Frank Watkinson, 69, of Huntingdon, England, just outside of Cambridge, is an excellent example of the magic that can happen when people have the time to explore their gifts. After retiring, he followed his passion for music and has developed a loyal following on YouTube.
In the 12 years since he joined the platform, he’s gained nearly 500,000 subscribers and 21 million views. He calls himself the “Virtual Grandad” and loves to play sad songs because he believes they have the power to make people happy.
“I just love emotional, sad songs. And in a way, they cheer people up,” he told Flood. “If you’re really feeling down and you put a sad song on, it doesn’t cheer you up, but it makes you feel better. I suppose you get the feeling, ‘Well, at least I’m not the only one. Someone’s feeling it worse than me.’”
Earlier this month, he posted an acoustic cover of “On Melancholy Hill” by virtual band Gorillaz, which was written and performed by the group’s creative force Damon Albarn. The original version features wonky, spacey keyboards and programmed drums. But after Watkinson slows it down and plays it acoustically, it sounds like it was a folk song all along.
Watkinson’s unique take on the song comes from his belief that if you’re not going to do something different with a cover, why do it at all? “I’ve always said that if I want to listen to ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles and there’s a group covering it that sounds identical, then—even if they are good and they’ve got it right—I might as well just put The Eagles on,” he said.