I am admittedly a sob brother. Maybe not an outright weeper but someone who Tom Hanks would pick out to shame; emotional to the point of welling up watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time. No one cries at funerals anymore, we laugh. How fortuitous since handkerchiefs aren’t carried by anyone.
Another confession: CR2S doesn’t watch much television these days. So far this year, aside from news and football games, I haven’t watched a single hour of commercial or cable programming.
These two diverse situations came to a head this past Sunday: I watched the Grammy awards program to see if I would drop a teardrop or eight.
Under normal circumstances I might have passed the show, but the 54th annual presentations took on a different hue with the sudden passing of Whitney Houston. For a dyed-in-the-wool big band/jazz advocate, today’s celebrants are synthetics by comparison. You can put Lady Gaga, Foo Fighters and Lady Antebellum on the same stage and I wouldn’t go see – even with a comp ticket. When music went from bop to pop, CR2S went AWOL.
But the death of Houston reminded me of the soaring heights “I Will Always Love You” would take me whenever the standard was played. I didn’t see “The Bodyguard” movie or even buy the recording but she forever since has ranked lofty on my personal preference list alongside Peggy Lee, Pearl Bailey and Jo Stafford.
IWALY is what I call a spinal tap, a stand-alone that warms the heart and tingles every nerve in your body as if she was your personal epidural. It’s also one of those songs that no one else dares to sing – or even attempt – except Jennifer Hudson. Even whatshername, Dolly Parton, who wrote the song in the ’70s, took it out of her repertoire after hearing Houston’s rendition.
There is nothing to be gained reviving the age-old argument regarding musical tastes of old and younger. CR2S at one time had a collection of 938 records – the 78 rpm variety. They represented a whole slew of skipped calories when as a lovelorn 16/17-year-old, I chose Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey rather than lunch, Benny Goodman instead of a Nehi soda. And then when big bands gave way (in the ’50s) to smaller instrumental groups and featured soloists, Frank Sinatra was all that mattered.
When Elvis and the Beatles and singing groups became the rage, I settled into middle age and failed to tag along. “Moon River” could never replace “Moonlight Serenade;” even Johnny Mathis failed to fuel a new fetish.
Being a child of real lyricists, arrangers, musicians and instrumentalists, Guy Lombardo and Bing Crosby were passé; Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra were like reinventing the wheel. How can anyone compare “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” to anything played Sunday? A singing, dancing Gene Kelly to Chris Brown? Perry Como compared to Bruno Mars? We’re not even discussing apples and tangerines.
I could play an Anita O’Day record twice and have the lyrics down pat. Trying to figure out the words of today’s singers, even the ballads, is a vocabularial (!) impossibility. Even allowing for my failing hearing level. And nobody stands still anymore.
Then the evening magically became a midwinter night’s dream. Planning on just catching the opening to see how the Huston tragedy would play out, I took a shower during what turned out to be a lengthy commercial break (the ads as a whole were quite watchable). And maybe I missed Minaj or Rhianna or Britney, who knows? I hung on past the one-hour mark with no intention of staying the entire 210-minute marathon. But the night was well spent if for no other reason than being introduced to Adele.
I mean, wow, what kind of nebbish isn’t aware of Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, you ask? (Oh, thank goodness, I’m not the only musical doofus breathing the air. Thanks for the honesty.)
Adele sweeps six Grammys, including the top three recording Oscars, best album/single/song. To be sure she is not “King’s Speech” caliber and isn’t exactly Churchillian, and it’s a challenge trying to figure out what she’s saying in between curse words. I guess that’s part of the enjoyment, knowing there are other ways to speak the Queen’s English.
Then she sings. Maybe not the range and clarity of a Houston, but a unique, mesmerizing voice all her own. She is a singer you can never tire of listening to. I won’t.
And I thank the musical Gods there is no age limit for pleasure.
W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached by email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.