“All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise…” This is a line from a popular Beatles tune but could very well refer to Stephen Gomez’s love for music.
“I was young when I realized I wanted to have a life that involved music,” the 68-year-old says. “My father was not happy, but how do I just ignore what I was good at? I just knew I wanted this life.”
He knew he wanted to be a musician since he was a young lad in the 1960s, and this belief stayed all the way into adulthood.
It wasn’t always a life with a happy soundtrack though, says this Beatles fan. There were ups and downs — despite his love for music and performing, he became so disillusioned with the local music industry that he quit playing for a long time.
Two decades would pass before he picked up a guitar again — the musician in him just couldn’t be denied. So, he came back… and this time, it’s for keeps.
These days, he devotes three days a week to music. Stephen would practice with his band on Thursday afternoons, and then go on to play at a club on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Sundays are spent with family and friends. On weekdays, he does housework while his wife goes to work.
“It’s a balance for me. I play music, I meet my friends, I sing, and then on the other days, I do housework, do grocery shopping, or ask my wife if she needs anything. It’s a break from music.” For him, it’s all about finally having balance.
“I would just like to be happy and stay happy. My mum is a living example. She just celebrated her 100th birthday, and the secret is she’s happy. She’s always smiling. She never allows things to eat her up. So, I try to be like my mum — just be happy and smile. And part of that happiness is being able to play music.”
“Yesterday”: When Stephen realized music was life
I’ve loved music since I was a young boy. I remember I was probably in Primary Three or Four, and I’d be looking out the window of the classroom, and there would be a song playing in my head. I’d daydream — and get scolded by the teachers.
Now that I think about it, music was always in our household. My parents could sing. My dad, especially, liked to sing harmony, though he didn’t do lead vocals. I remember when there were weddings in the family, my mother would get together with the ladies in the family and sing. They’d get forks and spoons to use as instruments! Looking back, there definitely was influence from my family.
“The Long and Winding Road”: Getting the band together
My earlier gigs were with a band called The Crystals. We were all members of a church and decided to come together to play music casually. Then, when I was around 22 years old, a friend roped me in to be part of this band performing at one of the bars on Orchard Road as a drummer.
So, I decided to quit my job in the automotive industry and go into music full-time. My father wasn’t happy, and my boss wasn’t happy because I was doing so well. But how do I just ignore my love for music and spend my life not being onstage? I love bringing joy to people through my music. So I stuck to my guns.
“Nowhere Man”: When the music stopped
I was a musician for a long time. I played consistently until 1995 when I realized that the music scene had changed — Singapore was getting too difficult for musicians. I decided to try my hand at several other jobs.
I went into F&B, worked retail, and was also a concierge in a condominium. I sold my guitars — I had no musical instruments at home. I quit music.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”: A change in the scene
The music scene had evolved. There were a lot of changes over the years. Now especially, it can feel like people want to be famous or want to be a copy of somebody or they’re doing it purely for the money.
You have to do your best when you’re up there. In any industry, you must be passionate and do your best, but if you’re just going through the motions or just doing it for the money, it won’t work.
“Got to Get You into My Life”: Music for the people
I think one of the reasons I returned to music in 2015 was because I am a musician at heart — I love singing and playing guitar. It’s my passion. I’m very proud to be on the stage. To me, that’s a sacred space.
And mostly, I think because I just love it and I missed it. When a person writes a song there is meaning to that song, there is a story to tell. I am part of that story. I need to tell that story so that it resonates with the audience.
When I look out at the crowd, I see all these happy faces, and I realise that music can bring so much joy to people — help them forget about their problems even if only for a while — it motivates me to keep going no matter my age.
AIC celebrates the International Day of Older Persons (IDOP) with a spotlight on seniors who don’t let their age define what they can or cannot do.
Read more inspiring stories of seniors breaking stereotypes here: aic.sg/goalden-years
Source: Agency for Integrated Care (AIC).