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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Before Rap Rattled Your Windowpanes



It's astonishing how many people are playing, and how quiet the whole thing is. Aretha is still fairly young here, the seventies running out of gas, this whole big-band orchestra extravaganza circling the drain already; but damn -- she is entirely in control of herself, singing the way she wants to, not forcing it in any way, the material (Stevie Wonder wrote it) worthy of her effort.

Singing is athletic. I never want to see old singers perform much. They are shells of their former selves, usually, and it makes me sad to see them.

In her introduction, Aretha seemed to be laboring under the impression that the Canadian audience was going to sing along or get up and groove or form a wild, impromptu rave or something.

Man, was she lost.

6 comments:

Rob De Witt said...

Sigh.....

First of all, Aretha has pretty much always been the real deal, and this is as good an example as any. My, my, my.

I'll tell you, though - you need to get over this thing about "Old means over." I just went to meet Breitbart last night, and he was on about the same thing: "We're in our 40s, and we got left with a mess, and we're the first people to get hip to it." Wrong.

Aretha still sounds great, and the reason for that is that she didn't try to sound like a 70-year-old drunk when she was 20. So does Tony Bennett, and Pavarotti was still burning it down at 70 - and died too young. Ray Charles never did get old.

I'm 66, and not only can I still sing anything I ever could (and a helluva lot more,) but I'm starting a new singing career as a soloist while we discuss this. I can still cook, too.

Keep thumpin that bass, young feller. And learn to sing; it'll keep you young and astound your kids.

Sam L. said...

Well, I'm 67 and I still sing as well as when I was 20--which is why I usually don't and my kids complain when I do.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Rob- Thanks as always for reading and commenting.

I don't think old necessarily means over. I used to play gigs regularly with 70 year old men who were still entertaining. But physical ability and stamina diminish with age, and it generally shows.

Classically trained singers fare better, generally, but Pavarotti slipped noticeably when he got older. He said so himself. People like them start so far ahead of everyone else their diminished abilities still outpace others.

When people are at their apogee, it's very compelling to see them perform. I didn't want to see Bobby Orr playing for Chicago on one leg after I'd seen him at his peak. It's the same with entertainers for me.

I think Aretha is a bad example for your case. She looked and sounded like smothering five feral cats at a Superfund site for the last 25 years or so to me. I liked the video because it showed a kind of high water mark. Like Napoleon heading East. It was all Moscow and snowflakes after that.

Hi Sam!

Rob De Witt said...

Weeelll....

The deal about older musicians is that they know what to leave out. I knew Benny Thomasson when he was still winning fiddle contests in his 70s, and folks cried. He was still a kick in the butt, and he died on stage playing a breakdown.

Technique is a lifelong pursuit, and it definitely keeps you going after it. Pavarotti, btw, may have not had the incredible sound he had when he was 20, but he sang Nessun Dorma, nobody's Come to Jesus, when he was 71 at the Winter Olympics in Turin, and brought down the house. I'm sorry to hear that Aretha Franklin has lost track of her limits. You can always sing; it's just a question of recognizing what's working that night. Sinatra's the prime example, after he lost his voice and started using what he had left.

I'm staggered by kids too, but they just don't have as much to say as folks with some miles on 'em. 'Dja ever hear Horowitz playing for the Russians at 83? Some critics think it was his best stuff, and grown men wept. I saw Victor Borge at the same age, and it was, in a word, breathtaking. That's what I'm after; that's what I'm grateful for.

Age slows some things down; I had a bad accident about 7 years ago, and I've just started being able to flatpick again. But it's coming back better than ever, and what else do I have to do, after all? Pablo Casals played Bach every morning of his life; he was asked why he still played for 3 hours a day at 95, and he said "I'm beginning to notice some improvement...I notice myself getting better at this."

I dunno; art to me is witnessing an adult comment on a theme from the perspective of their own experience. Beauty is everything, and the will to excel is ageless.

And just imagine the lesson you see in your kids' eyes when they reach that age where they know everything, and they watch their Dad learning new stuff. Worth every tear, for sure.

Anonymous said...

Youtube
Sugar on the Floor by Etta James
Can't even stand but she still can sing
I hear she has full-blown dementia now-

Anonymous said...

Here ya go:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8xcvjWhWMw