The Tin Ear

Source: IFC.com
Mr. Collins reacts to my singing. Source: IFC.com

My wife doesn’t seem to appreciate my songwriting abilities, specifically the most recent one titled “Medicated Shampoo Wednesday.”¹  She thinks even less of its companion piece, “Medicated Shampoo Saturday,” which in fact is actually the same exact song performed on, you guessed it, Saturday.   Like other artists since the beginning of time, I suffer through spoken and unspoken scorn in my quest to advance my creative muse.

She is not alone in her criticism, though.  My ex-wife actually cringed when I sang.  A college girlfriend, herself a musician in the university orchestra, claimed that she had never heard anyone other than myself who could sing so incredibly out of tune accompanying such well-known and overplayed songs on the radio.  “You’d think that after hearing “Fire and Rain” for all these years that you’d know what key it’s in,” she used to remark. Although that may be true, I don’t believe Dick Haymes, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, or Joe Cocker — all wonderful interpretive singers in their own right —  were ever criticized for creating “unique” versions of song standards.  I’m sure that the only difference between myself and those august names is that they were actually paid for their efforts.

I do have confidence in myself, though.  I’m sure that I am just three more karaoke bars away from fame.

One of the challenges I’ve had with my career-in-waiting is a struggle to actually learn the lyrics of well-known songs.  I understand that there are popular websites for this called “Misheard Lyrics” and “Kiss This Guy.”  While I’ve never spent much time perusing those sites, I’m guessing that my own private mangling of songs is comparable.  To wit:

  • The Bee Gee’s famously sang, “come to me, if you need a shoulder.”  But for years, and I am not making this up, I sang, “come to me, if you need a showgirl.”   It never dawned on me that Robin Gibb was singing to a woman — I thought he was singing to me.
  • I apologize ahead of time for the vulgarity of this one:  Manfred Man sang the Bruce Springsteen-written, “And little Early-Pearly came by in his curly-wurly.”  But your humble blogger sadly heard it as, “And little Early-Pearly gave his anus curly-wurly.”  Calling Dr. Freud.

Even the Pledge of Allegiance — something we ostensibly learned by reading it first — wasn’t immune to my young tin ear.

  • The actual line is, “And to the Republic for which it stands.”  I, however, heard it as, “And to the Republic, for Richard Stands.”  I honestly used to wonder who Richard Stands was and why he never got a mention in any of our history lessons.  I would then proceed to immediately sit back down at my school desk and promptly stop thinking about it.  Small wonder it took me longer to learn the multiplication tables than my peers.  It apparently took a while to develop a knack for advanced curiosity.

Learning song lyrics is ostensibly only part of my problem.  There is also the relatively minor matter of my singing voice.  Officially, the only gig at which I’ve performed publicly was my bar mitzvah back in the mid 1970’s.   All other showcases were private affairs for the benefit of myself, former girlfriends, and later wives.  My venue of choice is either the shower or the car, though when I am alone at home I’ve given Tom Cruise some competition with my own air guitar living room moves — fully clothed, I should add.

Alas, I do think that there is a bit of gender bias in the universally bad reviews for my vocal abilities.  Back in college, my male friends and I all sang around one another, and my recollection is that we were all very supportive.  My roommate “Stretch” would sing that beautiful baritone of Paul Williams (Temptations) with “The Way You Do The Things You Do” to my Eddie Kendricks lead, while he was shaving and I was showering.  We absolutely killed.  It’s just a bad case of unfortunate timing that my generation was born long after Ted Mack and way before American Idol.  I realize that there are no age limits to these current talent shows on TV, but as one of my nieces is fond of saying, “there is just no way….”   Alas, my time has passed.

I can’t totally blame bad genes for my voice.  Two of my sisters are absolutely beautiful singers. They both taught Sunday school music as teenagers, and together they harmonized in such a dazzling way on long car trips when we were kids.  However, a third sister along with both of my parents could never hold a tune.  Perhaps I do get my abilities honestly then.  As with much in life, it’s all a luck of the draw.

Retirement offers many opportunities to enjoy that which was illusive for so many years.  I am reading books that I’ve longed wish to tackle (still engrossed in the Robert Caro volumes on LBJ); I am watching television shows that I never had the time, inclination, or patience to start (now that Downton is over for this season we’re watching the original “Upstairs, Downstairs” on DVD, plus the Family Guy cartoons — yes,  only in America could we go to such cultural extremes — Hi, B and C); and finally I am again slowly finding my occasional cooking gene for those nights when Gorgeous needs a break (I made sautéed lemon chicken cutlets a few weeks ago for which I am still grasping at the last vestiges of acknowledgment and approval).  These are wonderful pursuits, all of them.

I apparently will just have to accept that I am no Jussi Bjorling or Graham Nash.

¹  Medicated Shampoo Wednesday  

Oh, it’s medicated shampoo Wednesday 
And we are all so glad
Medicated shampoo Wednesday 
I am not a cad

Just on Wednesdays, sometimes Thursdays
Always for my hair
Medicated shampoo Wednesday 
At least it’s not with Nair

Medicated shampoo Wednesday 
We are on sche-dule
Medicated shampoo Wednesday 
Until Saturday we look incre-dible

Just on Wednesdays, sometimes Thursdays
Always for my hair
Medicated shampoo Wednesday 
At least it’s not with Nair

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19 thoughts on “The Tin Ear

  1. Spouses never do see our finest qualities. My singing which I did publicly many times, and not just while drinking is quite good. But my husband does not appreciate good music. Sigh.

    And for 30+ years, I misundrrstood the lyrics to “Cupid” after seeing it performed on TV when I was little. I still say he lyrics are: “Cute baby, draw back your bow-ooh, and let you arrow go, straight through my mother’s arms for me—eeeee.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Snakes: Have you ever considered delivering your well-written pieces on Youtube.com like Andy Rooney? These are far more insightful and funnier than his. And though we have never met, I’m certain that you’ve got a great delivery. Not a great singing voice, perhaps, but a great delivery.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. JC, thanks so much for the compliment! I have always considered the “fourth voice” to Crosby, Stills, and Nash when Neil Young wasn’t around. But sadly, they’ve never called me.

      Once I “unmask” myself on here and jettison the whole “Snakes” persona (next January!), I shall consider audio, video, and whatever might turn off rather than attract. The more sighs and eye-rolls I get, the more I’ll know I’m doing something right!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. For years, when I was a kid, I always wondered why Sister Sledge encouraged us to ‘staple the vicar’ until I realised the actual lyric was along the lines of: ‘Let us state for the record’.

    My vicar never did forgive me for stapling him…

    Liked by 1 person

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