"It's nine o'clock on a Saturday…”
Indeed, that may very well be the hour at which I send the newsletter tonight. Why? Well, Billy and I can’t seem stop singing together today. Billy’s lyrics spoke to me ... and didn't stop speaking for quite a while.
Here’s what I mean: This week, I listened to the story of Lisa Price and how she built Carol’s Daughter from the ground up
-- and then sold it for an undisclosed (read: large) amount to L’Oreal. During the interview with NPR’s Guy Raz, Price identifies a moment — the moment when she realized that she needed to leave behind her job as a television producer and work on her entrepreneurial effort full time:
"I was watching an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." And she was talking to people who had started businesses with little or no money. And one person said, well, you have to know that you're passionate about what you do. You can't start a business just because you want to make a bunch of money because it's going to take too long for you to make any money. And if you're not passionate about it, you will quit before you make any money. And I remember thinking, I'm really passionate about this stuff. Like, I like doing this. And then somebody else said she would define passion as if someone woke you up out of your bed in the middle of the night, would you go and do this thing? And I honestly could answer yes to that question. And I'm someone who is very fond of sleeping."
I’ve been stumped on this question for a couple of days now. I had no idea what I would do if someone woke me up at midnight, and then Billy and I sang it out together:
"He says, "Bill, I believe this is killing me.”
As the smile ran away from his face
"Well I'm sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place”
It hit me like a ton of bricks. If someone woke me up in the middle of the night, the one thing I would go and do is perform. I’d bound out of bed and run to the stage, the studio, the square, wherever the show was happening. I love the performing arts with a passion that defies even my own understanding. There is nothing else I want to do more than act, sing and make performance art … besides eat and have a place to rest my head. Sadly the two things are directly in conflict with one another.
So, I kept singing. Then, Billy descended into our present day:
"And the waitress is practicing politics…”
"As the businessmen slowly get stoned…"
"Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness…"
"But it's better than drinkin’ alone.”
Eventually, Billy and I parted ways. I needed an opening act for the one to follow — the one I’d dedicate the rest of the evening to. I am, of course, talking about The Queen, Aretha Franklin.
There are some singers where, once you put on the headphones, you realize you’re only fit to sing backup or harmony. Sometimes, it’s best just to stop, listen, and play the song again before you join in. Aretha is one of those few voices. While some might start with “Respect” or “Think”, I started with “Rock Steady
” from the album “Young, Gifted, and Black”:
“Let's call this song exactly what it is
(What it is -what it is - what it is)
It's a funky and low down feeling'
(What it is)
In my hips from left to right
(What it is)
What it is is I might be doing
(What it is)
This funky dance all night”
"It brings big tears into my eyes
When I began, when I began to realize
That I've cried so much, oh since you've been gone
I guess I'll drown in, drown in my own tears”
Then on to “You’re all I need to get by - Take 2
” where she drops out of the lyrics as if inviting others to try and fill the gaps. On and on we went, song after song … and we’ll likely go well into the night, she and I. Eventually, I’ll go mute to spare my neighbors, but her voice will soar on … forever.
This is how you sing, though. You find sound that speaks to you, an artist you want to spend time with, a lyric that hugs your mind, heart, and soul — then, you open your mouth, let air flow, even if it’s a whisper, and you speak to the universe. Song is one of our most powerful gifts as humans, and it’s not the purview of a few special people — it is a gift we all have. Yes, you too.
Let me try that last point again: Your voice is beautiful.
I don’t care what anyone else told you in the past or will tell you at the karaoke bar in the future. Forget about autotunes and algorithms. Sing up, sing out, and let the miraculous sound of your own voice caress your soul.
If you want to sing with me, Aretha and I are on “Let it Be