This entry was originally posted on January 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm. It contains the second of my New Years’ Resolutions for 2010. Over the next several Flashback Fridays, I will be taking them out, dusting them off, and seeing how well I followed through. I do not anticipate it always being pleasant, but the truth can’t be.
Les Paul & Mary Ford – Goofus
This recording of “Goofus” (King-Harold-Kahn, 1930), one of my favorite songs, is just instrumental. It’s performed by legendary husband-wife duo Les Paul and Mary Ford (so, so, so much more on them another day).
The Paul-Ford version topped out at #21 on the Billboard chart on its release in the early Fall of 1950. The ensemble Paul and Ford had gathered is plucky and fun, although I have heard recordings from the ’30′s with saws and washboards which sort of put ukes and slides in the shade, but you work with what you got, and they did a great job re-popularizing a well-loved classic.
It really gets me that there was a time in this country when there was a) a set of songs that everyone knew, and b) a time when you picked up an instrument and sat down together and played, sometimes just as a family, but often as part of a larger community group. What happened? Radio killed the vaudeville star, but, moreover, the vaudeville star took group singalongs and skit shows down with him. No more public singing.
People just don’t do that often enough anymore, I think. I remember reading, quite a few years back, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (I consequently did not see the movie), and, in one of the super-tolerable parts, a character aged in her mid-70′s during the 1990′s was remarking on the emptiness of the sounds one hears walking the streets in the present day. She recalled being a child and teenager in the ’20′s and ’30′s, and how you could not so much as hang the laundry without hearing someone whistling or singing a street over or while walking past the yard.
“One Last Tickle on the Ivorys,” St. Ebba’s Lunatic Asylum, by Christopher O’Donovan on the flickr.
The idea of that touched me very deeply, because it resonated. I have always liked music, and always known a little about the history of radio and the record industry, being a big vinyl guy, and I’m not saying even at all that radio itself massacred town talent shows, I think increasing materialism and isolationism happened to dovetail with that new mass media, and long story short: it should change back. We need more of that old way of doing things, especially now, when so many people have lost hope and there are young people growing up for whom there are no stories about uncles who sang Irish tenor or great-grandmothers that could play the spoons.
It’s always fun to find out what hidden talents your friends and neighbors have (unless those talents are taxidermy and soundproofing basements), and it brings communities closer together. I think I remember hearing that a song is like a prayer times two, or some such thing, and I believe it. Everything is better with music.
I used to perform in singing groups and church choirs, and even participated in competitive choral groups in High School. The older I’ve gotten, the more I have grown very shy about my singing, but why? Half of what I hear on the radio has been triple-processed and slickly produced, and who cares if someone hears me fall a little flat? The spirit and song in my heart that made me so happy, that urge to open my throat that I couldn’t repress, that hasn’t changed, so why do I let fear and modern ideals of social behavior fence me in?
Holy cow, I think I just found my second resolution of 2010: Make a joyful noise. Join me, y’all!
Reality Check: I did not do as well as I wanted on this one. I started sporadically singing in my friends’ “band practice” Rock Band video game nights, but I did not join my church choir, which was what I really wanted to do. Partly intimidation because the director is an old friend, partly feeling too busy (excuse). I guess where I feel I really failed is I did not keep that song in my heart that I felt when I had written this originally. I need to try to get that feeling back.