“The Goddess of Music,” The Voice Professor said, “touches certain humans at birth, giving them The Gift to perform music at the highest possible level.”
“What about if you can cry you can sing?” I asked.
“If you can cry you can sing, yeah, but if you got The Gift you can cry and sing better, uh huh.”
“All of our favorite musicians were Touched. Little Richard, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston… And I believe, tho raw and untrained, you have been, too.”
“Uh huh, but you have to understand, The Gift is a precious thing. It’s not enough just to have it, you have to take care of it. You gotta work really hard. You gotta almost pretend like you don’t have The Gift in order to make the most of The Gift. I can help you do this, but you gotta do exactly what I say, uh huh?”
Then she handed me The Great List of Singing Rules.
- Practice every single day - Warm up with nonsense words before singing songs - Stand up straight - Breathe - Exercise - Drink plenty of water - No smoking - No drinking - No singing in the car - No oversinging, especially right before a performance
I didn’t like a lot of the things on the list.
“Singing in the car?” I said. “But that’s where I do all my singing.”
“Uh huh,” The Voice Professor said. “See, but what’s the most important thing about singing?”
“Nuh uh, the most important thing is air. You gotta think of your body as an air machine that needs to be operated correctly. When you’re sitting in a carseat, the machine is like a bent straw. You know what it sounds like when you blow thru a bent straw?”
“When you’re bent you gotta use too much energy to get sound out, and if you blow too hard you could blow out your whole voice. You always gotta stand up straight to sing.”
“The Rules ain’t always gonna be fun, but you still gotta follow em, uh huh?”
“Now we gotta pick a song to practice all The Rules on and then sing at the Voice Recital.”
“But what if no one likes the songs I like?”
“That don’t matter, cuz you not gonna blow them away with the song, you gonna blow them away with the voice. Now how bout that oh-oh-oh-uh-huh song you were singing in class?”
“Uh huh, who does that one?”
“I have never heard of them before, can you play it for me?”
Then I brought it in, and we put it on. The Voice Professor turned it up loud and stuck her ears right up to the speaker and kept saying “uh uh” and “mm” and “I see.”
“Tell me,” she asked. “Who is this singer here?”
“Steve Perry,” I said. “The highest and most powerful voice in all of music.”
“Uh Haha!” she laughed. “Whatever you say.”
When she finished listening to the song, she gave one final “uh huh.”
“Yeah, I can see what he’s doing,” she said.
“He’s doing Sam Cooke.”
Same Cooke was a high and powerful soul singer about having many Really Old Hits just before The Beatles started The Great List of Old Songs.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Steve Perry isn’t a true original?”
“You kidding, right? Everybody in music trying to sound like somebody else.”
“Even the Beatles?”
“Please, they were doing Chuck Barry and the Righteous Brothers and Little Richard and the hundreds of now nameless to history Rhythm&Bluesmen from the South who came before them.”
“Uh huh way. Now if you wanna sing like this Steve Journey we gotta go to the source.”
Then she put on Sam Cooke’s “Cupid.”
“Cupid” is a song about The Goddess of Love coming down from The Other World in the form of a winged baby and shooting arrows at Realities to make them fall in Love.
“Now listen to this,” she said. “Your boy may be high and powerful, but Sam Cooke is high and powerful and smooth, uh huh!”
She was right. Sam Cooke’s voice was one of the best I’d ever heard. He could give you The Chills just from one note without even knowing what the song was about.
“Go ahead and sing along,” The Voice Professor told me.
Then I did and I was able to nail it right away.
“Uh huh,” The Voice Professor said. “The Gift.”