Friday, March 21, 2008

The Best and Absolutely The Last of The Best VersionS of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Spring is here! And it's snowing outside and we're supposed to get 10 inches of snow! Oh, man. I hate winter. When will March stop coming in like a lion? It's March 21! You're already in, March. Now go out! Like a lamb!

Okay. So I'm thinking today about "Bohemian Rhapsody," by Queen. For no particular reason except that The Best and Absolutely The Last of The Best VersionS of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." has made me think about that song.

I play the piano. I'm not great at it, and I don't practice often, but I play. I've even got some songs memorized because when people know you play the piano they always want you to play something but if you say you don't have your music with you, they'll think you're just a liar. So I've memoried "Chariots of Fire," and "Music Box Dancer," and Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, which you don't think you've heard of but you have, as you'll see if you watch this:

That's by something called the "Music Animation Project," which appears to be the kind of project I would run if I was independently wealthy and also knew more about computers and music than I do. They also did "Frog Round," which you should watch and listen to but it will hypnotize you:

So I know those songs, but I've been working for years and years on playing the song "Bohemian Rhapsody" on piano, a quest I started when Oldest was in choir in high school and we went to a high school choir concert and the choir sang that song, or a very-very-expurgated version of the song that somehow made no reference to killing anyone or the devil or anything. It was barely recognizable.

That choir, also, did a Christmas version of the theme song from "The Grinch" that made me almost laugh out loud. You know how men never really sing anything? Like when we're singing happy birthday and the women are singing and the men are sort of mumbling because we all think it's a little fruity to be able to sing well? Not that we can't sing: when nobody's around, men are hittin' the high notes and jamming out and pretending the cell phone is a mike. But when people are present, we don't want to be misunderstood as someone who can sing outside of a narrow 2-note vocal range that constitutes the "manly" portion of the scale, so we sing in a monotone and pretend we don't know the words. Steve Martin understood this when he did his "Grandmother's song" or whatever it was and had all the men sing "Live in a swamp and be three-dimensional" and they mumbled it.

I bet even Bono, when he's not on stage, just sort of mouths the words and hems and haws.

Oldest's choir teacher was apparently unfamiliar with this phenomenon, and also apparently unfamiliar with rehearsal, because for the Grinch song, she had a part in the middle where first the girls sang, and then the boys. The girls belted out their side, and when it came time for the boys, the song just stopped dead. The audience heard a grumbly couple of grunts and the piano kept going and then the song picked up again. The boys had not sung their part at all. Not one of those boys, who had volunteered for choir and were being graded on it, bothered to sing their part in the concert.

And I almost laughed, and I couldn't help but wonder: hadn't that happened in practice? I would have seen it coming a mile away. There is no force, no threat, great enough to get a 16 year old boy to sing in front of other 16 year old boys.

I walked away from that concert thinking something else, though, and that something else was this: Bohemian Rhapsody could be played on piano! Although I knew there was piano in the song, I never thought about whether you could just go and play the song-- mostly because my piano teacher focused a lot more on people like Beethoven and a lot less on people like Freddy Mercury. Go figure.

I got me the sheet music, and I began practicing, and have kept at it ever since -- years -- because I have a goal, and my goal is this: I am going to learn to play the piano and then make all the kids in our house sing the song live for my family. We are going to to a live performance art production of "Bohemian Rhapsody."

The kids, the older ones at least, roll their eyes at this and say it'll never happen, that they'll never perform it and I can't make them. I used to say I would simply force them to do it or they'd get extra chores, or make similar threats that I could not possibly keep, but now I have a different remedy. I will guilt them into it, and I'll do that by showing them The Best and Absolutely The Last of The Best VersionS of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Watch it:

See? That guy got his daughter to sing and he played keyboards. They formed a family band. This family has inspired me. They have shown me that my dream is possible. They have given me a renewed sense of purpose in life.

Plus, they did really well on the song, don't you think? And for that, they are the The Best and Absolutely The Last of The Best VersionS of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

You should also look at The Best Version of the Song from a country or group I have a tenuous connection with, The Best Indie Rock Version, and The Best Version from A TV Show!

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