I am not sure why God blessed me with the passion to sing but not the ability. I can’t read notes or carry a tune but I’ve loved music and singing for as long as I can remember. My husband, on the other hand, finds no value in singing along with an artist. His philosophy is the singer has been paid good money to perform and needs no help from him.
Music soothes me, makes me happy and sometimes makes me cry, and all of that is fine. Music is meant to evoke emotions and everyone responds differently to what they hear. My favorite venue is whatever vehicle I am in. I sing loud and proud and quite badly. Sometimes I boogie if the song warrants it. “I will Survive” and “Midnight train to Georgia” come to mind. One Sunday afternoon, Phillip and I were on our way home from running errands and “We didn’t start the Fire,” by Billy Joel came on the radio. I was driving and timing the return home to end with the song.
It started off great. You know, “Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray.” Truman was president when Joel was born in 1949 and that’s why the song begins with him. Phillip kind of rolled his eyes because he knew it was going to be a long ride home, but he sat quietly in the passenger seat.
“Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom, Brando, ‘The King and I,’ and ‘The Catcher in the Rye.’”
The mention of the book always makes me think of John Lennon and how he was gunned down by the psycho Mark David Chapman, who was obsessed with the 1951 novel by J.D. Salinger. I briefly wonder what Lennon would be doing now, if he hadn’t been taken from us. I also think of the many times I’ve visited Strawberry Fields inside Central Park and marvel at the number of fans who still come from around the world to light candles, sing and cry
“Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland.” I’ve never been to Disneyland or Disney World and images of Graceland and Elvis wearing a white cape flashes through my mind.
“U-2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy, Chubby Checker, ‘Psycho,’ Belgians in the Congo.” I like that the music changes to mimic the “Psycho” music at that part. And I always think, this is where I came in, as he is singing about events that took place as I was being born and beginning my childhood.
“Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock, Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline, Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan.” The song is starting to pick up on events that I remember experiencing through news accounts. This is my history.
I pull into the driveway and stop so Phillip can get out to check the mail, still singing. He gets back in, thumbing through the useless pile of junk someone has classified as mail and closes the door. Just as I put the truck into drive and begin the descent toward the house, I know the song is in the home stretch too.
I am so proud of my moving musical feat, and am preparing to savor the satisfaction of hitting those final notes.
“Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS”— “You need one of these hats,” Phillip said, pointing to a selection of neon Panama hats on the back of a catalog. Billy continues on, “Crack, Bernie Goetz, hypodermics on the shore, China’s under martial law, rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore.”
I am stopped dead in my tracks.
“Seriously? Seriously? You broke my rhythm, you interrupted the flow. I can’t pick up now,” I said, realizing in my mind how silly the entire incident had become yet unable to keep the rebuking tone out of my voice. I couldn’t believe he actually talked to me in the middle of duet with Billy Joel.
Has he learned nothing in the three dozen years we’ve been together? The next time the song came on — and it plays a lot these days as Sirius/XM Radio has devoted its Channel 4 to Billy Joel for three months — Phillip never said a word until after the final repeating trail of “We didn’t start the fire.”
See? Men can be trained.