Saturday, July 20, 2013

Musical Homonyms: Crazy

Patsy Cline: Crazy

The wedding was memorable, and not only because it was one of the last “friend” weddings that we attended. One of my wife’s college friends got married way out on the north shore of Long Island and it was refreshingly laid back. The bride and groom arrived at the reception from the church in a small plane while the rest of us gathered on the shore and greeted them. I have a memory of shooting baskets with my kids during the reception.

But this is about the night before, when there was a very relaxed party at a house on Shelter Island. It was a dark night, and the liquor was flowing. There was a karaoke machine, and people were using it. As I may have previously mentioned, as much as I love music, I cannot create music (unless you count some bad drumming). My singing is, let us say, problematic (or “off-key” as some have said). On the other hand, my wife and kids can sing quite well and even play instruments. The musical talent gene clearly flows from my wife’s side of the family. In fact, until very recently, and only after more than a few glasses of liquid courage, I would not sing karaoke in public. At this party, though, both my wife and young daughter took up the microphone eagerly. My daughter tossed off a great version of “That’ll Be The Day,” by Buddy Holly, and my wife sang “Crazy.”

Her performance blew everyone away. She has an incredible voice, pure, sweet and with a range that is astonishing. But once she finished college, she pretty much stopped performing, which is a shame. She recently started to perform with a local choir, singing classical music, and I’m pushing her to do more with folk and rock, and we will see how that goes.

Frankly, every time we have been invited to a karaoke party, she waits until the appropriate moment, steps to the stage and demolishes everyone else with a smoldering version of Patsy Cline’s classic. It also happens to be a great song, written by Willie Nelson, who was finding it difficult early in his career to make it—his songs were considered too complex and too jazzy for the country music world of the time. But once Patsy Cline released her version of “Crazy,” it opened doors for Nelson, and led to his ultimate success and recognition as both a singer and songwriter, not to mention political and marijuana legalization activist.

As long as there are singers, I suspect that people will be singing that song, and probably ripping off Patsy Cline. More recently, another song with the same title became ubiquitous. The Gnarls Barkley song simply swept aside everything in its path, becoming a huge hit. Based on music from spaghetti westerns, it is catchy and irresistible, even to those of us who aren’t generally fans of the style. It couldn’t be less like the Patsy Cline tune, but it is equally great. Which is crazy.


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