• Céline Peterson

Not Everything is 'Black + White'

Updated: Feb 11

I have been going back and forth in my mind about the notion that, on certain occasions, silence speaks louder than words. Personally, I do try very hard to be purposeful in the things that I share especially when they can affect others. For a while now, I’ve found myself wanting to say some things publicly but I have refrained from doing so because, first and foremost, I do not want to hurt anyone in the process. I also want to make sure that what I say serves a purpose. So, I ultimately decided that I wanted to shed some light on certain things with the hope that not only will I feel lighter, but that it will also give others a chance to explore a different perspective.

Recently, there was a film that was released about my dad that received some attention here in Canada. With plans for an international release in the works it will, at some point, receive attention internationally. I feel that now would be a good time for me to offer a glimpse into a different perspective regarding projects that involve my dad.

I’m a daughter. I’m a daughter before anything else. I went through the loss of my dad when I was sixteen. While the loss of my dad also meant the loss of a world-renowned and highly respected public figure with a 65-year career, to me it was just the loss of my dad that caused my world to come crashing down around me.

None of us can choose the life scenarios that we are born into. While I am immensely proud to be the daughter of Oscar Peterson, the scenario I was born into forces me to share my dad with countless people around the world. It is something that continues to be challenging for me, even though I have endless respect for the fact that dad is beloved by so many people spanning all generations. It brings me a great deal of happiness to know how much joy my dad has given people over the years. It brought him unparalleled happiness to know that he was touching people’s lives. Whether they were in the audience at a show, playing a record at home, or playing along with his performances, if he could bring even a few minutes of brightness to someone’s day he was content. He was, as well, very much fuelled by his own expectations of himself. He spoke both publicly and privately about not solely playing to feed the audience but playing to feed himself and the people with whom he shared the stage with. His expectations for himself and therefore also for his bandmates, were exceptionally high. Arguably, they were unattainably high unless you were the best of the best, and he was, as were the people he chose to play with.

That high bar applied also to the projects he would or would not participate in. So, what happens when he isn’t here to make decisions about how his name, likeness, and music are used or how his story is told? From my perspective, when that happens painful things occur. As his daughter and someone who will always have a sense of fierce protection when it comes to her dad, it is painful for me to see outsiders use him to further their own agendas, especially when it is publicly masked under false intentions.

There have been more instances like this in my life than I care to reflect on. That isn’t why I’m sharing this. I’m sharing this because I think it will be beneficial for anyone reading this to understand that when there are certain projects that I do not wish to be a part of for whatever my reasons may be, I don’t have the luxury of just ignoring it. These projects see the light of day regardless of my consent or agreement and there will always be people – dad’s fans or otherwise – who are excited about them; I am not here to force others to feel the way that I feel. I do not expect people to refrain from having excitement just because I don’t or even understand why I wouldn’t share in the public’s feelings of excitement. I am not here to take anyone’s joy away.

There is absolutely no reason why Oscar Peterson fans shouldn’t be excited to have a new documentary about one of their favourite musicians. It is my wish that those fans also understand that I’m not always able share in that excitement. And that’s okay. There could be a host of reasons why this might be the case. I don’t necessarily choose to share those publicly and I do not ever want to break someone’s enthusiasm over something new to them when it comes to dad’s catalogue, or something being done by someone that recognizes him.

People do not always have the best intentions. That is life. False intentions, manipulations, disrespect, and hurt are all around us. Every day, there are people of public interest who are being leveraged for some outside party’s personal or professional gain. This remains true for people of interest long after they’ve left this earth. I feel a deep responsibility to protect my dad with every fibre of my being, but sometimes things are just out of my hands.

I make a habit of not making proclamations on behalf of someone who is not here to speak for themselves. That said, there are a few things I am certain of. Dad would not want to see any member of his family hurt or grief stricken in any way (period), especially at the hands of parties who are attempting to use his career and achievements to further their own. It does his legacy a disservice to disrespect the people whom he loved and respected.

This is a situation where my hands are tied which is why I have chosen to share an honest and deeply personal alternate perspective. I love my dad with all my heart. I miss him every single day and he is never far from my mind, especially when I wish he was here to speak for himself. I am grateful that those who love him around the world have his archives and can continue to learn new things about him as they wish. I know along the way they will learn that he was a man of integrity, honesty, and the most genuine and loyal person one could ever meet. A fierce protector of those he loved, he did not tolerate disrespect of any kind but also worked very hard to rise above.

Now it’s my turn.

- Céline Peterson

November 23, 2021

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