High-flying songwriter who bailed out for the simple life

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The Independent Online
It was a classic pop song which had a lengthy afterlife as a long-running television commercial featuring a girl soaring skywards in a hot air balloon. But the man who created the song wanted nothing to do with stardom and has become a teacher at a comprehensive in east London.

The Sixties song "I Can't Let Maggie Go", with its catchy melody and refrain "She flies like a bird in the sky", was a top 10 hit for the group Honeybus in 1968, and radically featured a woodwind quartet - two oboes, a bassoon and a cor anglais in a pop song setting.

The song had a long afterlife, commandeered by Margaret Thatcher's supporters in one election campaign, but mainly as the theme for the advertisement for Nimble bread. Now the advert and song have been revived for a new campaign.

The song's success and reappearance now causes ambivalent feelings for its composer, arranger and singer Peter Dello who formed Honeybus, but left the group after "I Can't Let Maggie Go" because he did not like life on the road as a pop performer, and refused to sing the vocals when the song was first used in the Nimble advertisements.

Now teaching music at Stepney Green school , 54-year-old Mr Dello says he just used Maggie for the sake of a name. "I don't think I knew a Maggie actually. At first I was delighted when the song hit the charts, but what I really didn't want was to have my life taken over, which is what could have happened."

He has no regrets, he says, about leaving the pop world for teaching. "If I'd written a lot more I might have been a lot richer now," he concedes. "But would I have been more happy?"

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