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2:48 p.m. - October 11, 2005
Dear Future Karoke Partner

Dear Future Karaoke Partner,

As you recall, we have made plans to croon “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band if/when we meet in February (which is still a go as of now). Mind you, I’m still keen for it – in fact, I’ve been listening to the song fairly regularly trying to make sure what parts were mine and what parts were yours. (I do realize that the Starland Vocal Band had two males and two females, but we can make a go of it as a duo mainly because everything sounded fairly generic – like plain yogurt or rice cakes). Now, I know that song by heart, and could probably sing it backwards, but I didn’t want to step on any of your lines unknowingly.

And while I know that my voice is probably not the best in the world, I still thought it was at least passable. That is, until, the other night.

I was listening to some songs I was considering for playlists for future CD projects for various and sundry folks, and the song “So Fine” by ELO came on the iPod. Now, that song is a bit obscure, but it’s still fabulous (Side 2, Track 1 of the “New World Record” LP, which is totally their best ever) and I, of course, know every syllable. I went upstairs to tuck Katie in and then went into the master bedroom.

There, Liz was busy doing something or other with Kristin and I came in there singing away. Liz gave me a smile, told me to take off the headphones, and said:

“This reminds me of a scene from ‘Boogie Nights’.”

Mind you, there were no scenes of babies in the bedroom in that movie, and Liz and I certainly weren’t involved in any…activity…that’s depicted in that movie. So it had to be the scene where Dirk Diggler is trying to be a recording artist, singing his heart out in the studio.

Of course, you recall his singing voice.

Sigh.

I’ve been a music buff since I was three. That’s when I got my first 45, “Incense and Peppermints” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock. My older brother and sister were teenagers when I was a wee one, so I was exposed to their music at an early age. I guess music has been in my life all of my life.

It was just a matter of time before I started singing a lot around the house. Not just the normal nursery rhyme stuff, but the pop songs of the day and anything my brother or sister were listening to at the time. I got my brother in big trouble one day. His VW Beetle had an 8-track, and I was in that car (a four year old in a VW Beetle, how safe was THAT?). He was listening to Steppenwolf, and the song “The Pusher” came on the car stereo.

When I got home, I started to sing the chorus of that song. Go Google it, if you don’t know it, and then you can see how Mom was a bit miffed that I was singing that at full voice.

As time went on, I still loved music. At church, they had a children’s choir that had one performance (it was a one shot deal) and I had the solo piece. There was a tape recording of it, but I guess I sounded fairly decent for a nine year old boy.

However, in junior high, I opted for band, not choir. There was something macho about a trumpet (well, at least in my mind).

Then, of course, my voice changed. But it was still good enough to be cast in a few musical theater productions during the summer of my junior high years. I can still sing “A Very Merry Unbirthday” from Alice in Wonderland.

So, Future Karaoke Partner, my youth gave me some positive reinforcement about my singing voice.

Later in life, I also received some decent reviews. Girlfriends always smiled at me when I sang them silly or torchy songs. Of course, I really hammed it up. I was Shatner before Shatner was cool, perhaps, but my girlfriends seemed to like when I did it, at first anyway.

When out with the boys at the Scoreboard Lounge (a pitcher of beer for $3, and we always paid with a five so we’d have money to play pool), “Seven Bridges Road” came on the jukebox a lot, and there were three of us that had our parts worked out.

My big problem, Moose told me, was that I always wanted to follow the lead, and not sing the harmony parts when I was trying to sing with someone. I guess if I had more training I would be better at that.

I knew better than to try to sing with a falsetto, except for comedic purposes. I knew Brian and Carl Wilson’s range for the most part was out of my league, so I stuck to what I thought I could do well. And I thought that I, while not being a great singer, could at least carry a semi-tune semi-far.

However, my perception did not seem to be reality.

Moose and I went to an art opening at this old house in Crawfordville. (We were roommates at the time). I know art and Crawfordsville does seem a bit oxymoronic, but there are a few people here in BFE-land who can do something with a canvas. Anywho, the local artsy type denizens of the county were there – a lot of the theater people. I was talking to one comely young lass about some song that I heard, and I was singing it to her. I thought we were making a connection. Then one of the theater types told me to stop singing.

Why, I asked?

Because you’re no good, she said.

This opening was held in an old house, not unlike the one I live in now. Except this one did not have central air. This was in the summertime, and it was a day where the temp and the humidity were both in the 80’s. Even though this was at night, it was still hot and sticky.

For refreshments, they were serving white zinfandel, boxes and boxes of white zinfandel. I was drinking it like it was Kool-Aid. (Yeah!)

Needless to say, being told I couldn’t sing set me off, Future Karaoke Partner, in a way that is seldom seen by longtime Smed observers. I ranted, raved and raged on about how my heroes of music (mainly Neil Young) can’t sing either, but they’re making valuable art and important art and how snobby and elitist an attitude that is. I even ranted on about the song “Sing”. Because I didn’t worry if it was good enough for anyone else to hear, I just sang, I sang a song.

Moose dragged me out of there. It had to be the white zinfandel. Smed and those types of wines don’t mix, I’m afraid. Of course, any chance I had with the comely lass was now less than zero, more like the square root of -1.

I had more signs that my voice wasn’t all I thought it was. I was down in New Orleans at a conference and tried to sing “Hello, It’s Me” – you know, the Todd Rundgren song. I forgot about the bridge, where it gets really high at the end – and I totally blew it.

Six months into a relationship, my girlfriend stopped smiling when I sang to her.

Liz, also, started giving me a look after about six months of dating, like, “You’re singing to me and it was cute but now I wish you’d stop because it’s not as cute as it once was and the songs you are choosing are totally out of your range.”

Now Katie, my sweet precious Katie, has said to me, “Stop singing Dad. You’re hurting my ears.”

At least Kristin has yet to form an opinion.

But does that mean I’ve stopped singing? Oh, no!

When I was at a week long seminar down at Vanderbilt, we had a night where they had a karaoke machine. I chose “Escape” by Rupert Holmes and a young lady tucked me. Yep, a dollar in the old waistband made me king of the world.

Recently, in Cedar Rapids, I crooned “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” and while some of that gets a bit, high, for me, I still sang it with great gusto.

I just wanted to let you know this up front. While I am sure we’ll have a heck of a good time with “Afternoon Delight” it may not reach the pantheon of performances.

So, Future Karaoke Partner, come this February, in the frozen tundra, I will give a performance. It will be one to watch. I will give great effort, and I will entertain.

I definitely will entertain.

And whether that’s in a good way, or a train wreck way, we shall soon see.

Yours,

Smed

 

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