When I put Ben to bed, he always asks for the same things – more time for video games, a drink, a story, world peace, another story, another drink, to brush his teeth, that I read Betsy a story, etc. … and that I sing him “his songs.” As I sit here humming my personal renditions of “Jesus Loves Me” and “Twinkle, Twinkle” (I prefer a bluesier version), singing to my kids has always made me happy.*
*I really can’t seem to write these without indulging in the frequent aside … With Emma, I sang “Hush Little Baby” and with Betsy, she always calmed down when I sang “Come Unto Me” by Take 6 or “Unforgettable” (just Nat King Cole, please; Natalie … my psychic friend says you’re needed elsewhere … ).
In fact, singing is one of those things that has both made me happy – a lot – and taught me a lot about guarding and protecting something that I do love … to ensure that it keeps making me happy.
When I was 10, my father was the minister of youth at Guntersville First Baptist Church. When I wasn’t playing football outside or trying to sneak into empty classrooms on the third floor, I was in the children’s/youth choir. The first time I can remember singing in front of an audience was the night the director, who was also my band director, asked if I wanted to do a solo – I think it was one of the verses to “Because He Lives.”*
*Which reminds me, this is a happiness blog, but I’d love to do a rant on church hymns that make me want to sneak liquor into the service … anything with blood in it; any that mention how I’d be better off dying and leaving this cruel world; and a host of others that I’ve sung and heard at funerals that make me well-up.
People have WANTED me to sing a lot more than I’ve felt inclined to do it. I love it when I sing because I want to, because I’m getting something out of it. I’m often embarrassed when I’m asked to sing and really don’t feel it … because in the end, I’d rather disappoint me than someone who has asked me. Most of us want to give of ourselves and do it from a sense of goodness, charity or desire to share and make people happy. It ain’t the same when you feel obligated or manipulated.
And just to complicate things, sometimes I’ve agreed to sing, reluctantly, and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. In the balance, it makes me happy. Maybe because I’m giving of myself. Maybe because of the connection with and to other singers and the audience. Maybe because I have seen people moved by the music and words … and I knew I was a part of it.
Which just goes to show, to be happy, follow your passion … but sometimes, try something you don’t want to do. What’s life without mystery and taking some risk?
At this point, I have no idea how many different songs I’ve sung – in choirs, groups or alone. And I’ve pretty much sung all types of stuff:
- In high school, I sang Lionel Richie’s “Say you, Say me,” because my director at the time, and I believe it was Johnny Brewer, had some unexplainable fixation with that song. It was clearly a Lionel Richie time; we did the same song in band. (and no, go find your own clip of this one … Trust me, I heard it plenty)
- At the same time, my church choir would travel every month to the nursing home, and we’d sing old Gospel hymns – think I’ll Fly Away, We will Understand it Better, Traveling On and shaped notes.*
*I REALLY detested this music when I was a kid. Instead of going on strike, I would simply steal one hymnal a week, knowing eventually I’d have them all, and chances to sing songs like this would evaporate. I did eventually have to explain the collection of songbooks to my parents.
- I don’t know if we were that good or just that obnoxious, but Dale Foster, Hugh Thomas, Jon Campbell and a collection of others sang all around campus at Montevallo – in the street, the caf and in the shower at Napier Hall (it had great acoustics). While we could do one helluva version of Seven Bridges Road by the Eagles, I really loved caroling at Christmas. The best parts were singing outside Main Hall, and having people join our little troupe along the way.
- I love singing The Messiah, and this last Christmas, had a first. Dale, who as a best friend is allowed to call in favors, asked me to sing with his choir and perform the tenor arias that begin the piece. The night of the performance, he also surprised me and ask that I do another solo … a bass one (I’m a tenor). Now, that’s fun (and that’s pressure, folks). Clip of Every Valley Shall Be Exalted (I know it looks like me, but alas … he’s just a pretenda’ but I’ve sung this many times)
- More recently, I was introduced to karaoke. I admit, I’d never sung karaoke until last year, in all my years of singing. But sometimes now, I’ll go by myself just to get the chance. It’s also a place where I can shine with my soulful side. Don’t be hatin’ but I do kick-ass versions of “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green, “Me and Mrs. Jones,” by Billy Paul, and “Ain’t no Sunshine,” by Bill Withers.
And if you’re a hatah’ … message me, I’ll put my money where my silky, smooth vocals are!
So (Carpenter’s Fans): Sing, sing a song. Sing out loud. Sing out strong. No matter if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear. Sing. Sing a song.