When my son was between 18 and 24 months old, I occasionally played a VHS tape with several music videos from the early days of MTV. You never know how much children of that age retain and how they perceive what they are watching, but he generally seemed mesmerized by what he was watching. Maybe he was just astounded by the hairstyles – these videos dated back to the early 80′s – the New Wave era when bands like Duran Duran, Split Enz, Bow Wow Wow, The Tubes, and A Flock of Seagulls were leveraging the synergy of this new medium and emerging fashions to propel their careers.
About a year later (not sure the exact age, but prior to his 3rd birthday), I was driving with my son and a song came on the radio. It was a song by the band Simple Minds called “Don’t You Forget About Me.” The song was one of the few hits enjoyed by the band, but was fairly prominent in its time from the exposure on MTV and because it was one of the featured songs in the soundtrack of the movie The Breakfast Club, a series of movies by John Hughes that captured the high school experience wonderfully.
My son called out from his child restraint seat, “It’s the Rain Song.” I thought perhaps he was confused. There was a song by Led Zeppelin with the title “The Rain Song” back in the 70′s, but I couldn’t fathom how he would have known that. Then a passage of the song by Simple Minds began to play with the following lyrics:
Will you stand above me?
Look my way, never love me
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down
Will you recognise me?
Call my name or walk on by
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down, down
I was astounded! I couldn’t believe his recall at such an early age, especially when he hadn’t actually heard the song in probably 9 to 12 months, as I recall. It wasn’t as though this was a song that we sang to him over and over again before bedtime. It was one of dozens of songs on the tape that we watched periodically. Music as a memory tool is a phenomenon that we don’t capitalize on nearly enough. It’s one of the many great benefits of music education.
We’ve discussed the power of songs of Schoolhouse Rock previously in this forum, and it’s great to know that many educators and drama clubs are keeping those wonderful songs alive for new generations.
You’ve likely heard the joke, “You should sing solo. So low that nobody can hear you.” Or perhaps, “You should sing tenor. Ten or eleven miles away.”
Those jokes embrace the notion that someone who doesn’t sing well is fair game for ridicule. I’ve never subscribed to that theory. My approach is: If you’re not a great singer, compensate by singing louder. My point is that singing is fun. Yet most of us reach an age where we’re so self-conscious that we give it up, unless we’re supremely gifted.
I assume that most of us lose our fearlessness and become overly concerned with the scrutiny of others as we approach our teen years. I recall vividly the frustration of one of the nuns at our catholic grammar school at a group of 6th grade boys circa 1978, most of whom were lip-synching the hymns in church because it just wasn’t cool at that age to sing church music (most of the boys were starting to gravitate toward KISS or Led Zeppelin at that point). In an act of public humiliation, she had us sing the song one boy at a time to try to decifer the pretenders from the performers.
The classic song “Sing” composed by Joe Raposo and recorded by a host of artists, most notably the Carpenters, captures my sentiments perfectly: particularly the phrase, “Don’t worry that it’s not good enough, for anyone else to hear…” I’ve come to appreciate the value of song when you simply pay attention to the joy that the sheer act brings you rather than how it might be perceived by others, most of whom are too scared to belt out a tune themselves.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of the success of the television show Glee is that it might make singing “in vogue” again. With these thoughts in mind, here’s Nathan Lane’s version of the song “Sing” with an assist from the muppets: