Amber Light. For years I thought that was what Kenny Loggins was singing. I didn’t get what it had to do with Caddy Shack. And then there is Slow Motion Walter, the Fire Engine Guy (better known as Smoke on the Water). But I really thought those were the lyrics, even though they didn’t make any sense. I guess it’s natural for our brain to want to fill in the blanks for us, when we don’t know what something really is.
All my life I’ve loved to sing. My idol was Barbra Streisand. I would sing along with all her albums. In high school, when ever we wanted to get out of class work, somebody would suggest that I sing, and before the teacher could say no, I would be up at the front of the room performing. I had no fear. Whatever came out, came out.
In college, I got serious about singing. I wanted to be a big Broadway musical star. I took lessons. In the summer, I auditioned (unsuccessfully) for stock productions. Because I was never cast, I began to think I wasn’t very good. it never occurred to me that perhaps I just wasn’t right for the part. Especially since I was auditioning for the ingenue (who was usually, small, blond and delicate) and I was tall, red headed and belted it out like Ethel Merman.
After college, when I moved to Manhattan, I took lessons from a different teacher. One day, I invited my then boyfriend, later husband to come to a lesson with me. Afterwards he said “Well that was a waste of money.” I never went back. I stopped singing. I thought that he was telling me that I couldn’t sing, I was no good. It silenced my voice for twenty plus years. Now, looking back and knowing who he was better, my guess would be that he couldn’t see how those “silly” exercises would make a difference. But that is still only a guess. The interesting thing is that I automatically thought the worst, that I wasn’t any good.
After he died, I started taking lessons again with the woman who helped with my church choir. On my second lesson she told me that I had a beautiful voice but that I was afraid to let go. I told her the story about my first husband and she said “Nonsense. There is nothing wrong with your voice. You just need confidence.” Over the next few weeks, it was like a hand was gradually being loosened from my throat. I started really singing again. Now, years later, although I’m out of practice, my voice is better than ever. Some of that has to do with the fact that my now husband tells me I have a great voice.
I wasted years of my life not doing something that I loved because someone made a comment that I filled in the blanks on. I won’t do that anymore. I won’t automatically think the worst if I don’t know. Even if someone tells me I stink, I’ll think about it and if I don’t agree, I’ll listen to myself first. It’s part of the best thing about getting older.
But I’ll still make up lyrics. Because sometimes I like my own better. And I’m pretty sure the Boss never wrote “wrapped up like a douche, you know the groaner in the night.”