I’m out of town this weekend celebrating my dad’s birthday in Ohio. Actually, he has the birthday wherever he is, but he lives in Ohio. Anyway, I wrote this as a reply to Allison’s recent blog post, “Do You Remember The Day You Stopped Singing?” a thought-provoking piece about growing into adulthood that you should check out.
Mom sang in church and she expected us to. I didn’t much care for it but I could carry a tune, and later I found out that as a choir boy (we called them servers) I would be up front at mass and didn’t have to sing. That was better – and that was being part of the show.
In grade school, we sang along with the radio in our convertible as my older sister drove us to the local pool. The summer wind whipped our wet hair on the way home until it was dry, and we sang the whole way.
In high school, I rocked out in that same car, now a hand-me-down, blasting tunes as loud as the car radio would play them. My high school friends and I formed a rock band and we needed a singer. Mark decided it should be Joe, because Joe was a good looking and a decent singer, and because lead guitar kinda naturally leads to lead singer. When we could afford microphones for the other guys, paid for by our part time jobs at grocery stores and hardware stores, we got them – along with a PA system I borrowed from my brother.
Next thing you know, I was a back up singer, too.
I’m not sure how it happened, because as the drummer I kinda had to stay put back there behind the drums, but we – the rock band – got invited to play the back-to-school dance, and we needed slow songs kids could dance to. I got invited to sing one.
Now, I could sing. I sang in my car all the time. I sang in church sometimes (I stopped being a server around when high school started; it wasn’t cool any more). I ran for student council and became a homeroom representative, so I’d given speeches in front of the class. I read the audience participation parts at school masses so I had spoken in front of large groups.
So whoever got the bright idea to have me sing a slow love song at the back to school dance, I didn’t say no…
and I wasn’t scared to do it; I just wondered who was gonna play the drums. Maybe I didn’t want to find myself out of my drummer gig. (Like that would happen. My drum set ROCKED: double bass drums, six tom-toms, four cymbals, two snares, all in black lacquer, and some cowbells and other cool stuff like chimes. It was totally bad ass.)
But we needed somebody to sing a slow song. I’ll have to ping Mark on Facebook and ask him why I was elected. He’ll probably say I requested to do it, but that’s not my recollection.
Anyway, somehow I sang a few songs from behind the drums while playing the drums, which was fine with me, but I think for the dance we decided the singer needed to be out front. It looks a little silly if you are seeing a band and can’t tell who’s singing. So I went out front and Greg, our sound guy, filled in on drums.
Can you believe that? We had no paying gigs and no money but we had a sound guy.
I practiced all week, and the night of the dance, I sang my one slow song out in front of the rest of the guys like we talked about. In front of the whole school at the big back-to-school dance.
Probably, that was the last time I sang in public.
It’s not what you’d think. It didn’t go badly. It went fine. I had fun and did a good job and that was that.
College started and we tried to keep a band, but it wasn’t as easy, and when I moved to Florida the drums stayed in Ohio to be sold.
After that, I kinda stopped being a drummer (although once a drummer always a drummer, especially if you were in a rock band). But in our day we played at school masses and school functions and a few big arenas.
I sang in front of lots and lost of people.
And I was pretty good. Not professional singer good, but guy with no training good. I held my own and the audience enjoyed my songs. When that part of my life was over, I moved on to the next part and didn’t worry too much about it. I have a house; if I wanted a drum set, there’d be one in it. If I wanted to sing, I’d be singing.
I do sing, though…
At the recent kindergarten field trip, while we were waiting for everybody to gather back together so we could leave – parents chaperoning kindergarteners take forever to do anything – I asked about the Wide Mouth Bullfrog Song. I knew about it cos my kid sang it incessantly for weeks, but a group of tired kindergarteners become a cranky group of kindergerteners if they aren’t kept busy.
So I sang.
They’re good kids. After a few words, they all joined in.
Most adults would have stopped about there, letting the kids take it. In fact, most adults wouldn’t have started singing a song in the first place.
I’m not the guy singing out loud at WalMart. That guy – or lady, usually – is a little nuts, in my opinion.
But the guy or gal singing in their car? Rock out, dude. But at the kindergarten soiree, I’d have expected the other parents to join in. They didn’t join, and I didn’t stop.
Then we sang the new tune, Down By The Bay. That one has jokes in the middle of it. Boy, if you get the jokes in the wrong order, the kids let you know.
I sang that one at Disney, too, this past weekend, when we had to make a particularly long trek from Tommorrowland to the castle once our friends showed up with their six year old daughter.
So, I sing.
And I’m not shy. As in, I know you want to be having as much fun as I am with your kids, but I WILL AND YOU’LL WATCH.
Meh. Whatever. I’m not trying to get attention. But other people see we’re having fun. As Sean Connery said in Rudyard Kipling’s film adaptation of The Man Who Would Be King:
“If a king can’t sing, it ain’t worth being king.”
And a that back to school dance? Turns out there were a LOT of girls who noticed the cute drummer (their words, not mine – according to Mark) and when the drummer sang, that was a big deal. A BIG deal.
I had no idea. Mark only told me many years later. Maybe that’s why he stuck me out there in the first place, for marketing. He probably won’t admit that, either.
So singing has and always will be a way for certain guys to catch the eye of certain girls for certain reasons, but the reasons change. These days, I’m a dad and the girl is my daughter and her friends, and we’re singing about frogs and the reason is to stay distracted from the long walk or the long wait.
Once upon a time it was different. Singing was a way to stay in good with Mom or get status from classmates or assert my leadership or woo women. Then it was a way to get a crying infant calmed down. Now it placates kindergarteners.
I’m not sure what the next use of this superpower will be.
I am sure it’ll be interesting, though. All the other ones have been.