Today was recording day.
30+ kids and I sang on Nickella Dee‘s smart, funny, creative kids’ album ME LIKE ME.
For the last two weeks, I’ve been religiously memorizing my part in the car.
Billy Joel and NPR were replaced with songs about Captain Billy Bobo and Road Trip MiniVan. Being the only non-parent in the room, I was an anomaly… a big kid who was kidless and therefore a fascination to the under ten crowd. I had a blast. When the kids were each bribed with an oreo between songs two and three to keep up their energy…. I was third in line. When the kids got stickers between songs six and seven to boost their morale, I ended up with a monkey and a flower. After all, I was an accepted part of the gang. I was devoted member of the group. I was one of them.
It was only when the adults broke for beers during the lunch break, that I switched my allegiance.
Every since The Brady Bunch jumped the shark with their musical numbers, I have wanted to sing on an album. I wanted shalala to It’s a Sunshine Day and groove out in bell bottoms to We Can Make the World a Whole Lot Brighter.
Thirty years later, my dream is coming true. I am singing backup on nine of thirteen tracks (that’s music speak) on the album ME LIKE ME. YOU LIKE YOU; The debut kids album of Nickella Dee.
In a business where Talent mingles at the cocktail party with It’s all who you know, I am lucky to know the uber talented Nickella Dee, who originated the role of Dallas in Sister Cities. I have been a longtime admirer of Nickella’s gift for music and lyrics and remember seeing her perform for the first time in a coffee shop six years ago. After blowing away the cappuccino crowd with her piano playing set, she then whipped out a guitar and started a second set. I knew, right then, she was going to make her mark on the music world.
Me Like Me. You Like You. is the brainchild of Nickella, a mom of two, who wanted to make a cool album kids would relate to. Having read the lyrics and sung the music, I can attest that it is a fabulous album filled with love and self-empowerment and creativity. The other backup singers are a bunch of enthusiastic and adorable kids and moms who lend an authenticity of joy and fun to the well produced album.
I just saw Tick…Tick… Boom for the third time. Written by one of my favorite composers, Jonathan Larson, it tells the story of an artist the week before his 30th birthday and the choices he must make. I’ve now seen this show while in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s and I find it equally profound in each decade. While there are some silly songs in the rock musical, there are also some extremely poignant and emotionally charged songs. My three favorite songs from the show are: 30/90, a buoyant expression of frustration as the lead character realizes he can’t stop getting older. Partial lyrics below. Here is a great youtube clip.
Year’s are getting shorter
The lines on your face are getting longer
Feel like you’re treading water
But the riptide’s getting stronger
Don’t panic, don’t jump ship
Can’t find it, like taxes
At least it happens
Only once in your life
They’re singing, “Happy Birthday”
You just wanna lay down and cry
Not just another birthday, it’s 30/90
Why can’t you stay 29
Hell, you still feel like you’re 22
Turn 30 in 1990
Bang! You’re dead, what can you do?
Come to your senses is sung as part of the play within the play. It is a truly heartbreaking song about a couple who have been together too long and are on the verge of breaking up. Partial lyrics below. Here is a great youtube clip.
You’re on the air, I’m under ground
Signal’s fading, can’t be found
I finally open up
For you I would do anything
But you’ve turned off the volume
Just when I’ve begun to sing
The show’s finale song, Louder than Words – is the song which always stays with me long after the show ends. It’s a charge to anyone who listens that words themselves are meaningless unless you perform the actions which back them up. Below is a partial list of lyrics. Here is a great youtube clip.
Cages or wings?
Which do you prefer?
Ask the birds.
Fear or love, baby?
Don’t say the answer
Actions speak louder than words.
If you have the chance to see Larson’s Tick…Tick…Boom or Rent, do.
I’m not a high holidays Jew— the kind who pretty much ignores their faith until Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur and then scrambles to buy overpriced seats at the local synagogue. I confess that I’ve done plays on Rosh HaShanah, I’ve played field hockey on Yom Kippur; however, that doesn’t mean I believe in those holidays any less… I just elect to “pray” in my own way. I read, I think, I meditate…and I watch the films which, to me, emblemize the day. Every July 4th, I watch 1776 and every Yom Kippur I watch The Jazz Singer (the remake). And when Laurence Olivier calls out “Yussel” at the end of the film, I always bawl. Because it sums up what this holiday is about: forgiveness, redemption, starting over. In the film, the father and son have been estranged ever since Neil Diamond’s Yussel fell in love with Lucy Arnaz’s shiksa Molly. The reunion, on Yom Kippur- the day of atonement, the day of forgiveness, best sums up what this important Jewish holiday is about. If you can’t make it to synagogue tonight, watch the video of Neil Diamond singing Kol Nidre in a beautiful voice which is charged with emotional undertones.
And try to forgive someone.
While Glee has popularized the expression Mash-UP, (a song created by blending two or more pre-recorded songs), my favorite mashup of all time is Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World.
I was driving over Mulholland today after a long meeting and a fairly miserable day, when a huge rainbow suddenly appeared smack dab in front of me. And I smiled. And my perspective immediately shifted as I thought about IZ and my favorite rainbow song (sorry Kermit, yours is number two). The combination of the lyrics, the ukulele and IZ’s sweet voice are the soundtrack for the magic of the rainbow which, today, provided traffic congested drivers with a bit of beauty. I quickly took a picture with my iPhone— RIP Steve Jobs–someone who truly took IZ’s lyric’s to heart… ‘and the dreams that you dream of, dreams really do come true”.
RIP Steve Jobs. RIP IZ.
The essential mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah is to hear the sounding of the shofar. According to the famous Jewish philosopher Maimonides, the sound of the shofar is meant to wake up the soul and turn its attention to the important task of repentance. As a little girl, I knew nothing about repentance, I just knew I had the lung capacity of a longshoreman and I wanted to blow the shofar.
Before the oboe and the flute, I played the shofar. It was my first musical instrument. And even though it offered limited musical expression due to its lack of keys and valves to change notes, I think it elicited a stronger emotional reaction than either of my high school band instruments. The sound of the shofar is both haunting and resonating; it is supposed to sound like the personification of the soul. Now, as a little girl, I knew nothing of theology, I just knew that I had enough enthusiasm, plus the right embouchure, to enable me to be my family’s official shofar blower– the Tokea (which literally means “blaster”). All year long I’d eagerly wait for my chance to blow the ram’s horn and contribute to the Jewish New Year. I would hold the shofar in my little hands, excitedly anticipating my father’s shofar calls:
“Tekiah” – a long blast
“Shevarim” – three short blasts
“Teruah” – nine staccato blasts
“Tekiah Gedolah” – a single unbroken blast, which I would hold as long as possible. Eager to improve, impress, entertain, and fulfill my filial duty.
I still celebrate Rosh HaShanah; I reflect on the past year as I try to let go of the old, ask forgiveness, and look toward the possibilities of the new year.
And I think that in a world now overloaded with the technological sounds of text buzz’s and Skype pings and email bells and cell rings…there is something so hauntingly beautiful and raw and simple about one of the original calls to action: The shofar blow.
One of my favorite little known songs is Cowboy Mouth’s “Jenny Says”. It repeats “let it go” over and over and over. And you know what they say about repetition… it’s a common literary device used to emphasize. Like a primitive religious chant, it reminds the audience of the dire importance of the repeated words. “Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.”
“Let it go”… the message doesn’t get more clear than that.
If there is something toxic in your life. Something confusing. Something which doesn’t make you a better version of yourself, then you must be willing to let it go. No matter how painful actually letting go is.
It’s like Maria says in The Sound of Music, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.”
And if you are, indeed, brave enough to ‘let it go’… the possibilities which await you, may be extraordinary.