooms as our knowledgeable guide took us back to the day when Diana Ross answered the phones in between rehearsals and Stevie Wonder bought candy bars from the old vending machine. Then we stood in the original recording studio near the grand piano and sang along to My Girl as it played through the speakers. I could almost see the Temptations swaying in time at the microphones.


Now, are you ready to win two free books? All you have to do is answer the following question in the comment section, and your name will go in the drawing for the books. I’ll leave you a reply if you win, and you can send me an email with your mailing address. Now for the question: What’s your favorite Motown song or group? (Mine is You Can't Hurry Love by the Supremes.) Thanks for stopping in!