Monday, February 27, 2017

A Jukebox in My Head (#singing #lyrics #poetry)

Jukebox

I love my kitchen. And it's not just due to the ample storage and counter space, or the Italian four burner gas stove my landlord installed when we moved in. The wall behind the double sink, under the overhanging cabinets, is ceramic tile - easy to clean, indeed, but better still, offering great acoustics.

When I'm washing the dishes, I sing. I always have. As kids, my brother and I were responsible for this task. We used to sing duets, while I scrubbed and he dried or vice versa. I remember teaching him the first and only song I ever wrote (a romantic ballad entitled "I'm Crying") while tackling some particularly stubborn spaghetti sauce. He's a professional song-writer now; he tells me I inspired him.

My musical opus reduces to that single tune (which I can still sing), although I've penned lots of poetry, which is music of a sort. Unlike my brother, I don't play any instruments, but I have a prodigious memory for lyrics, and to a lesser extent melodies. As a teenager, I dropped piano lessons partly because I never learned to sight read music. After playing a piece two or three times, I didn't need to read it. By the time I got to more complicated compositions, this talent had become a liability.

Anyway, singing in my current kitchen is akin to singing in the shower - better, because I don't need to worry about getting soapy water in my mouth. The wall and the underside of the cabinet create a resonance chamber. My voice sounds rich and full as I belt out my favorite tunes.

Isn't this rich?
Aren't we a pair?
Me with my feet on the ground,
You in the air...

Or:

You want to know
How it will be:
Me and him
Or you and me.

Or:

The blonde in the bleachers,
She flips her hair for you.
Above the loud speakers
You start to fall...

Or:

The minute you walked in the joint,
I could tell you were a man of distinction,
A real big spender...

Or:

Desperado,
Why don't you come to your senses?
You've been out riding fences
For so long...

Unlike nearly everyone else these days, I don't go around with wires sprouting from my ears. I do have a stash of music on my phone, but I play it only when I exercise. Nonetheless my mind hosts an extensive and rather eclectic mental play list. Torch songs from the nineteen forties, folk ballads from the sixties, musicals and G&S operettas, classic rock, blues - I sing them all. It's difficult to sing rock and roll - you need the voices of the instruments as well as the vocalists. But I try.

There are many songs that speak to me, about love and sex, time and loss, risk and reward: Melissa Etheridge's "Come to My Window", Meatloaf's "Anything For Love", Bob Seger's "Night Moves", Bruce Springstein's "Thunder Road":

Have a little faith, there's magic in the night.
You ain't a beauty but hey, you're all right
And that's all right with me.

I used to have a decent singing voice. I sang in my high school chorus, even auditioned for a state-wide choir. My siblings and I won second place on a TV talent show, doing a harmonized version of the Beatles' "Misery". I've always been an alto. Now my voice seems to have become lower and more gravelly with age. It's more difficult for me to follow a complex tune these days too. The words are still there, though, and when I'm singing to the kitchen wall, I sound great.

Lots of authors report that they listen to music while they write. Not me. I'm such a word girl that the lyrics will distract me from my own sentences. Even now, trying to pen this blog post, the songs I've quoted are ringing in my mind, clamoring for my attention.

Our love is an old love, baby.
It's older than all our years.
I've seen in strange young eyes
Familiar tears.

I'd better stop. I feel as though it's cheating to fill up my blog post with lines and rhymes of other people. I could do it, though - without doing a single Google look-up for the lyrics.

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