Durham News: Opinion

Ain’t no stoppin’ us now

I was a visiting a friend the night the Grammy Awards aired last month on CBS. The television was on; but we spent most of the evening chatting outside on the porch.

Funny, but both times I went inside the house for refills I caught performances: first Madonna, then later Annie Lennox.

It struck me how both women are still on their game after decades in the wild, weird, wonderful world of show business.

There was Madonna proving she still had the moves, continues to take good care of her body … and can’t stop, won’t stop, pushing the envelope.

Annie Lennox has found a nice groove in the jazz genre. And the one-time Eurythmics star still has the pipes! Feet planted in front of the microphone, she poured her soul into Nina Simone’s “I Put a Spell on You,” demonstrating pure power and grace.

The two women are music icons with distinctly different styles that suit them just fine.

As most of you know I am a late bloomer when it comes to singing. So, I must admit it felt good to see them bucking the trend of women being kicked to the curb when our bodies show visible signs of wear and tear. We live in a youth-worshipping world.

Aging is not an issue with Madonna and Lennox.These two women are showing us that age doesn’t have to be an issue. My big take away is the same as Hilde Spille, a musicians’ coach and agent who thinks awards are like comparing apples with oranges.

Celine Dion says: “I am not in competition with anybody but myself. My goal is to beat my last performance.” That’s a point of view I will co-sign with great glee. As artists we can better use our energy to become better at being ourselves.

Lately on my music journey, I’ve put a lot of focus on refining my singing repertoire and developing my performance style. It’s kind of been all over the place: from Sam Smith to Amy Winehouse to Gladys Knight! That kind of song list won’t play well if I’m trying to book a cozy jazz lounge. It might work in a rowdy bar. The thing is, I love all these performers and wouldn’t have fun and be fulfilled as an artist if I had to choose one genre!

Believe me I know the importance of compiling the right song list. It can mean the difference between getting and keeping a job or not. I am on a quest now to find a happy medium. I’ve learned from the gigs I’ve had so far that as far as the general audience is concerned, a good singer is the one who can perform their song requests. Come on, you know I’m right. I’ve had audiences turn on me when I couldn’t produce a few of their favorites.

So I’m working now on building a repertoire of between 25 and 30 tunes. I think what’s going to work is starting nice and slow, then building up some steam with some danceable songs, and finally coming back to easy breezy. I’d love some suggestions from folks who frequent live music venues around town.

Something else I’m working on is hiring a keyboardist whose personality and goals are compatible with mine. On most gigs I sing to musical backing tracks. I was on a tear about auditioning musicians, initially racing for the opportunity to give it a go. Now, I’m more discerning. Musicians as in every other profession can be egomaniacs, substance abusers, control freaks and/or womanizers. I’m taking my time.

If I play my cards right, you’ll be hearing about me having a steady gig with a keyboardist. I’ll be sure to tell you where to find me on a weekly basis. How else can I build a following?

This is a learn as you go journey. I’m in no hurry. Madonna and Annie Lennox showed me every passing year is one more year of life experience that I can bring to a song. Older and wiser can be an advantage. I’ll certainly not use it as a big fat excuse not to pursue my dream, and know what? Neither should you.

You can reach Pam Saulsby at pamsaulsby@gmail.com