(It is enough just to love to sing)
world is minus one very special person.
every one of us, he was a local musician who worked by day and
played by night. Unlike so many of us, he was all right with
that. Not that he didnít dream of recording and touring, he
was simply unwilling to compromise himself for fame. He wrote
poems and songs for his eyes and ears only. I know it would
be his wish to remain nameless. Think of him as the unknown
solider. I write of him because he will forever symbolize music
in its purest form; art for artís sake. I often felt humbled
and embarrassed when he would inquire about my latest schemes
to conquer the music world. I also write about him because I
was asked to sing his swan song.
has led me into the most wonderful and difficult circumstances.
I accepted the request to sing at his memorial service without
hesitation but was instantly flushed with mixed emotions. It
was an honor, but I knew he was not a fan of my vocal style.
He would have preferred Tom Waits. As a champion of natural
talent, he would, at times, challenge me on the merits of voice
lessons. Ironically, he could have used his own voice as an
example of understated power, but he never let me hear it. Iíd
known him for years before chancing upon a demo of his. His
singing matched his persona, big and relaxed. To add to the
psychological dilemma of representing such a private yet opinionated
fellow musician, I knew my father would be at the funeral. My
father, the man who is solely responsible for my drive to succeed
in music by virtue of his disapproval. My father, the man who
repeatedly informs me that I have no vocal talent even though
he has not heard me sing in twenty-five years. I know life shapes
us by presenting challenges, but do they all have to come on
the same day?
concerns of singing at a funeral, or any highly emotional setting,
are many. There is no place to warm up, so you do it before
hand. The silence before you sing is heavy and magnifying; so
remind yourself to breathe. Itís best to sing strong, because
the smallest shake in your voice can trigger a chain reaction,
choking your throat, paralyzing your tongue and flooding your
eyes. Above all, the best defense against vocal catastrophes
is to be very well prepared. The song was one of his, which
meant I had to become quickly intimate with something I had
never heard. Unable to sleep the night before. I felt a panic
starting on my drive to the church. My throat felt terrible.
over, each eulogy focused on his love of music
and poetry, rather than individual songs or poems. Most at the
church had never heard any of his songs; it was his passion
to write that touched everyone. Then it hit me like a bell falling
from the tower; we musicians tend to forget that it is our love
of the craft which moves people, not our abilities. We tend
to obsess over the smallest details when the largest factor
is heart. I began to focus on the message of the song I was
about to sing rather than the condition of my throat. I knew
that, regardless of my performance, my respect for his music
would come shining through -- and it did. By not focusing on
my voice, I was able to do something I thought impossible; to
look my father in the eye and sing without apology.
will stay with me forever. By sticking to his principals, this
person will always be with me in spirit as a symbol of artistic
self-respect. Without saying a word, he has reminded me, and
hopefully all reading this, of the simple truths. It is our
pursuits which define us more than our accomplishments. It is
enough just to love to sing -- even if no one ever hears your
voice. Live, love and create. W.H.L., rest in peace.
Baxter is a vocal therapist
who offers private and video lessons. To contact him, call:
(800)659-6002. Visit his website at: www.voicelesson.com
with the kind permission of Mark