A beautiful noise

February 19, 2014 § 6 Comments

I am a compulsive singer. I am that annoying person who hums along to the movie theme. I burst into song at the slightest provocation; my brain makes lyric associations with almost anything people say. It’s got so bad that my children throw words at me as a challenge. Yesterday’s word was ‘yoghurt’ – I haven’t come up with a song for it yet.

Last night I was walking around the house screeching bits from Bohemian Rhapsody in my best imitation of Freddie Mercury’s falsetto; I took a walk around my neighbourhood in the afternoon and belted out some show tunes. Right now, I’m singing River Deep, Mountain High at my desk because someone posted a video of Ike and Tina Turner singing it on Twitter. I know. I’m certifiable.

My late mother told me I started singing at 18 months. One night, after she’d put me to bed, she heard a little voice coming from the darkness of my room. A familiar hymn we sang at church, horrendously mispronounced, but perfectly in tune, issued forth from tiny me. And thereafter, every night, after story time and kisses, I sang to myself quietly in the dark until I fell asleep. And I did that for years.

My waking hours, however, are a little more raucous. Sometimes I sing along to things, sometimes I sing harmonies. Sometimes I sing softly, sometimes loudly, which raises epic eyerolling from my kids and giggles from their friends. I have been known to sing harmonies with buskers I pass on the street, or reinvent lyrics of silliness on the spot. And even when I’m not singing out loud, I’m singing in my head. There is a constant melody – a personal playlist – always about my person. I just love to sing. 

When I tell people I’m like this (just in case they haven’t noticed) often they shake their heads and say, sadly, “Oh, I can’t sing. If you heard me sing… I’m tone deaf. I sound too terrible.”

Well, here’s what I think. “So what? Why does it have to be about what it sounds like? It’s not a performance, it’s an activity. And if it makes you happy, then let rip – who cares if it’s slightly off-key or your voice sounds like Leonard Cohen with a razor blade lodged in his vocal chords? Were you planning to release an album or play at Madison Square Gardens? Of course you weren’t.

So forget about what you sound like. Just sing. Open your throat, open your heart and let it out, and bugger what anyone else thinks.

Go on. I dare you. Make a beautiful noise.

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