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Singing With Your Whole Heart
Have you ever felt so good that you just broke out into song? Have you been in a situation where you were so emotionally caught up that you sang with your whole heart?
Maybe you were in a concert and the singer or band pointed the microphone out to the audience and you sang out the favorite song as loud as you could. Maybe it's in the shower, or like Maria running out into the Austrian hills singing the "Sound of Music" or the head-banging Wayne's World guys singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the car.
I really like buildings with booming acoustics and so I find myself singing in stairwells, foyers and for some time now in my local bank. I walked in and there were no customers so I started singing something like "You're Nobody till Somebody Loves You" with a big grin on my face. The tellers all knew me and smiled as I sang. I broke into a tune a few more times when there was no line and now, if I go into the bank without singing, they all ask me why--even when there are customers in line. The guard, the loan officer, even the bank manager all go out of their way to say hi to the guy who has enough nerve to brighten up the bank's routine with a happy song.
Author and lecturer, Wayne Dyer has a chapter in one of his books entitled: "Don't Die With Your Music Still in You." The idea is that each one of us has our own unique contribution and often we are so reluctant to get it out there that we keep it inside. We die with our music still in us and that is one of the saddest things I have ever heard.
It doesn't matter if you can't carry a tune or you fumble a few keys on the piano or whatever music making instrument you attempt--you have your own music and it is just as worthy as Grammy winning professionals. There is only one person like you and you are not complete until you let it out.
Don't Die With Your Music Still in You
Some of the earliest singing was in the form of Latin liturgical music sung in unison to accompany the text of the mass. Originated by Pope Gregory and hence the name—Gregorian Chants.
The haunting, ethereal melodies have experienced a revival and are included in some pop music as well as sound tracks like that in “The Name of the Rose” with Sean Connery and Christian Slater. For the soundtrack of the popular games Halo 3 and World of Warcraft, chants were incorporated into various songs, making them popular with players and resulting in a chant-based spin-off album.
Hans Zimmer captured the joyous African tribal singing in the heartrending but victorious "The Power of One." Paul Simon, in his classic album "Graceland," used the wonderful harmonies of South African singers in the songs "Under African Skies" and "Diamonds in the Soles of Her Shoes."
Often, a handicap in one sense magnifies the others. Few can equal the expressive vocal exuberance of Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. Paul Simon used a contemporary version of the "Five Blind Guys from Alabama" to back up his hit "Loves Me Like a Rock." The original group was formed in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind. In 2000, the group was inducted into the American Gospel Quartet Convention Hall of Fame.
In the U.S., acappela groups (without accompaniment) were some of the earliest singing groups. Barber shop quartets with wide vocal ranges and tight harmony were included in the film "The Music Man" and recently, groups like Straight No Chaser have staged a spectacular merging with pop. The only men's singing group at Indiana University, the group did a youtube of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" that went viral and were immediately signed.
The fifties and sixties saw the birth of rock and roll with Little Richard, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Beatles belting out tunes from their heart. Rhythm and blues was a blend of rock and gospel music. Aretha Franklin sang at the Detroit church of her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin as she grew up in the 50s. Her first recordings as a gospel artist was at the age of 14.While the fledgling Motown wanted her to join them, she ended up at Atlantic belting out hits like "Respect" and had ten Top Ten hits in 1967 and 1968.
I still remember my sister singing and vacuuming to the vinyl booming sound of The Platters singing "Oh oh oh ye-ess, I'm the Great Pre-e-te-en-der."
Janis Joplin was a poet, dancer, painter and music arranger who in her short four year career rose to prominence by singing from the depths of her soul. She was one of the main attractions at Woodstock and the Monterey Pop Festival. Her number one hit, Me and Bobby McGee, has been covered many times, but no one to date has touched the sheer audacity and soulfullness of her version. She sang so much from the heart, she even asked us to take a little piece of it.
Next to the Beatles, the only rivals for all time massive impact as singers was Frank Sinatra and the man who was the icon of 50's rock and roll, Elvis Presley. From the intimate, "Love Me Tender" to "Hound Dog," Elvis poured his soul into every song and rightly earned the title: "The King." The music video "Jailhouse Rock" was the most memorable of his 30 movies and is credited by musical historians as the prototype for the modern music video.
One of the more fun institutions of the 60's and 70's was the coffee houses that launched singers like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Carol King and Carly Simon. I was privileged to run the lights for the famous Ice House Comedy and Music Club in Pasadena. Bob Stane, coming fresh from a stellar coffee house run in San Diego of "The Upper Cellar," formed the Ice House which became the hot place for comedians and singers to premier their material. Today's coffee house revival features singers like John Mayer, Jack Johnson and Anna Nalick....and occasionally....Winsome.
I said it before, but it bears repeating. You don't have to have the best voice to sing from your heart. Rex Harrison, in My Fair Lady had one of the more memorable songs: "Why Can't A Woman Be Like A Man," which he spoke rather than sang traditionally. Rap singers have followed suit and made millions.
Thousands upon thousands of school and church programs featuring kids have been lovingly recorded by parents and friends, but none is as memorable for me as the one featuring a little girl who may not have known all the lyrics, but knew how to sing with her whole heart.