Gander teen's moving performance becomes a social media hit

Fourteen-year-old’s passionate performance of a song about Alzheimer’s draws social media raves

Gail Collins
Published on December 19, 2016

A powerful new song about the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s has become a social media hit for a teenager from Gander.

Fourteen-year-old Robyn Slade recorded the song last Wednesday at My Own Studio in South River. By Friday her performance had received thousands of hits on Facebook, climbing to over 40, 000 views and nearly 1,100 shares over the weekend.

The song — written by Rob Hickman of Gander — tells the touching tale of an elderly man, who when asked why he visits his wife if she no longer remembers him, answers, “I know who she is.”

Hickman says he was blown away by Robyn’s moving performance. 

“It was an absolutely phenomenal recording of something I was so proud of,” he said. “ I expected it to be top notch and it exceeded my expectations.”

Thousands of people have played a video of Robyn Slade singing Rob Hickman's "I Know Who She Is".
YouTube screen grab

Hickman wrote the song a couple of years ago based on a story he heard from a friend.  When he wanted to have it recorded, he thought of Robyn. He and his wife live next door to Robyn’s family and he’d heard her sing at backyard gatherings and on YouTube.

With her parents’ permission, he gave her the song and offered to pay all expenses for a recording session.  She had a cold when she first sang it for him, but he says even then he “knew it was the best decision I ever made.”

This was Robyn’s first time in a recording studio and the final version of the song was her second take. She says, “I feel the music. I feel the words when I sing it.”

But how does a teenager bring such passion to a song about an elderly couple?  

Hickman says, “When she sings, she sounds wise beyond her years, like she’s lived more than she’s lived. She’s got a lot of heart and soul when she sings.”

Robyn — who’s been taking voice lessons with Shawn Wiseman in Gander since she was 9-years-old — says Wiseman says she takes a song and “Robynizes” it and that’s what she did with this one.

Hickman notes, “All the lyrics are the same but I said, ‘Now make it your own’. She made some minor alterations to the melody to suit her voice and she did a splendid job.”

Robin comes from a musical background: her mother was a piano teacher and her father plays guitar.  She also learned about dementia — and how it affects families — through her parents. Her mother Margaret is a nurse and her father Steve is recreation director at Lakeside Homes in Gander.

Margaret Slade says she’s her daughter’s biggest fan, but even she’s amazed by the reaction on social media.  

“I’m just so proud of her,” she said. “And when I see the comments and the views and the shares, it’s just like, wow, I’m blown away.”

Robyn’s dream is to pursue a career as a pop and country singer.   

Her mother says, “If this is her passion in life and what she wants to do, it’s a tough business to break into, but we’ll support her 100 per cent.”

The song was produced by Dave Fitzpatrick (of Fables fame) at his My Own Studio. He played all instruments and did the backing vocals. He plans to include the song on an upcoming compilation of new artists.