"We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." ~Maya Angelou

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Everything but Motown

      We had our sing-along group last evening.  I tossed my guitar into the honda and wound my way through the twisty streets of that ridiculously convoluted housing development to Deb's house. Yes, another Deb. She is intensely happy and loves to sit around with friends, belting out the oldie but goodie songs. Deb cracks me up.
       This group is so funny.  We wander in by ones or twos.  Instruments are dragged out and tuned. Songsheets and books are located. People shuffle around until the light is right. This time we had a keyboard as well as the two guitars. Once we had a tambourine. Another time someone brought a set of bongos. There are very few times when bongos are a good idea.  They were perfect in the late 50s, in dimly lit rooms that reeked of smoke. Rooms full of poetry, the blues, and snapping fingers.  These days they....oh, I don't know. It just never really works.
      We usually stutter our way through several songs for the first twenty minutes of so; not really jelling as a group. There is no harmony at this point because we're all trying to figure out how to sync our voices and the slightly varying rhythms we remember from when we were teenagers, singing these with friends as we drove up and down main street in our snazzy, or not so snazzy cars. It takes a good while.
We usually have to stop and tune again, and search through the book some more. This starting and stopping always remind me of trying to start a fire with damp wood.  It just refuses to catch for what seems like an unbelievably long time, but is probably about twenty or thirty minutes or so.
    Eventually, the voices warm up, we start listening to each other and someone breaks out in hesitant harmony. About that time Batch comes in with his 12 string and we play some more, he and I watching each other's hands on the strings, trying to mesh our choice of chords together on the songs we both sang, a little differently, throughout the sixties and seventies. (Okay, let's be honest. I only sang these songs during the seventies. Batch started singing earlier and has continued to sing all kinds of songs right along. I got sidelined with children and other distractions for several years.) We finally come together and the fire catches; everyone begins to sing out strongly, people begin to call out requests.
     At some point, I usually get teary-eyed in the middle of a love song and have to stop and take of drink of sparkling cranberry juice and we go on.  " Are you okay over there?" "Yep. Let's sing something happy." That's when we break into The City of New Orleans. "Goodnight America, I love ya. Saying don't you know me, I'm your native son?"
     Then Batch starts in on some of his favorites, which I have no idea how to play. I think he's making up chords because there is no way in hell I could follow along. I put my guitar down, fiddle with my pic and sing along, because I almost always know the words, or some of them. Someone else will know the ones I forget. We like to sing songs to someone's cell phone and the wireless speaker sometimes. James Taylor's "Shine a little light"....the song about Martin Luther King (that probably isn't the title) is one of those. Pat plays her standup bass, which adds wonderful depth to the sound.
      We sing about social justice and freedom. We sing about the sweet earth and some sad ballads about love and loss. And then we launch into the Beetles and a little rock and roll and then slide on into some Willie Nelson and Simon and Garfunkle. I tried to remember the words to "The Perfect Country and Western Song" last night but couldn't. I blame it on the amnesia. I should practice it (the song, not the amnesia) before next time, just for laughs.
      Bev wants to sing Motown but that's hard to play AND hard to sing, but it is easy to sing along with, which is what everybody did back in the day, coming in on the hook at full voice.  Why fight it? Let's just turn on Spotify and hook up the speaker and let her roar. Almost no one in the group likes to play Motown, but we try it now and then, to make her happy. Some months we'll sing Red Rubber Ball or Let It Be Me (that's a good one.)
      Deb's wonderfully tolerant husband finally wanders through at some point and pretends to get something from the kitchen, which is really a reminder that we've been there for three hours and maybe should begin moseying toward the door sometime soon.  He is a french horn player and says he can't sing. I doubt that. But he doesn't sing with us, at any rate. The ruse in the kitchen Iworks. After some quiet visiting and perhaps a slow rendition of The Water is Wide, or For Baby, or Happy Trails we pack up the guitars and the songbooks and head out into the starry night. There are always hugs all around.
    This month, for the first time, I was able to find my way out to MacArthur without getting lost. What can I say? I'm directionally challenged, especially in the dark. I don't really care.
      Once in the car I turned my car and phone to bluetooth and let the soundtrack to the broadway musical, Hamilton, roar through the car. Now that is a completely other kind of music. I love it too.  Oh, I learned at the sing-along that tickets to Hamilton are $625 apiece.  Hmmm...that is a lot of money. Not gonna do it, but it won't stop me from singing along when I can.  "We're out gunned! ....Out manned! .....Out numbered, out planned!"........"Here comes the General......Here comes the General."  "What TIME IS IT???   SHOW TIME!" ..........."I am NOT giving up my SHOT!"....

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