Sam Corpora, 72: Merle Haggard's 'Silver Wings' : Songs Of Remembrance "Silver Wings" was the soundtrack to the milestones Corpora and his daughter experienced together.

Sam Corpora, 72: Merle Haggard's 'Silver Wings'

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

* More than 500,000 people have died in the United States from COVID since the pandemic hit this country just over a year ago. All week, NPR has been remembering some of those we've lost by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. This morning, Cara Corpora of College Station, Texas, tells us about her dad, Sam Corpora.

CARA CORPORA: My dad was a crop duster. He had his own airstrip. He flew for fun, also. Like, he would sometimes fly to Arkansas, you know, fly up to Oklahoma. And there were other times when I didn't want to go on, like, an 8-hour car ride with my mother or something. And so my dad would just get in the plane and be like, come on. We'll make it there in half the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SILVER WINGS")

MERLE HAGGARD: (Singing) Silver wings shining in the sunlight...

CORPORA: The first time I went to a Merle Haggard concert, I was 16 years old. And my dad took me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SILVER WINGS")

HAGGARD: (Singing) Headed somewhere in flight.

CORPORA: In a span of about 17 years, I went with my dad to over 55 concerts of just Merle Haggard. He was always just happy and smiling and singing along, which made me extremely happy. And we knew the words to every single song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SILVER WINGS")

HAGGARD: (Singing) Don't leave me, I cry. Don't take that airplane ride. But you locked me out of your mind and left me standing here behind. Silver wings...

CORPORA: This song is called "Silver Wings." And it always reminded me of my dad because it's about someone taking a flight and leaving someone behind.

My dad passed away on September 24 in 2020. My mom called me around 6 a.m. And I answered. I knew it was bad. And I just answered. And I said, no, no. And she was like, yes, it's going to be today. And she stayed with my dad for 10 hours.

And right after they took the tubes out, my mom FaceTimed me and my brother. And she wanted me to play "Silver Wings" for my dad over the speaker. His heart rate was in the 60s. And when I played "Silver Wings," I saw his heart rate raise to 72. So I knew he could hear it. And I knew he could hear me and my brother telling him that it was OK for him to go, that we knew he was tired. And then it literally felt like three minutes later after my mom disconnected the FaceTime that she called back and said, you know, that my dad had died.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SILVER WINGS")

HAGGARD: (Singing) Silver wings slowly fading out of sight.

CORPORA: I did get married in 2009. And for the father-daughter dance, it was to "Silver Wings" because it was kind of like I was growing up and leaving my dad, and he was left behind. And I do actually have the date of my marriage, along with the title "Silver Wings," tattooed on my foot because I knew that, no matter what, that would be the last time I ever danced with my dad because we weren't really the dancing kind of people with one another. So I have that forever.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SILVER WINGS")

HAGGARD: (Singing) They're taking you away.

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