Sunday, December 23, 2018

Can Great Aging Singers Still Rock?

Can Great Aging Singers Still Rock?

…Maintain their instrument, and remain vocally relevant?

…Come back after decades away?

…Overcome serious health issues and keep on rockin’?

I will address my take on these questions and some personal observations concerning singing and singers. 

Athletes blessed with special abilities and gifts far beyond their peers usually compete until either injury or age requires them to accept the inevitable--that their extraordinary gift has withered with time.

Generally speaking, they make the most of the advantages they were blessed with by working hard, by dedicating their lives to becoming and remaining the best; however, when the body can no longer accommodate a request from the brain, they either retire or participate at a lower level of ability. 

Often A Moment in Time Is Exactly That!

The voice is the most primal of all instruments. It's also among the most technically advanced, but not utilizing it will diminish its abilities. Like any other muscle, you use it or lose it! 

A word that is often misunderstood and used incorrectly concerning vocalists is “range”—meaning the distance between your highest and lowest notes. Pure tenors sing in high registers, but do not necessarily have great range. High tenors can jump up an octave during a song giving the impression the vocalist has great range for it sounds so dramatic in the higher register, but one octave does not equate to excellent range. 

Great singers with range will offer more than that one attribute. They will offer power and finesse when utilizing:

·     A high falsetto
·     Intense screams
·     Warmth and texture
·     Varying vibratos, or no vibrato

All of the above will work if you’re believable. Instead of sounding schooled or trained, you are real and relatable.

A great deal of the character, richness, and depth of a voice does not come from the vocal cords, but from the resonating chambers in the head, the curve of the palate, and the shape of the nose. This internal topography not only helps define the sound of each voice, but is also a reason individuals and cultures have their own unique, varying sounds.

In the world of music, many great athletic vocalists have attempted to return to the years of gold and platinum dreams after their initial success. Some of these singers once possessed power, skill, and the ability to showcase their vocal gymnastics so I refer to them as athletes. 

Notwithstanding is the fact that singers who choose to perform again after years away will confront having to adjust their musical sensibilities, for they may reflect a dated style; however, most artists can adjust to current themes and musical trends if they so desire. The question remains:

Can their voices remain pure and sound good enough for their liking?

Can they establish a new fan base while stimulating their old fans?

Do they have enough fight left in them for this emotional,
and physically arduous, undertaking?

I've chosen the following singers for my hypothesis: Mickey Thomas, Lou Gramm, David Coverdale, and Steve Perry. They share similar, yet distinctive vocal abilities, but have different paths in the world of pop and rock vocalists.

1.     Mickey Thomas

At 68-years-old, Mickey has consistently worked for decades after his initial success with Elvin Bishop in 1975 with "Fooled Around & Fell in Love" and again in the 1980s and 90s with Starship reaching the top of the Billboard charts three times with “We Built This City,” “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now," and "Sara."  He still sings in the same keys in which he originally recorded these songs. Most tenors can't perform the number of shows Mickey does without putting their voice in jeopardy. His resilience and consistency only add to his greatness. In my opinion, the only ingredient missing from Mickey Thomas having another Number One record is the right song!

In the best possible sense, Mickey Thomas is like putting money in a jukebox. You get what you're paying for! As a side point, he is one of the most genuine and unaffected celebrities you will meet!

2.     Lou Gramm

Lou is now 68-years-old. He is an extraordinary tenor with range and power that separates him from the crowd of rock vocalists. His story is as unique as his voice for in 1996, Lou discovered he had a life-threatening tumor in his head. Lou opted for a dangerous surgery in hopes of saving his life. The operation was successful, but unfortunately left him with a long road ahead of him before he was able to record and tour again. His recovery and efforts to regain his beautiful voice was onerous. Steven Zeitel, surgeon to the Stars, was not involved in Lou’s operation, but said: 

Nothing in the human body moves with such precision and speed as the vocal cords. With that in mind, a brain injury could inhibit the process significantly.

Lou recorded and toured for years while relearning and rehabilitating his voice. 

His fortitude and bravery transpired in front of God and everyone who came to see him perform after his surgery. In 2009, he released his last album and continued to tour. As time moved on, he became disappointed in a music business he no longer understood nor respected. I recently read Lou Gramm was hanging up his mic after all the painful struggles in an attempt to hear his beautiful voice once again.

Of course, you never say never when in the music business!

All the hard work, bravery and belief in his voice have put Lou on the big stage again with Foreigner as they pursue touring with the remaining original members. Godspeed, Lou. You are a blessed warrior!

3.     David Coverdale

David is a 66-year-old rock singer inducted into the Rock & Roll of Fame in 2016 for his work as front man for Deep Purple from 1973 to 1976. As a vocalist for Deep Purple, he displayed a raw, dynamic power and range while utilizing his forceful, natural voice along with his melodic falsetto and screams. Coverdale has kept busy since leaving Deep Purple with solo projects, an album with Jimmy Page, and his latest band, Whitesnake! 

His work with Whitesnake has exposed us to even more vocal depth with a new warmth and fullness in his lower register while still maintaining power in his higher range.
From 1973 to date, David Coverdale has recorded new successful albums and toured extensively. 

In 2019, David Coverdale and Whitesnake will release Flesh & Blood,their latest album of new material which will be followed by another world tour!

4.     Steve Perry

At age 69, Steve Perry arguably has the best voice on this list! He also comes from impressive lineage for he's a member of The Rock Hall as well as a multi-platinum, award-winning musician. The similarities seem to end there in that Steve Perry walked away from all opportunities to showcase his talents, while still in his prime, after the release of his last album with Journey in 1996. Steve has not recorded an album in 23 years, so we can only imagine what exquisite experiences his voice would have taken us on if he had continued.

What could have transpired for Steve’s mind to convince his heart and soul to ignore his calling, to encourage him to turn his back on the God-given gift he has been blessed with?

To be honest, the business of recording, touring, and performing can become a very dark place taking more than one is willing to lose. In Steve's case, debilitating arthritis in his hip made it impossible to tour. Steve is not the first who needed to step away.

Steve Perry, Recording Once Again! 

As I was writing this piece, Steve Perry made available, “No Erasin’,” his new single! Enthusiastically, I listened to the music I have waited to hear for over two decades. “No Erasin’," was inspired by the loss of a very special loved one so it’s an extremely personal story, although I found it callow as it lacked a lyrical maturity in expressing the deep, emotional turmoil he must have been feeling.

His voice still retains its beauty, passion, and pureness. I now better understand Steve’s magnanimous gesture at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony when he declined to perform stating the current singer is the front man now and he should perform. That was a prudent gesture considering his current range would not have allowed him to sing in the original keys.

I'm curious as to what ensued to encourage him to undertake this arduous voyage at almost 70 years of age? Music aficionados, critics, fans, agents, promoters, managers, and peers will all have something to say about Steve’s latest effort, so one needs a thick skin and a true desire to perform again to withstand the positive and negative input that will follow.

Athletic Singers 

Much like a great athlete, athletic singers who vocalize in the stratosphere are at their best when they are younger, stronger, and most athletic. Steve Perry is of this ilk; however, he is one of the best I've heard so I'm rooting for him! 

Mickey Thomas, Lou Gramm, and David Coverdale performed and made records as their bodies matured and changed. They utilized their gifts, took risks, and fought through the many physical and mental obstacles an artist and his voice go through as time stole from them! In Lou Gramm’s case, an unforeseen tragic health issue hindered a once extraordinary instrument leaving a brave beast of a warrior who would not give up his attempt to erase the cruel facts of his situation.

The work, the regimen, the very exercise of singing live and in the studio keeps you on top of what you must learn, what you must change, and what you must do moving forward to retain what you have—all with the added dilemma of not overworking your voice. Rest and silence are a great ally to those who rely on their voice for their livelihood. 

How can you know these things without experiencing them? After years of not vocalizing, there might be a foggy or scratchy sound in your voice that will take patience, vocal exercises, and carefully singing to curtail when desired—not to mention the time it takes on stage to get your sea legs back. Stage chops don't come overnight! It takes years to develop charisma, a dynamic, yet effortless presentation, and to simply appear comfortable on stage.

Aging singers can develop a warbling in their voice, a loss of warmth and consistency when singing in the keys their music was originally recorded in, and an overall lack of flexibility in the vocal cords. Usually, a warble is defined as an exaggerated or extremely wide vibrato. A quivering or shakiness in the voice might be an indication of other issues such as medication, health concerns, or simply fatigue.

Rock singing equates to torture to the larynx and violence to the vocal cords!

Like everything else in the body, this fragile instrument loses it power over time. Over the course of a singer’s career, millions of collisions occur to the supple bands of tissue located not only in the throat’s protective enclosure, but also in the larynx leaving scars and stiffness to the vocal cords. 

Of course, then comes this question—if you really can't sing in the first place, the aforementioned infirmities really might help to add some character to your voiceHonestly, everyone can and should sing for it’s always been my belief that singing enriches the soul and, therefore, should be indulged in by all!

For the truly gifted, the magic has been there without having to break a sweat until the athletic years are behind them. Then, they must learn how to care for what they previously took for granted. For some, that prospect is too daunting to move forward. You cannot and will not remain brilliant if you don't have the heart for it.

As a fan and supporter, I feel honored to have listened to these extraordinary artists share their special abilities and I applaud them.

For me, singing makes me feel alive! I am blessed for having something of my own that brings others joy!

I do whatever it takes to be the best I can be. 
At 76-years-old, sometimes that means just showing up!

So, back to my initial question—can great aging singers still rock?


Sunday, November 11, 2018

When....Did We Stop Listening to Each Other?

When…Did We Stop Listening to Each Other?

The following was conceived and refined at the time, place, and generation I was born into—a time where morality, ethics, fairness, common sense, compromise, and goodwill towards all were important.

Political, politician:

“Relating to, or connected with a political party, seeking power in the government.
 More concerned about winning favor or retaining power then maintaining principles.”

This is not a political piece, although it will appear so to many! In fact, it concerns common sense and decency for they seem to be in short supply. I've never seen so many people so easily manipulated and used for other’s agendas and gains! We must truly understand kindness is a requirement and a necessity if we are to see the forest through the trees and make decisions that are based on our truth and reality, not those of partisan groups.

When did the ability of Americans to communicate with each other become awkward and frequently confrontational? 

When did one point of view become more important than another? 

When did the indiscriminate use of demeaning, defaming, slanderous allegations, and hateful rhetoric directed at those we disagree with become the norm? 

How have harmful and unwarranted calls of bigotry, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, sexism, or any other of a cornucopia of unsavory remarks we hurl at one another become acceptable and commonplace? 

Could it have begun when truth and facts got in the way of winning? Or when open-minded dialogue was no longer expedient, nor prudent, for those not interested in honesty and fair appraisal of issues, but only in stopping anyone who threatened their agenda? How can we thrive and move forward as a society with neither civility nor respect for one another? How can it be that in the land of milk and honey, the home of the free and the brave, that it's politically incorrect to question the veracity and actions of certain religious groups, yet it is acceptable, and possibly fashionable, to ridicule Christians for their beliefs? 

When did the media begin allowing morally repugnant behavior from some politicians, yet insist on destroying others for the same allegations in the face of all rational explanations and facts to the contrary? When did the Right Of Choice morph into the loss of rights for all unborn children? The only rights that are considered are given exclusively to the individual responsible for its well-being.

Judge, Jury, Executioner

How is it possible in our civilized society that our most vulnerable have minimal protection under the law? Why hasn't there been a meaningful conversation from the Church and other spiritually-based groups in hopes of opening a dialogue addressing options so we can curtail the epidemic of late-term abortions and give hope to those who desperately want to adopt? Why do the spiritual leaders of all denominations cower or turn their back on this issue, ignoring the teachings and their commitment to a Higher Power in lieu of supporting a political ideology simply by their silence?

I have seen no courage, nor character, from the most renowned religious leaders who are expected to guide their constituents. Instead, they equivocate and leave their flock floundering between political hyperbole and their religious beliefs for this is the new catechism. 

The Church shamefully focuses their energy on protecting criminal predators within their ranks, moving them from one crime scene to another, allowing them to continue the rape and emotional slaughter of innocent children. Neither guilt nor shame has a place within the hierarchy of the Church for that reality is only assigned to their parishioners.

Perhaps we have lost our moral compass by supporting biased dogma void of balance or common sense. The life or death of an unborn child is now taken with a grain of salt because the law allows it. Are we being played, even used, by those who aren't actually concerned with the Right of Choice, but see it's value in getting votes? Working towards something more sensible and humane will never happen unless politics gets removed from the equation.

The fact that we, as a society, allow virtually thousands of unchecked abortion clinics that arguably perpetuate murder of unborn babies year in and year out is appalling. Again, no common sense, nor balance for sanity, has been replaced by ideology, physical and verbal assault on dissenters, or whatever the latest lemmings are willing to do to create anarchy in their pursuit of winning. 

Institutions Of Life--An Opportunity for the Unborn Child!

Abortion is necessary and the Right of Choice for all women is the law of the land, but we must give them more choices. At this point in our countries’ abortion history, it feels more like slaughter than the Right to Choose.

I choose to believe there are people who would prefer alternative solutions for unwanted pregnancies. I hear politicians speaking out of the side of their neck about the American way of compassion and love for all creeds, colors, and ethnicity when it suits their agenda, but zero compassion for the life of an unborn child. 

Terminating a pregnancy simply because the fetus is not the sex you desire is pathetic and a testament to the cavalier attitude that prevails since abortion became big business and, therefore, morally sound. Capitalists do not recognize good or evil, right or wrong, they only care about the bottom line—PROFIT! Doctors who perform late-term abortions--those delivering live healthy babies only to murder them--are more prevalent than you can imagine. 

Morality is a joke to stockholders in a civilization that minimizes, marginalizes, and negates the rights of its most vulnerable, 
and that is abomination!

As long as politicians see this "hot-button" issue as a vote-getting magnet, they do not care how many babies are terminated.

Strengthening existing adoption programs to make it possible for pregnant women to utilize another option other than abortion would seem an avenue to pursue. 

  1. Allocating some of the half-billion dollars a year Planned Parenthood receives from the government and distributing it to adoption organizations would be a start to a civilized and humane way to address alternatives to abortion.
  2.  Establishing more housing, prenatal care, financial support through pregnancy, and emotional support for expectant mothers would be a blessing for women who do not want to abort their baby, but have no recourse.
These facilities would also be dedicated to fulfilling the dreams of families who desperately want to adopt. An attempt to make this alternative the norm is a matter of life and death!

Options are the American way and that which Capitalism thrives on, yet even Google limits most rational conversations concerning alternatives to abortion. When I googled "Options To Abortion," most of what came up was a slew of abortion facilities and abortion information. Their bias is showing and it virtually stifles all other information, but abortion! They have their hands on the scale. More political crap is the very reason monopolies are not permitted.

The Generational Gap

My generation wanted more than their parents worked so hard to achieve. We viewed life differently than mom and dad and, due to our parents’ sacrifices, we were able to have loftier goals and bigger dreams. 

When will the next generation of youth not accept the moral, social, and political climate they have inherited, but instead pursue the reason and meaning of our Constitution? When will they truly understand the importance of Due Process, the First Amendment, and all 27 of the ratified Constitutional Amendments? People should not abide politicians who lie, cheat, and eliminate options for people of faith, color, the poor, the young, and uneducated who have no realistic option for an unwanted pregnancy except abortion.

Politically-motivated groups hijack important issues maneuvering these topics into perpetual conflicts of good and evil, of right and wrong, by hustling you. They will sell you the Brooklyn Bridge over and over again for they see you as imbecilic sheep who will believe the lie that if you give an inch, you'll lose all you have achieved. 

Wake up! You're being punked! You are being manipulated to ensure you remain engaged in confrontation for if we're fighting, there is no peace, no common ground.

If we are incapable of finding common ground regarding the existence of life whence life exists, we will then be rendered powerless to insure the sanctity of said lives. 

Let's not illuminate this possibility!

Some of my children and children's children were born under harrowing circumstances, but I cannot imagine life without them!

1  My son Chuck III & grandson Ashton
2  My daughters Annabelle & Charlie with aunt Lucy
3  My brother Rene & his wife, Jody
4  My daughters Charlie, Shaunti, & granddaughter Bowie
5  My daughters Annabelle & Charlie with my grandson Noah
6  My son Chuck III, stepson Berry Oakley, Jr., grandson Shaun, granddaughter Jessica, and grandson James
7  My son Tom & granddaughter Desho