Friday, April 06, 2007

Another post about singin'...

Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble...
when you're perfect in every way.
I can't take a look in the mirror,
'cuz I get better lookin' each day.
To know me is to love me,
so I must be a hell of a man...
Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble
But I'm doin' the best that I can...

--by Mac Davis

I must admit...I get a rush of sorts when I sing. I try to play the humble Iowa girl, with the "Aw, Shucks" thing going on when people clap and give me compliments. But I gotta tell ya, I wouldn't KEEP doing it if it didn't feel good. I remember once my sister described the feeling of receiving applause so well..."a warm feeling in your face and a funny rush". That's it in a nutshell. It's a warm feeling. If I had to create a picture in my head, I imagine applause as warm rain to a dusty field. I feel satisfied; I "soak it up".

Unfortunately, I do get a swelled head and I tend to make unfair comparisons, or make fun of people who can't sing. I hate that part of myself.

I remember when I was dating after my first of the "stable members" (for lack of a better word) was a devout Christian and I went with him to church one time. We were singing a hymn, and he couldn't sing.

By "couldn't sing", I don't mean that he was maybe a smidge off key, but otherwise pleasant sounding. NO. It was more like he couldn't carry a tune in a lead-lined bucket with a lid. He was so off key, I couldn't stay in tune (and that's gotta be bad, considering my dad sounded like Huckleberry Hound).

I finally asked him nicely, "Could you sing a little softer, please? I'm having a hard time staying on pitch. I'm not trying to be mean...I just don't know this song and I'm trying to read it."

He was a little indignant, and replied, "The Lord doesn't care how I sound."

I looked straight at him and shot back, "Well, God doesn't have to stand next to you, I do." I felt bad in retrospect, but I really hate it when I can't fix my pitch.

As hard as I try, sometimes my ego gets in the way. I tend to forget that one of the reasons I sing is because great singers inspired me to spread my wings and try out MY throat. There are many singers I like...and I've got some video clips for further verification.

This clip is of Pearl Bailey and Dinah Shore. Dinah's OK, but Pearlie Mae...there's just something about that lady I like. I think it's a combination of her sass, her presence, and her singing that I like.

I am using "The Muppet Show" as a frame of reference here...she was a guest on one of the last seasons, and she fit in just right. My favorite number of hers was when she sang "In The Good Old Summertime" with Floyd the guitarist...and it really SWUNG. Floyd threw in a verse from "Silver Threads Among The Gold" and that was quite witty. But Pearlie Mae has humor and a good voice.

Secondly (and lastly for today), Ella Fitzgerald (again, I think with Dinah Shore).

Now, one thing that always amazed me about Ella is the fact that she's such a solid-looking woman, but her voice (although strong) is very feminine. Pearlie Mae is very much a woman, but she's got a certain "take no prisoners" aura. Ella's different. She can growl, croon, soar heights and depths with her short, quite versatile.

Sadly, Ella was NOT on The Muppet Show, but I think she could've taken Miss Piggy on and won.

At one time, the Smithsonian Museum of American History had an Ella Fitzgerald exhibit, and there were so many neat things in it. They played an endless video loop of her on a TV monitor. Of all things, it was her appearance in an Abbott and Costello movie where the comedy duo goes to a dude ranch. She and her band are on the bus going to the dude ranch too, and by the sheer coincidence of Hollywood, she starts singing "A Tisket, A Tasket". It was GREAT! I had seen that movie several times in my childhood, but it didn't register that the young woman on the bus was ELLA! What kind of dumb-ass was I that I didn't know this? Oh matter.

With these two singers, I do wonder what kinds of things they went through.

  • Did some people doubt the talent of these two singers?
  • How did they feel when they were singing in a public place, and someone sang off key in their ear? Did it drive them crazy?
  • How did they keep singing even when they didn't want to?
  • Did they treat singing like a job, or did they draw from the emotional well every time?
I guess I'll never know.