What a cliched title (how do you do accents in this format, anyone know?). Surely I could think of something better, something less obvious, something more original. But I can’t, because it’s the title of the first song I ever sang for a large audience and the song that made other people identify me as a singer.
After my Streisand epiphany, I spent a couple of years trying to figure out how to make singing happen for me. I knew nothing about voice lessons – the attitude in my working-class neighborhood was pretty much “Either you can sing or you can’t.” In fact, when I signed up for 8th grade girls’ chorus for an elective, my father refused to sign the sheet for it: “Chorus? You don’t have the build to be a chorus girl. Take home ec.” While I tried to impress upon him that I would be less likely to perform as a Rockette at Bell Jr. High and would most likely be doing SSAA renditions of “I feel pretty,” he still told me to take home ec. In which I got a C.
Of course, this is the same person who, when I wanted a pretty red dress in first grade, said, “Red? What are you, a communist?” and I answered, “No, I’m 6.” Still didn’t get the red dress.
But I digress.
In 9th grade, I signed up for the Bell Jr. HS Annual Variety Show. I decided I was going to sing Frank Sinatra’s “My way.” I was terrified to do this on my own, so I recruited my friends Janet Weger and Sandy Whateverherlastnamewas to be my backup singers. Neither of them could actually sing but I wanted them there for moral support so that I wasn’t up on that stage completely alone.
The bridge of “My way” was a bit too high for me at that time. So Janet & Sandy had the task of singing the melody on “oo” while I spoke the text. I didn’t realize till the actual performance that this text had connotations that made 13 year boys hoot and holler (and of course, had I sung the text, I suspect it wouldn’t have been quite so evident):
“Yes, there were times, I’m sure you know
When I bit off more than I could chew,
But through it all, where there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.”
Amazingly, I managed to keep my composure through the spoken part and soared into the final line: “And did it myyyyyyy wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!” The audience cheered my performance, and afterwards, I was known as “the singer.”