the voice



If you were to stand outside Uptown Coffee and asked the first 100 women who passed what they would change about themselves, 99 would probably mention something about their bodies. Some would want a flatter tummy, smaller hips or a perkier bosom while others might erase crow’s feet, varicose veins or that flabby wing-like thing that appears under the upper arms after a certain age. I, however, would opt for something less physical.

Don’t get me wrong; If my Fairy Godmother appeared and said she could give me Jennifer Aniston’s body, I would definitely consider it. However, I’d want to know what the upkeep would involve would I have to work out with a personal trainer for hours daily or could I remain a complete layabout? Would I be forced to subsist on a diet of cucumbers in a non-fat yogurt dill sauce or could I continue to enjoy an entire family-sized box of Kraft macaroni and cheese in one sitting? I’d ask because at this point in my life I just don’t see the point in rockin’ a hard body… I’m married and the vows clearly stated “for better or for worse.” I have checked the fine print and am happy to report “worse” covers an extra 20 to 40 pounds of cellulite.

So if I could change one thing about myself it would be my singing voice.

Describing my voice as beyond horrific is the grossest of understatements. It is off-key, pitchy, flat and sharp and more than a little screechy. I couldn’t carry a tune in a 50-gallon garbage can. Simon Cowell once told an American Idol contestant, “I don’t know what cats being squashed sound like in Lithuania, but I now have a pretty good idea.” Yeah, well, that guy was Caruso compared to me.

You will never see this CD released, and for that you should be grateful.

I was doubly cursed, because the non-singing gene runs on both sides of my family. And it’s an ugly, mean little gene. It can clear a room faster than a Molly Maid on amphetamines. I am surprised my family’s pitchy Happy Birthday warblings didn’t attract bats.

As a child, I’d think, “Wow, that’s bad,” when my mother or father would break into song (which, fortunately, wasn’t often), but I never thought it applied to me. So when an elementary school chorus teacher asked me to solo, I did so joyously—that is until I noticed the pinched, wincing looks on the shocked faces of all my classmates. It was then I clammed up (on the singing, at least) for good. The meanest trick anyone ever played on me was to nominate me for the role of Little Buttercup in our 6th grade production of HMS Pinafore. I am still formulating my get-even scheme.

The sad thing is, I love music. In the past five years I’ve been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame SEVEN times, and I consider the night I spent on Beale Street listening to live musice between the statues of Elvis Presley and W.C. Handy as one of the best of my life. If I could, I would burst into song all day long, like a Broadway musical gone amok, but unless I’m in the shower or by myself in a sealed car, I don’t dare. When alone, however, I belt it out, as if I have Etta James’ earthy scorching soulfulness or Patsy Cline’s achingly rich contralto coursing through my vocal chords. I dream of one day singing—without Auto Tune technology—completely dry with the windows open and the radio not cranked to 11.

But that’s not gonna happen. So I continue my private sessions ever mindful that if caught, I will be punished for my auditory crimes. I just hope it’s not my husband who discovers me, because my singing voice… well, I know that one’s not covered in the fine print.


Art by Helen Worsing