The State of the Voice is much improved. The speaking voice, I mean, not the singing voice. Definitely not the singing voice. That still sounds like I’m attempting to communicate with a conference of dolphins. Or a tribe of sasquatches. It varies moment to moment.
Some friends have been asking me to go to karaoke but I keep telling them that, even though I feel mostly better, the voice is another matter altogether. Then they say, “Well, you don’t have to sing. You could just come out and enjoy everyone else singing.” To which I say, “Do you not even know me?” If I can’t sing, forget it. Plus, I’m avoiding cigarette smoke and alcohol until I’m 100% again. It has been over three weeks since I caught the super bug and my doctor tells me it could be anywhere from days to weeks before the voice is back. And I can’t wait for it to arrive.
You have no idea how much I miss singing. I wasn’t aware how often I sing until recently when the voice went bye-bye. I do it all the time. You know, when I’m not talking to myself. And it’s because of all that self-talk that I’ve been playing more music than usual, trying to drown myself out. Music which I cannot sing along to. It’s a vicious cycle.
I have always connected strongly to music, ever since I can remember. My singing and, dare I say, performing days began very early on as a kid. It was the late 1960s and we lived in Florida for a few years while Dad worked for Grumman Aerospace on Apollo mission stuff. No kidding.
Anyhow, my Mom cut this record out from the back of a box of Alpha Bits and I wore that puppy out, dancing on the coffee table like a madman the whole time in nothing but a diaper. Yeah, I rocked the house.
That record? Was “Sugar Sugar” by The Archies. It is perhaps the best song of all time, and I challenge anyone reading this not to start dancing in your chair when that song comes on.
A little later, once we moved back to New York, I was hired to take up residence in my bedroom, which was my main venue for years. What can I say? It was hard to pass up the cookies and milk in that contract. It was there I got my very own Mickey Mouse record player. I don’t want to brag or anything, but I totally got to control it. I could play any record I wanted any time I wanted. I could turn the volume up or down. Everything. I was pretty much like a god in that regard.
I had a lot of time to myself in that room. I never had a ton of friends, particularly in school. Some neighborhood friends, yes, but even then I was a loner. I had a large need for me-time after any play time with other kids. I know now that is part of recharging my social batteries. I need much more time these days to recharge now than I did then. Unless I’m in a comfort zone area, then…well, don’t let me digress or I’ll never find my way back.
Between being bullied and just being that weird bookworm kid that didn’t have people lined up waiting for friendship, I spent countless hours in that bedroom. Playing records over and over and over again, singing along, memorizing songs. I had all kinds of records including the Sesame Street songbook, the Mickey Mouse Club soundtrack, and Disney’s Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. It was official. There were real, live ghost sounds on it and everything.
I would practice those songs again and again to an obsessive degree, much to the thrill and thunderous applause of my invisible audiences. I would practice all those characters and voices. I would learn to imitate them, much to the chagrin of my family, I’m sure. I was a lot to take as a child. Bugs Bunny. Daffy Duck. Porky Pig. Mel Blanc was a god to me. When I discovered that one man did all the voices to my favorite cartoon characters, I was fascinated that so much talent could reside inside one person.
All this self-imposed isolation led to an even deeper love for music. It was also where I learned to do the things I can do with my voice. Normally, I mean. Right now, I can’t do shit. But normally, I can kind of stretch my voice to do all kinds of different things, almost like Silly Putty. I’ve used it to do different voices, accents, and it comes in very handy when I’m singing, too. I can sing a lot of different things, make myself sound like certain singers. I don’t have the range I did 15 years ago, but I can still get pretty high and pretty low. My annual rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is well-known. I mean, locally. Among the karaoke community. So…well-known in a very limited sense.
But so what? I mean, aside from being an okay singer at karaoke and making silly voices, what use is it? Well, I did have a radio DJ gig decades ago where I used my voice a bit. That, and my connection to music. Other than that, I’ve had people tell me I could do voiceover work, as in cartoons, commercials, etc. I don’t know. It doesn’t have much practical use, I suppose, but then I’ve never been much of a practical person.
But in impractical terms, those years of singing into pretend microphones probably served me very well. Those thousands of shows in that Calverton bedroom gave me a confidence I wasn’t getting outside that room. Self-confidence never came easily to me. (It still eludes me.) But the crowds cheering for encores helped me temporarily forget the bullshit on the playground at school. And let me tell you, if you’d gotten all the positive press I got after my “Free to Be You and Me” concert tour, you’d feel pretty good about yourself, too.
You know, it’s weird. Now that I think about it, if I had never sang in my bedroom for all those years, I never would have developed my voice. Then I wouldn’t have had the confidence to sing in chorus in school. And years later I wouldn’t have dared try karaoke. (Okay, the two pitchers of beer might have had a little something to do with that pilot attempt.) And then I wouldn’t have joined the church choir when I lived in Dallas. But for a quarter century now, it’s been the karaoke, or what I call “microphone therapy.” Which I cannot do because I have no voice.
If I’d had friends back then, I never would have performed all those shows or trained my voice to do bizarre stretchy things.
I never would have known what I’m missing now.
I knew I should never have started. What an idiot I was.