Because I've been rather poky about writing new songs lately, my vocal teacher has taken to having me sing other types of music at the end of my lessons. A few weeks ago, we worked on "The Star-Spangled Banner." She argued that any singer might someday be asked to sing it in public. I think it's unlikely that "any singer" really encompasses the heavy metal genre, but I suppose you never know.
The main thing I learned about the national anthem is that it's vitally important that the third note in the song be the absolute bottom of the singer's comfortable range. Otherwise, the high notes are impossible except for freaks of nature with multi-octave ranges.
At my lesson yesterday, we continued in the patriotic vein with "God Bless America" and "America the Beautiful," neither of which I had sung since elementary school.
It's amazing how many songs remain neatly filed away in my brain after all these years. I can still think of most of the lyrics and melodies of countless Christmas carols, hymns, nursery songs, folk songs and '50s hits that were considered "oldies" when I was growing up.
Of my parents, only my mom was music fan, so I grew up listening to her extremely random selection of favorites: Elvis (of course), the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Julie Andrews (particularly the "Camelot" soundtrack), Julie London and Johnny Mathis. One of my mom's majors was Spanish, so we also had a rousing selection of mariachi music. The folk songs I know all came from a worn album of Burl Ives 78 rpm records.
It was my grandparents who introduced me to Tom Lehrer. They had all his albums and apparently didn't find his sometimes twisted humor to be inappropriate for a kid. I think I can still sing any of the songs from "Songs by Tom Lehrer" and "More of Tom Lehrer."
I distinctly remember how exciting it was to finally discover other types of music. My aunt gave me some of her old LPs, including The Beatles' "Abbey Road," Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Birds of Fire" and one of Bob Dylan's early albums. My sister and I listened to them eagerly, knowing that our parents did not like them. After that, it wasn't long before I had a whole stack of albums that made my mom yell, "Turn that crap down!"