358 FRIDAY 19 JUNE 2015 (-8)
Seasons of Love – Rent Original Broadway Cast
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes; well, more like five hundred fifteen thousand five hundred and twenty minutes. That is the number of minutes that have gone by since I started this project almost a year ago. As I prepared for the last entries on the list, I wanted to start the last week with this song.
It’s been a fascinating year. Nothing overly exciting has happened, but it’s been quite eventful nonetheless. The fact that I was able to commit for a year and a half to not only creating the list but to doing write-ups about each song is a feat itself.
On the first entry of the list, The Spirit Of Adventure, I mentioned that I was looking forward to a year perhaps full of adventures. And yet, I would have never imagined that the biggest adventure would be to revisit all the moments in my life that made me the man I am today. I never thought I would be able to again inhabit the child, young man, and young adult I was once. My intention was never to make this project a memoir blog, but early on, the songs I picked demanded I take a journey through the six decades I’d been on earth and tell stories about it. Like any good explorer, I visited places I hadn’t seen before to find new stories. There are also locations that I just had to revisit. So, that’s how I’ve chosen to measure my year, in the number of memories, artifacts, anecdotes, new understandings, and mementos that I’ve collected through my inner expeditions. I’m sure they will come in handy in the journey ahead.
Song Title: Seasons of Love – 1996 Genre: Musical Artists: Rent Original Broadway Cast Composer: Jonathan Larson Lyricist: Jonathan Larson Album: Rent (1996 Original Broadway Cast)
Favourite Lyrics: Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes / Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear / Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes / How do you measure, measure a year?
359 SATURDAY 20 JUNE 2015 (-7)
L’ Illusionista – Orchestra
Just like last week’s Maple Leaf Rag, this song comes from the I-can’t-believe-I-haven’t-included-this-one list. L’ Illusionista, from Fellini’s film “8 ½”, has come to represent, at least in my book, an era.
I remember very little from the 1960s, but whenever I hear this one, I’m transported back to an era of sophistication and vibrant psychedelic patterns. No, I’m not one of those who believe the decade they were born in was the best; I think I prefer the 1970s and the 1990s. However, something about the 1960s makes it a tad artier than the ensuing eras. The decade had a splash of attitude with a twist of snobbishness. It is as if certain cultural elements decided to stay in the 1960s rather than trying to move on to uncertain times. Perhaps, it was the right move.
Song Title: L’ Illusionista – 1963 Genre: Soundtrack Artists: Orchestra Composer: Nino Rota Album: Otto e Mezzo (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
360 SUNDAY 21 JUNE 2015 (-6)
I Am What I Am – George Hearn
Perhaps one of the most celebratory songs about humanity to come out of Broadway, there was no way I wasn’t going to include I Am What I Am.
In previous entries, I’ve talked about Jerry Herman’s ability to tell full stories with his songs, and I Am What I Am is a prime example of his style. I love the way it starts small, almost as an internal thought. Halfway through the song, the singer realises that self-affirmation won’t be enough. His truth, who he is, needs to be spoken aloud; the world needs to know what he’s all about. No excuses and no explanations. It is a leap of faith with the hope that once and for all, people will accept him for what he is and not for the person he is expected to be.
Although the gay movement has embraced the song, I think this is a hymn that belongs to everybody. Anyone who has decided to stand their ground after being criticised, looked down upon, or bullied for who she or he is, and the decisions they’ve made has the right to claim this song as their own.
Sometime in the 1980s, I accompanied my parents to a conservative small city in Venezuela. I had to visit a researcher at their local university, and my parents had to attend a social event. I was expected to attend the soirée with them.
On the night of the party, I donned a fabulous pair of high-waisted red pleated trousers, a white shirt, and a white jacket. I loved my little ensemble. My parents didn’t like it as much as I did, but they didn’t say anything. They knew that although I would acknowledge their comments, I wouldn’t validate them. Ever since I was a kid, I’d had very little regard for what others thought about my weight, what I wore or did to my hair. I danced to my drum when it came to personal appearance.
People would look in my direction at the party, talk among themselves, and laugh. Halfway through the party, everybody had an opinion about the chubby gay guy wearing red trousers. Oh yes, at some point during the evening, it had been determined that anyone wearing red trousers definitely had to be gay. Sure, baggy red pants were a tad over the top, and I know that I may have looked a little bit ridiculous, but god darn it, it was my right to wear those red pants to that event. No questions asked. It was my god-given right to be ridiculous.
For years, I’ve been a big believer in what I like to call “everybody’s right to be ridiculous.” Some of the things we do can be perceived by others as ridiculous, and even if they’re right, it is our right to be whatever we want to be without having to explain. We have the right to show the world what we are without excuses, and we shouldn’t give anybody the power to take that away from us.
We are who we are.
Song Title: I Am What I Am – 1983 Genre: Musical Artists: George Hearn Composer: Denis King Lyricist: Jerry Herman Album: La Cage Aux Folles (Original Broadway Cast) (1983)
Favourite Lyrics: Life’s not worth a damn till you can say / “Hey world, I am what I am”
361 MONDAY 22 JUNE 2015 (-5)
That’s How Young I Feel – Angela Lansbury
I felt I had to include a song to reference the fact that I’m getting old. What better song than That’s How Young I Feel from “Mame?” I’m sure a few of you must be familiar with the story of the ageless aunt who took in her young orphan nephew. Neither in the novel nor in the musical is clear how old Mame is, but there’s no doubt she’s fabulous.
I’m not sure what it is to feel young exactly, or old for that matter. I feel fine, period. Sure, certain parts of my body feel awkward or may not be as tuned in as they used to be, but that doesn’t stop me from doing the things I want to do. What does that mean? Am I still young? Am I starting to get old?
My siblings and I like to talk about the longevity on both sides of the family; with a few of our ancestors living well into their 80s, 90s, and even early 100s, we’re sure we may live to old age. We don’t doubt it. However, I often wonder about the quality of life we’ll have we get to our golden years. Take my parents, for example. My father is in his mid-80s, my mother is in her late 70s, and their health is in excellent condition. Part of it, I suppose, is good genes. The other part, however, is their easy access to health care. Often, I wondered if, by the time I reach their age, I’ll have the same access to health coverage they’ve constantly had, probably since the 1960s. Every single job Dad had offered health benefits; I haven’t had such luck regarding job benefits. I guess I still have a few more years to sort that out.
This is Jerry Herman’s last song on the list. I’m so glad I’ve included 12 of his songs. He is one of the great American composers and my favourite storyteller, no doubt.
Song Title: That’s How Young I Feel – 1966 Genre: Musical Artist: Angela Lansbury Composer: Jerry Herman Lyricist: Jerry Herman Album: Mame
Favourite Lyrics: Love a faceful of frozen custard / To have a hot dog with sand and mustard / And ride the Ferris wheel / Oh, honey / ‘Cause that’s how young I feel.
362 TUESDAY 23 JUNE 2015 (-4)
Stepping Out – The ‘Stepping Out’ Company
If this were a musical, this would be my 11 o’clock number. The big showstopper that lets the audience know the show is about to end.
Stepping Out is the final number in the musical of the same name. For years, I’ve had a soft spot for the sweet story of a bunch of women, and one man, from different social backgrounds, weekly tapping away at a church hall. I’ve never seen the musical or the play; I’ve only seen Liza’s 1991 adaptation of the play. However, earlier in the year, I came across this song and fell in love with the smooth start and gradual build-up to a rousing tap number. A part of the lyrics caught my attention, “here’s your chance to sing and dance, just find yourself a spot.” In a way, that had been the premise I had thought of on the morning of my 49th birthday. That last year in my forties was the chance to do something special. Clearly, I wasn’t going to sing and dance. In the last year, before turning 50, I was going to write and find myself a spot. Hence, the birth of this blog.
However, my favourite lyric that moved me the most was, “Oh, everybody knows it’s true. If we can do it, so can you. Let’s take a chance to sing and dance. Be happy for a while.” As trite as it may sound, all you need is a dream, a plan, and the will to endure and persevere, with the certainty that, above all, you’ll be happy while you do it.
Words don’t suffice to explain how overwhelmingly happy I am for having taken on this project. For a whole year, I would wake up every day with the anticipation of what songs I’d be listening to that day and which one would be the lucky one to make it to the list that evening. When it came time to write the blog, I was happier and even felt blessed at times for having the opportunity to examine my life through music.
So, my friends, as the end of the list rapidly closes in, I want to leave you with this piece of advice, take a chance on your dreams, bet on all the things you’ve always wanted to be, and search for that thing you’d really love doing at least once in your life, stick to it, find yourself a spot, step out of your comfort zone, and be happy for a while.
Song Title: Stepping Out – 1996 Genre: Musical Artists: The ‘Stepping Out’ Company Composer: Denis King Lyricist: Mary Stewart-David Album: Stepping Out: The Musical
Favourite Lyrics: Oh, everybody knows it’s true / If we can do it, so, can you / let’s take a chance to sing and dance / Be happy for a while.
363 WEDNESDAY 24 JUNE 2015 (-3)
Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like – Keith Carradine – Top 10 Contender – 6th Place Finish
Early on the list, I included (The) Japanese Sandman, a song that I love for its mystic and foreignness. When you add Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like, you end up with the two songs I want to be played at my funeral.
Notwithstanding the double entendre, when I first heard this ditty from “The Will Rogers Follies”, every word resonated as if the song had been written for me. If there’s something I can assure you, now that I’m getting old, I’ve disliked very few people in my life; I’ve rarely gone down that route.
I believe we often forget how fortunate we are to be part of the human race. We have taken humanity for granted, and we rarely stop celebrating our contribution to making ours a beautiful race. Every member of our community is a lovely human being; if we can’t see it at first, it is on us to make sure we take another look and find something unique and likeable about them. I assure you that if we take the time to do it and let them know why we like them instead of why we dislike them, this will be a better world.
Is it naïve of me to think like that? Maybe, but man, does it give me hope!
et a Man I Didn’t Like, you end up with the two songs I want to be played at my funeral.
Notwithstanding the double entendre, when I first heard this ditty from “The Will Rogers Follies”, every single word resonated as if the song had been written for me. If there’s something I can assure you, now that I’m getting old, is that I’ve disliked very few people in my life, I’ve rarely gone down that route.
I believe we often forget how fortunate we are to be part of the human race. We have taken humanity for granted, and we rarely stop to celebrate our contribution to making ours, a beautiful race. Every single member of our community is a beautiful human being, if we can’t see it at first, it is on us to make sure we take another look and find something unique and likeable about them. I assure you that if we take the time to do it, and let them know why we like them instead of why we dislike them, this will be a better world.
Is it naïve of me to think like that? Maybe, but man, does it give me hope!
Song Title: Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like – 1991 Genre: Musical Artists: Keith Carradine Composer: Cy Coleman Lyricists: Betty Comden, Adolph Green Album: The Will Rogers Follies Original Broadway Cast Recording
Favourite Lyrics: Met the worst and met the best / Some who put me to the test / Almost made me change my mind / Yet somehow I always find / If you don’t expect too much / There’s a certain human touch / Homo sapiens have got other animals have not.
364 THURSDAY 25 JUNE 2015 (-2)
August’s Rhapsody – Orchestra
Music is a universal language with different messages for different people.
As I was preparing this entry, I got the most exciting assignment at work. One of our reporters set out to find what music a few of the Ministers and Members of Parliament listened to.
It was fascinating to hear an MP say how she loved to listen to her all-time divas, like Whitney Houston, while strutting down the street. There was the most likeable young MP confessing how he would divert from the important audio podcasts he should be paying attention to and listen to Lorde instead. The opposition leader acknowledged starting his day listening to Eddie Vedder’s “Stuff and Nonsense.”
One of the most controversial MPs in recent times left her guards down and spoke of the happiness and sadness that her music brings in. For the first time in all the years I’ve been cutting political stories, I saw a side of them I had never seen. It was interesting to see who they became when they talked about their music.
They were not politicians anymore. They were our neighbours blasting their stereo a few floors above. They were the pedestrians around us walking back home, seemingly oblivious to the world. They were the gym bunnies pounding the treadmill on a race they only know when it’ll finish. They were your lovers singing in your ear after making love. They were your first-grade teacher singing the alphabet. They were the annoying commercial jingle stuck in your head since the 1980s. They were the blues you sing whenever you’re drunk. They were your parents singing you to sleep. For almost four minutes, they stopped being politicians, and they were as human as you and me.
Here’s the thing, it is not so much what song we like, but what it means to us and the story it tells us. That’s what makes our relationship with music, perhaps, the most personal relationship we’ll ever have with any art form. So, do yourself a favour. Listen to the music around you; every note has a story to tell.
Song Title: August’s Rhapsody – 2007 Genre: Soundtrack Artists: Orchestra Composer: Mark Mancina Album: August Rush (Music from the Motion Picture)
Favourite Lyrics: The music is all around us; all you have to do is, listen.