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Can one sing during Covid-19 pandemic?

June 4, 2020
The early years. I was probably learning to light farts.

June 3, 2020

1952

My earliest recollection of singing was mimicking my big brother who sang an Olympia beer jingle:  “It’s the water, the water, the water, the water that MAKES Olympia beer…so reFRESHing refreshing refreshing refreshing, so light, Olympia beer.”  

Television advertisement

Only Tom inserted the word “shit” for “water.”  Tom had been in Kalispell with his cousin Dick Judd, who taught him a few forbidden words, including “shit.” Well, it was scandalous.

I was living my kid life, in Missoula, across the street from my childhood home, singing to my younger friend, Stevie Little.  I sang the Olympia beer song, but in order to inject some panache, I used the word “shit.”  His mother came out of his house and threatened to not let me play with Stevie if I used bad language.  Hurt my feelings.  She didn’t complain about the quality of my singing, just the naughty word. I didn’t play with Stevie much after that. He was a great kid. Kids my age were more robust, they could take the foul language better. We had to be careful not to let grownups overhear us.

1953

I think I sang a lot as a child.  I listened to my sister’s radio.  One of my favorite songs, back in 1953, was “I”m Never Satisfied.”  Tom told me later the woman who owned the Sunshine Store asked me after I’d done some sort of bad thing, “Well, are you satisfied NOW?”

I answered, singing “I’m Never Satisfied, I’m Never Satisfied…”  Rosemary Clooney was my favorite singer. Tom thought my answer was funny.

Not Dinah Shore.  No.  We had a television when I was five.  An announcer said the Dinah Shore show would be that night.  I thought it would be a dinosaur show, so I made myself stay awake so I could sneak behind a couch in the living room to see the dinosaurs.  No dinosaurs, obviously, just a woman singing.  Bore-ing!

My second earliest singing experience was in the Spring in Missoula when I crawled out my window in the morning onto our back porch roof to sing for the little girl next door, Kathy Lou Bass.  I had listened to the radio, so I knew how to sing a medley of favorites, starting with “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy!”  They tell me I sang in the nude, wearing only a pair of slippers.  I don’t know if the lovely Kathy Lou was in the audience, but someone was, because I heard about it later.

1956

I liked pirate songs as other children did.  I could sing “Blow the Man Down,” as heard on TV.  I was singing at a table at Mrs. Bloom’s kindergarten in the morning, and she hushed the other kids.  I sang as many verses as I could before my self-consciousness took over.

Our kindergarten teacher had each student make a phonograph record.  I still have mine.  One side of the record I sang, “I’m the happiest child alive, I had a birthday and now I’m six.”  The other side was, “Four little chickadees sitting in a row, one flew away and then there were ……  Chickadee chickadee happy and gay.  Chickadee chickadee fly away.  I didn’t do well with this song.  Couldn’t remember the words.

1957-1962

We had a singing unit in school daily, all through grade school.  Things went well until the sixth grade when my voice began changing.  My teacher noted my odd sounds, so she expelled me from class.  She said I was clowning. I don’t know where I went, probably the principal’s office. I wasn’t clowning.

Seventh grade I learned to lay low.  I quit piano lessons to deliver the Missoulian Sentinel, an evening newspaper.

I managed to avoid detection musically when we moved to Dillon, Montana in 1962.  I went out for sports.  I did poorly, but I stuck it out.

1967

Our senior year I was asked by the band director to sing a tenor solo, so I did.  I also went out for plays and did comedy.  Could be the pinnacle of my acting.  I remember the audience laughed, but I think there were stooges who helped out. I wanted to be a weirdo.

In Missoula, 1967.  I learned how to smoke cigarettes.

No singing in my hippie years, except to sing folk songs, then Beatle songs.  Didn’t everyone sing?  I bought one cheap guitar after another, until I landed a 200 dollar Gibson hollow body electric.  Suddenly I was in demand to play in Missoula rock groups. The guitar had its own life.

It probably cost me my journalism education.  I ended up quitting school.  I quit my girlfriend.  I moved to Seattle with a bunch of buddies.

I didn’t sing.  In Seattle I smoked really good hashish instead.  I wandered around the parks of Seattle, playing in drumming groups that formed spontaneously.  I tried to make a living selling hippie newspapers.  I think I earned upwards of $1.10 a day.  Then I sold tickets to the Shrine Circus by telephone.  I didn’t cut it.  Couldn’t raise the $40/month rent.  I talked my brother into moving back to Missoula.

No singing until I joined the Marine Corps, went to jail, got out of jail, went to a small base in California.  Got married.  Couldn’t find any entertainment we could afford.  Started going to the base chapel.  MSgt Amos Cadiente helped me learn the tenor part of the choral introit.

I liked singing with Amos.  I hadn’t heard a tenor part before and it intrigued me.  It went high above the other parts and was fancy.  Made musical sense. All was well until the neck injury.

I played some flag football with Cpl Larry Neu in our squadron.  Larry was an “officer in a non-commissioned status.”  Trouble was, I got hit in the neck by another player.  Right in the adam’s apple.  Suddenly I couldn’t sing tenor. Sort of a gravelly bass sound.

I went to the Marine base infirmary.  A doctor looked at my vocal chords with a hand mirror.  He said I had a bruise.  He also wondered why I bothered going in for that.  I told him the body has important and unimportant parts.  If one takes care of the unimportant instead of the important parts, then one is an inferior man.

The doctor heaved a sigh.  He sent me away.

From that day forth I sang the bass part in the church choir, nowhere near as interesting a line as that of the tenors.

Nobody believes the wonderful singing parts I’ve had since then. Therefore I’ll keep them to myself. Hell, I’m ready to forget them too.

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