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July 2013, vol 9, no 2

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Nancy Scott

All I Have To Do Is Dream

It was a cold Sunday afternoon in March. Our local AmVets Post was crowded. José had set up his system and was demonstrating how easy it would be to sing karaoke. 'Dream, dream, dream,' he sang on pitch with the Everly Brothers track. I knew the words without the screen, and sang along quietly.

People began looking through huge books of songs and artists that Jose's technology could provide. Soon I heard the moderately good Elvis impersonator singing about Hound Dogs and not being able to Help Falling in Love. The Sinatra singer couldn't quite Fly Me to the Moon. Country music was also popular.

Beds, boots, tequila.
Work, glory, trucks, woods, fishing,
Wanting love? danger?

Many men tried to sing. Most of the women were awful. Pitch was the biggest problem. Familiar with most of the songs, I held my breath and wished success with each key change.

So many keys can
change private into public
without warning

Surely I could do this. And after almost an hour I decided to try. I wisely chose Stand by Your Man,. No vocal stretching. Country traditional. I asked José for someone to sing with me in case I got in trouble. After the first few measures, he told his wife to stop. "She's okay," he said. And I was.

In cars and at home,
we secretly want to be
the famous singer.

Loyal mimicry.
Exact phrasing, breath, diction.
Songs of our bodies.

I was hooked despite my terror of the microphone. I was born for this. I spent much of my life practicing exactly this.

The next Sunday I sang "Blue," and imitated Leann Rimes' yodel. I was better than most of the singers, except for two black guys from a Baptist choir. And José, of course. José said, "You matched the screen exactly." "I practiced at home," I admitted.

Patsy Cline's "Crazy" was my third song. "You sound just like Patsy," one guy told me. "Can I buy you a drink?"

By the fifth week, I attempted Whitney Houston. Now, I was brazen. I wanted to be Diva. I got applause. I got requests.

Sing. Be brave.
Sing. Be someone else.
Sing. Be excellent.

I learned the rules. No more than two drinks–a little alcohol is helpful, too much makes you stupid. And sing within the first hour–by the second hour, people are drinking out of beer pitchers and belting out My Ding-a-ling and Little Red Riding Hood, and the volume for dancing away the weekly grind goes up.

But we love even the really bad singers who need to sing out of the dark of knowing they will never be famous. Which brings up one more rule—we mostly don't say whom we sing to.

Reach past the thick smoke.
Show off. Show more. Show too much?
Breathe in luck and will.

Try not to be thrown
by the harmony
of the real now.

We pretend for years that we're Frank or Whitney or Garth or Barry. We know the songs have saved us and have said things we didn't know how to say. We know real singers are in love with someone or something. We want what they can grasp as long as the song lasts.

Sometimes I've gone to a different bar with a different karaoke provider who didn't know me. One night someone had really badly sung Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You." I had never tried it because I hadn't known how to handle the beginning a cappella part. After hearing the instrumental track, I jumped up (having had one drink) and said, "Wait. Don't put that away. I want to try it."

The poor karaoke guy looked lost, but someone from the audience yelled up, "It's okay. She knows what she's doing. I've heard her before." I didn't disappoint.

I don't expect to try professional karaoke, although I'd love to see if the magic could lure me. (Streisand, maybe.) Maybe I could be good enough for just those few minutes. Maybe all I have to do is dream.

Music moves us all.
So much more than air and voice.
Reach, risk, score, scale, notes.