“He is Duncan McLeod, the Highlander. Born in 1592 in the Highlands of Scotland, and he is still alive. He is immortal. For centuries he has battled the forces of darkness, with holy ground his only refuge... I am a Watcher, part of a secret society of men and women who observe and record, but never interfere. We know the truth about Immortals. In the end, there can be only one. May it be Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander.”
If you’ve ever seen Highlander: the Series, then these lines may be familiar to you. It’s a show about an immortal Highland swordsman, Duncan McLeod, living in modern-day Seacouver (amalgamation of Vancouver and Seattle, where the show was filmed) and following his own chivalrous code of honour.
One of my favorite characters on the show was Joe Dawson, a Watcher. He is human, but he knows about the existence of immortals. Eventually McLeod finds out that he is being watched. He forms an uneasy friendship with Joe, who happens to be the proprietor of a blues bar called Joe’s Bar.
When he’s not spying on immortals, Joe likes to play blues guitar. It’s an interesting feature of Highlander, both the movies and the series, that they both go hand in hand with great music. The original score for the movie was written and performed by Queen, and the series has had some famous musician guest stars such as Joan Jett and Roger Daltrey.
However, it was Joe Dawson, played by charismatic real-life musician Jim Byrnes, who really developed a more permanent presence on the show. He added another dimension to the show, a more human presence that we could all relate to. Byrnes says, “Music is Joe’s form of meditation, where he would go; it’s Joe’s martial art.”
In a story that is mostly about immortals, we get a hint of how humans can also achieve immortality, through making music or perhaps any kind of creative action.
A Special Performance by Jim Byrnes
While McLeod often has historical flashbacks, I recently had my own flashback to the nineties, when I used to watch the show as a child…
Being a swashbuckler usually involves late-night carousing, so I am not exactly a morning person. However, I got out of bed at 6 a.m. to attend a special early morning CBC event to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Together with the CBC crew, Jim Byrnes was there, and I was lucky enough to get front row seats. It was a beautiful, cool summer morning, and a small crowd of spectators was there, as well as some passing dog-owners (you can hear dogs adding their creative input in this video). It was a very special morning!