Saturday, February 25, 2012

Yodeling in North America

Yodeling in North America
Listen, even if it’s only my own opinion, there’s a very good argument for turning off these so-called music stations. At least with peace and quiet, you get what you asked for – peace and quiet. With the “music stations” though, you get such a lot of caterwauling, there’s no telling what it’s all about.
Well it’s not so much about the music as it is about the “singers”. I don’t mean just run-of-the-mill garage band singers. I mean big names in the business like Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin and yes, even Whitney Houston. Now don’t get me wrong. These ladies all have beautiful voices. The trouble is – they don’t sing. When I say caterwauling, I’m not kidding! What they do to classic songs can be compared to filleting fish with a chainsaw. It’s outright butchery of the songs! Oh, it’s not that these people can’t sing. They can do that alright - if they’re forced into it. And they have beautiful voices too. But what they do in the execution of a song, and I use the term advisedly, is to emulate a cat in heat trying to yodel. It’s just gaud-awful!  
The various Bavarian and Swiss Alpine Yodeling Societies dotting the North American landscape really have nothing to do with the kind of yodeling I’m referring to. No, they are traditional yodelers with strict traditions and practices. Their rich tonal falsettos can thrill any heart and echo back to their mountain origins. That in itself is beautiful music. It bears no real resemblance to the angst-filled trills of these prima donnas straining to make an impression on audiences.
It seems these men and women are driven to fa-la-la their way all over the musical scale in order to make the song their own, much I’m sure, to the chagrin of the composer. In the process they become so enamored with the sound of their own voices that the original intention of the song goes down the toilet. What is that about?
I’ve got a notion that these people are so in awe of their own voices they get lost in their own reverie. You want proof? That singer with one name from the U.K. – Adele -for example, who won all those awards giving the finger to the people who cut her speech short because of time constraints. Graceful old cow isn’t she?
But I gave myself a huge surprise when it occurred to me that millions of people love this stuff. There must be something to it or they wouldn’t listen. I guess to them it must be music. It speaks to them. Well, so be it.
Imagine my surprise when I started to think back to the days when I was growing up. The music in our house pretty well consisted of classical and old country folk songs. We got to hear the ‘real’ music at the community club Friday night dances. People like Frankie Lane, Frank Sinatra, Johnnie Rae, Nat King Cole and so on. Each of us had our favorites. I remember mother and my older sister being disgusted at one of Nat King Cole songs; “They Tried to Tell us We’re too Young”. Sent a terrible message, they said.
Well, just at that time Johnny Peabody and his girlfriend decided to get married. They were sixteen. That was at a time when you got married if you wanted to live together, or your girlfriend had gotten pregnant or something. Then Buddy Skinner’s sister Florence married Allan Knight. They were about the same age. Even we who were a year or two younger couldn’t figure that out.
Well, you should have heard the buzz at our house. It will end in disaster! It’s just so bad! Yadayadayada. Well a couple of years later, Florence left Allan and he ended up throwing himself off the Provencher Street bridge into the Red River.
“See! See!” said the women in my house. Well, they had a point – partly. I know if Johnny Peabody would have screwed up his marriage, old man Peabody would have kicked his ass nine times around the block, so as far as I’m concerned, that one worked out.
The point is, I guess I learned something. All these songs and their renderings mean something to somebody. I have to be big enough to admit that. Me – I still like Frankie Lane’s “Ghost Riders in the Sky”. The rest I wouldn’t thank you for.
So you see – even an old dog can learn new tricks. Even up here on the top shelf.

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