I didn't know I couldn't sing until I hit sixth grade. What was the clue? Being the only sixth-grader not to make the sixth-grade chorus was a pretty big sign. At the same time, my voice also concerned our church choir director who wanted me to disappear and told the minister so.
"It says, 'Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,'" the minister told her. "As long as she's doing that, she's in the choir."
After that, I became one of the best at lip syncing St. John's Episcopal Church had ever seen. I even lip synced with the soloists, much to their chagrin.
Once I got my driver license, I found the perfect place to sing - in my car to the radio, but only when alone. Even today that's the only place I'll burst into song - and everyone should be grateful for that.
The tone-deaf need to find songs that trick them, that actually makes them feel like they're singing on key. For example, I sound great (to myself) when singing along with Cher or Linda Ronstadt. "Brand New Key," by Melanie, also was one that felt safe to sing.
I did sing lullabies and silly songs to my children. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Barbara Ann" were their favorites, even though I prefered "Hush Little Baby" and "Sweet Baby James."
Then, the magical moment came to each of them. I would sing and they would cock their heads, wrinkle their eyebrows and look like they were about to be claimed by a stomach virus. At that point, four times, it was the day the music died.
"Sing to me," I'd say to them. My silence was effective. All four of them can carry a tune; I didn't poison their ears. I stopped singing in the car and listened to them instead. On the few occasions when I'd forget and give voice to a Dylan or Beatles song, they'd gently remind me of my resolution.
"Don't sing, Mom, please," was their subtle reminder.
Now, they're gone. And guess what? There's an oldies radio station and a rock station, no kids are in my car. I can sing again. People won't even know I'm singing. They'll think I'm on a hands-free cell phone.
So, I turn on the oldies station. They're playing "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and maybe Young, I can't remember. Now, any tone-deaf person will tell you there's a part of this song that was created just for us to sing.
"Da-da-da-da-dot, dot-dot-duh-da-dot ..."
I hum a little and wait, sing a little and wait. Finally, it's here!
And the radio station cuts the song off for a commercial. I was appalled but philosophical. The next day, the song was played again. This time, I just glared at the radio and waited. It happened again.
Now, I know the whippersnappers playing the oldies don't have any idea how important these songs they're playing were. So, here's a lesson. You're messing with the music of our youth, just as if I had an operatic soprano put to a rap song.
So, those who pretend to enjoy the music that we grew up singing, remember this: Don't mess with the da-da. Your listeners aren't just familiar with the music you're playing - we also learned in our teens how to play the buttons to change the station. We're good.
Home Front, by EO Community Editor Terry Murry, is published every other Sunday.