Big Dreams

Lately I keep saying I need to expand my musical horizons a bit.  And then every time I step outside of my musical box,  I end up saying GET ME BACK IN MY BOX. STAT.  And put that guy’s shirt back on and make him stop touching himself like that, ew ew ew.  Jazz makes me want to to hit somebody, and hip-hop is filled with a lot of hate I don’t want in my head, and I’m sorry, but what’s required for pop music is production, not talent, and yawn. If you can’t hack it alone onstage with your voice and an instrument, I am not buying your album. (Don’t I sound like fun at a concert? Somebody brings out a saxophone and my friends all take a giant step back from me and start looking for emergency exits.)

Saxophones? How did I get on saxophones?

Anyway.  Aside from a general love of roots music, or Americana, or whatever you’d like to call it, I have a thing for Motown. And gospel. And soul. If I ask you right now what your dream role in any musical would be, would you have to hesitate very long? Or do you have it dialed in?  Could you blurt it out with out thinking about it?  Mine, without hesitation, has always been to be a backup singer in Little Shop of Horrors. (Tied for first choice role: Adelaide from Guys and Dolls. Duh.) I love those backup singers. I would be *amazing* as one of those backup singers.  I hope.

So, I just got back from seeing 20 Feet From Stardom. Please.  For me.  Log off now.  Go get a ticket.  Have some popcorn. Enjoy the show. Let’s meet back here to discuss.

I no longer want a do-over on my weekend.  I want a do-over dating back to age sixteen or so, when I should have bought a dress like the gold fringe one you see Tina Turner wearing in this movie, and gone off to find my fortune.  Not as a lead singer, because I don’t have that drive, let alone talent or dedication or stage presence or moxie, but as a collaborator.  Someone who makes beautiful sounds with other people, because singing harmony is always way more fun. The stories in this movie are as painful as they are amazing.  They’re great stories, though. All of them.

The visuals in this movie are as beautiful as the vocals.  Just wait till you get to the part where there’s one backup singer, then two of her, then three, then four around a microphone.  She doesn’t even know she’s doing it, but she’s shaping the sounds with her hands as she sings. It’s arresting.

I spent a chunk of the movie re-evaluating my Bruce Springsteen experience last fall.  I left that weekend thrilled that I accidentally saw Bruce do Thunder Road solo, because really all you need is Bruce and a guitar, and I was disappointed with the giant stadium show and the fifteen-person backup band.  Now that I’ve heard him talking about his backup singers: I want to see his show again.  Also: this is the first time I’ve ever really liked Mick Jagger.

It seems that the people who make the most difference in a movement, rock and roll or anything else, for that matter, might not ever be people you’d recognize if you saw them on the subway. Maybe they wanted their name in lights and didn’t get there.   Maybe they got there and realized they didn’t want that.  Maybe they never wanted it in the first place.

All of the above are just fine.

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