“I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free…”
I have always been a singer and an avid music lover. My parents discovered that I could sing when around 5 years of age or so I would run around the house singing the high, belted notes from the late Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” Ask me “If you could have any job without any worry of finances or obligations, what would it be?” Rockstar would be at the top of that list (or diversity consultant…tomato, tomato). My passion for music has been with me since birth. My family said I came out singing (or was it talking). I come from a musical family. My extended family had a singing group down in Memphis, and the first time I heard them, I knew music was in my blood. My mother and father, though not performers themselves, are avid music lovers. Riding in the car as a kid, my sister and I were made to listen to jazz and Motown, despite our pleas to change the station to the pop music of the time. Our voices fell deaf on ears occupied by groovier sounds. I grew to love the music of my parents’ generation, and still see it as some of the best art that has ever been created (thanks, you two). I still remember the first time I heard Stevie Wonder, my music idol. It was so good and hip that I thought it was contemporary music. How wrong I was.
My musical experiences and skill were developed and honed in the Chicago Children’s Choir. The professional children’s choir afforded me the opportunity to travel the country, sing songs in over 30 languages, (including Elvish while being conducted by Howard Shore, no joke), tour around the world, and sing with musical greats. In fact, I am in this music video if you look closely at the end, though I do not consider this artist to be “a great” by any means (that group of kids that sang at the beginning of President Obama’s farewell speech with Eddie Vedder?…that’s my crew too).
In college, my passion for music manifested myself in a number of ways. I sang in and arranged music for my acapella group, was in a super-group rock band called “Clusterfunk,” and acted in musical theater. One of my proudest musical accomplishments from college is one that I don’t talk about much, however. It was an email list that I used to send out music. The list, called Song Of The Week, or SOTW as I affectionately dubbed it, started sometime during the summer term of my sophomore year. It was a way for to share music recommendations with my friends who had informed me that I had “good taste” and were always asking me to send them songs. By the time I graduated, the list had grown to nearly 400 people (which was about 10% of the campus). Since graduating, I have gotten more requests that I would have imagined to restart this list (and shout out to those who still have songs with the SOTW label in their iTunes)…and so, this is the first post of what I hope will be a weekly contribution to the world of music. I plan on offering up music I like, commenting on music as art and the industry as a whole, promoting new and upcoming artists (send me your stuff please!), and also reviving the art of the appreciation of a damn good music video (which, when done well, I contend could give any short story a run for its money). This blog is called “Where the Boom Bands Play” for a reason—it’s not just about reveling in the joy of things I find interesting, it’s also about the music that’s playing as you revel…
I figured it only right to start this explanation of my love for music with “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” It’s a beautiful gospel hymn, and gospel was one of the first genres of music that I heard growing up. It’s a challenging song to sing—the intervals are not easy to hit (as Tanya Blount highlights at 0:47), and the song has to be sung well lest it sound like a mess. And I love this version from Sister Act 2 featuring Lauryn Hill because…well…Sister Act 2 and Lauryn Hill (the whole song-as-duet, which is DEFINITELY worth your time, can be found here.)
Moreover, this song gives a simple and yet perfect reason why one sings—happiness and freedom. That’s something I can relate to. Civilla Martin, the writer of the song, goes on to state that she knows that some higher power is watching over her, and that too explains why she sings. For me, music has always been the only proof I needed that there was something more powerful than the profane world around us. Something so wondrous, so moving, that has such an profound power to captivate the soul and bring people together has to come from someone, somewhere, or something that is divine. Notes are just our human way of trying to commune with the universal. Singing is the first thing I turn to when I am happy, when I am sad, and for all the feelings in between (stated perfectly in the song “So Well” by the band Dawes – “I am a lonely singer with a song for every feeling I cannot name”) . It is in music that I find definitions for the unexplainable. It is through music that we can communicate across any barrier and heal the world.
In starting this post by listing my music credentials, I do not mean to profess to be any kind of expert. While I do hope my experiences give me some kind of credibility, there are plenty of people out there who know WAY more about music from a theoretical standpoint. I only attest to having what I think to be a good ear and a wide range of exposure to different types of music through those aforementioned experiences (and a LITTLE knowledge of theory). I hope, as with everything, that my comments on music and the artists I lift up can incite dialogue. So please, push back, share your opinion, send me suggestions, follow me on Spotify at “theraynman,” and most importantly, dance when the spirt moves you.