William and Harry grateful for Daines' Princess Di ballad
Ivan Daines sits on the bleachers overlooking his family rodeo grounds watching a young lady march a skittish brown horse around a circular enclosure.
“She’s trying to get that horse used to the whip she’s got in her hand,” he explains. “He thinks it’s a snake.”
If anyone’s qualified to discuss the finer points of Western life it’s Daines. This Albertan romantic has racked up steer riding titles at the Calgary Stampede as far back as 1959, multiple Canadian Championships in bronc riding and was awarded a Pioneers of Rodeo Award at the 2011 Stampede. This weekend he’s had his hands full with the 36th edition of the Annual Country Music Picknic he hosts.
But it wasn’t his storied career in the saddle that tugged at the ear of the Royal Family. Instead, a country ballad he penned in tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, almost 15 years ago, lassoed an official letter of thanks from Princes William and Harry last month.
Daines wrote Song for Diana immediately following the funeral for the Princess of Wales held Sept. 6, 1997.
“It was a very emotional day,” he says. “The inspiration hit me when I noticed the black horses’ hooves hitting the pavement, and that was the only sound.”
The six bay horses from the King's Troop stables carrying the late princess were the key to unlocking his creativity.
“My father came from England as a little boy and I have a cousin who still farms in England,” he says. “Shining black horses – it sends a chill through you.”
Daines wanted to put his feelings into song right away.
“She reminded me of Mother Teresa with her special gift and style,” he says.
Legendary wrangler John Scott couldn’t help but be moved by the song after hearing the lyrics about the horses, as well.
The stunt coordinator, known best for his work on productions such as Lord of the Rings, Legends of the Fall and CBC’s Heartland drama, thought the princess’s sons would love to hear the track too.
“I thought it was so well done and so appropriate for the times,” Scott says. “It was great. He told it the way it was.”
Scott rustled up a picture of Daines riding saddle bronc and sent it along through the proper bureaucratic channels with the album on which Song for Diana was featured.
He says he never heard back from Buckingham Palace.
“But I had a chance to do it again last year when Kate and William were here in Calgary because I hauled them in the chuckwagon I had at the Stampede,” he says.
Scott gave the newlywed couple a grand tour of the grounds alongside Stephen and Laureen Harper.
“I had a copy of Ivan’s tape with the song on it,” he says. “But I just thought it wasn’t appropriate to try and slip it into his pocket or anything. So I just let it go.”
Daines has always sensed a special aura about the Royal Family.
He remembers one day at the Stampede decades ago when Prince Charles came down to shake hands with everybody.
“My mind was concentrating so much on my horse I’m not sure whether I shook his hand or not,” he says.
This spring, when Daines sent his recording off to Prince William, his efforts were successful.
“The Duke of Cambridge was touched that Mr. Daines had recorded this song and grateful he had taken the time to send a copy to him,” says Nick Loughran, press officer for William and Harry.
The Correspondence Office at Clarence House on behalf of the Duke of Cambridge even sent letters adorned with the Royal Seal on behalf of the princes saying just as much, which have thrilled those who have had the chance to see the notes.
“Your reasons for writing as you did are appreciated and Their Royal Highnesses are grateful to you for taking the trouble to send them your music,” states a letter dated June 27, 2012.
Daines says he’s glad his music had an impact on the sons of the Princess of Wales and wants to encourage local songwriters to do what they love.
“Just start writing, and don’t ever quit if you believe in it,” he says.