It was a year like any other, or, at least I suppose it could have been, but, it wasn’t. It was actually 1965. This particular year, the Beatles released Help! the movie; for the second time, Jack Nicklaus won the Masters golf title; on Palm Sunday, 51 reported tornadoes touched down in the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Iowa resulting in 256 deaths and over 1500 injured; and, a young boy in Smalltown, USA was turned away from his school choir. “Some people just aren’t right for choir. Son, you couldn’t hold a note with a bucket.” And so began a life-long career in singing poorly.
Singing poorly. It’s an art. It takes feeling, passion. The chanteur/chanteuse in question must believe in herself, in the song, in the very message she is projecting. Not just anyone can do it. In fact, believe it or not, there are those who can even sing poorly, poorly.
Now, there are many different angles from which I could attack this topic, but, I’m not sure I want to pick one just yet…so, bear with me.
As well as there being different levels and “classes” among talented, quality singers, there are different levels and “classes” among talented, poor singers. Stay with me now. When I say poor singers, I mean they sing poorly, not sing without any money. Although, I suppose that there could be those out there who are poor enough singers, that they could actually be, poor poor singers.
The first class of poor singers I would like to discuss is a little group I like to call the “Hello, my name is Britney Spears and these are my various other counterparts of the female and male persuasions” posse, or, simply “Biapse” for short. This group of artists is famed the world over. They own Top 40 radio and are infamous for paying as much as possible, for as little as possible (when it comes to their clothing, that is). They play “idol” for the young and the…not so young (both of which, disturb me equally) despite their obvious lack of singing talent, which they cleverly cover up by showing off their “range” using different techniques, like wailing, moaning, sighing, and combinations thereof. Despite their shortcomings, however, I must give credit where credit is due. These people are doing their jobs, and doing them well. They are among the highest paid acts in the world.
The second class of poor singers I would like to identify is the “Brilliant song writers, and if it wasn’t for that fact, they probably wouldn’t have gotten a record deal in the first place” posse – or, “Stegor”. I like to classify Bob Dylan and Neil Young in this group. (You know it’s true, admit it.) These are artists who have helped shape the world with their ideas. I have come to terms with the fact that had they not had something to say, and had they not been able to say it with their own personal brand of ‘crooning’, we may never have seen their faces. Their voices fit their music, made it more real. After all, if you try to picture someone like, oh, I don’t know, Paul Anka, singing “Tangled Up In Blue,” or “Old Man,” it probably wouldn’t have quite the same effect on you. So, as poor singers go, these guys are pretty high up on my list.
The last, and perhaps, most entertaining group of poor singers I would like to mention is the “We can’t sing, and we know we can’t sing, but it’s OK, cos we love doing it anyway” posse (“Ogemit”). Among this group of poor, unknown singers – perhaps the biggest group of any I have yet mentioned, are many of my friends, most of my family, (including myself, thank you very much) and the young boy mentioned in the introduction (and many others around the world, of course). That boy, being a 13 year old Brian Smith, my father, who was not discouraged by the observation of that choir director so many years ago, and to this day, still enjoys belting out anything from “Cover Of The Rolling Stone,” to “Born To Run,” to “Like A Rolling Stone,” despite his “impairment.” We are the people who love the music, and want to show it, and share it with those around us. Whether we are driving in our cars, rinsing our hair in the shower, or strolling down the street with our headphones on, we are the loudest and the proudest, despite those nasty allegations that we are slaughtering the songs we hold so dear.
Singing poorly. It’s an art. It can’t be faked, it comes from the heart. People know, and if you are trying to sing poorly, you’ll be shunned. Poor singer posers or, those who sing poorly, are not respected in our society, and with good reason. As you can see above, there are so many genuine artists floating around, that there just isn’t any room for the frauds. So, a word to the wise. If you can’t squawk with the big birds, stay in the cage.