I know every word to all eight and a half minutes of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” I was nine years old when it was released and I played the 45 vinyl record over and over again on my little purple, suitcase-styled, portable record player.
Isn’t it funny how a person remembers the oddest things?
I can also sing Jim Croce’s “Bad Bad LeRoy Brown” and Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” without missing a word every time I hear them come on the radio. (I probably should get out more.)
I amaze myself when I sing every word to a song I haven’t heard for 40 years, yet I can’t remember to turn off the eggs I have boiling on the stove until they’ve exploded.
Music was deeply ingrained in my upbringing, having a number of musically gifted and talented family members. My mom always had popular music playing on the stereo console in our living room — everything from Ferrante & Teicher to Engelbert Humperdinck, Bert Bacharach to the Captain and Tennille.
So when a song comes on the radio, I sing. I’m not saying I sing well, but if it’s something I like, I’m on it and if you don’t like it? Well...
Just ask my kids. As I’d be belting out my favorite lyrics, my youngest, Carson, would often ask, ‘mom, who sings this song?’ I knew better than to give him the answer he wanted — he was just setting me up to tell me to let the actual singer sing it then — so I would always reply ‘me! Can’t you hear me?’
My oldest, Josh, and I often play impromptu games of “Name the Tune.” His repertoire is quite extensive and we can go head-to-head when it comes to naming songs within the first few notes, although I’m better at most material prior to 1990 and he can best me with more current music.
The other day at work I heard a song playing I hadn’t heard for years and it made me giggle. We’ve all done it ... getting the wrong words stuck in our heads. I won’t embarrass myself by mentioning the songs I’ve screwed up, but believe me, when I do, someone invariably calls me out on it.
To date, my most memorable faux pas is to a 1977 song by the Bee Gees.
I’m going to start this by defending myself... I was only 13 years old and falsetto voices can, at times, be very difficult to understand when you’ve been raised with the baritone vocals of Roger Whittaker.
My siblings and I, although not allowed to see the movie “Saturday Night Fever” because we were too young, did have the soundtrack to the movie. We had those songs down pat... or so we thought. One of our favorites was the song “Bald-headed Woman.” My mom struggled to understand why anyone would write a disco song about a woman with no hair, until she eventually looked at the title on the album cover.
Don’t feel bad if you’re not familiar with it. Neither was anyone else, since it was actually called “More than a Woman.” ... And from that point on, I started paying a bit more attention to the actual story in a song.
After all, if I’m going to karaoke in my car, I’d better get it right.
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