Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Pain From An Old Wound

I love female vocalists, especially the hard-core androgynous look/sound of a Chrissy Hynde, the pain and passion of Janis Joplin, and poignancy of Joni Mitchell. The country singers of yore are particularly great in this aspect as well -- give me a Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn, and I'm happy. But I've come to the Karen Carpenter section of my memoir (doesn't everyone have one of these?) and am watching lots of clips of her and her brother on youtube posted by people like kickassmonkeymoney (which leads me to a tangent about why the hardest core punks love The Carpenters that I'll save for another post), and I'm thinking about how much power was contained in such a strange duo, a duo that would have been perfect in a Flannery O'Connor story. Karen, as some know, would have preferred to stay behind the band on the drums, but was pushed out in front because of her formidable vocal talents.

God knows, I've never been conservative in my clothes or appearance, but I love watching Karen on stage -- the simple modesty of her Delta Dawnish get-ups, one complete with a broach at the collar, the long borderline Texas cult dresses, it's all a huge relief from the over-polished cut to the navel outfits that singers wear now. Of course, Karen wasn't immune to the bullshit -- she starved beneath those dowdy frocks in order to fulfill some bullshit way that women should look. "I don't think I'm all that special," she said once in an interview. "It's all in the arranging." I used to hear her music at wedding all the time. But the one I went to this weekend opted for a more party vibe and the last song I remember hearing was Michael Jackson's "Thriller." When an increasingly bizarre popstar's last big album is considered sentimental nostalgia (which means in the original, pain from an old wound), I understand that I am getting older and that while I might be singing Goodbye To Love, others will be dancing to a song about zombies written by an alleged pedophile and thinking of that as the good old days.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself." Truman Capote

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: Split Suzanne Finnamore

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!


chris said...

We are all getting older, some of you are only getting better.

The good old days, Honey they died along time ago, what my Wife calls oldies, they are. I will stick with the classics.

All it takes for these pop stars to get ahead today is someone with money and good addvertisement abilities, I guess that is why I like my young gun "Ryan Mcgarvey" at 21 he is going old school all the way.

Happy Tuesday to you as well.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I went to a wedding two weeks ago. The bride and groom were married in a locked lobby. Knowing the groom's background as a policeman, I started wondering whether someone was after him. Strange situation; yet, no "Thriller" on the dance floor.

Anonymous said...


jodi said...

Dear Tiny Texan! I once saw a drag show where she "did" Karen in that exact dress to such perfection! I was the only female in a bar of guys singing the chorus holding hands with misty eyes:

"On the day that you were born,
The angels got together...etc."

Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, your comments about Thriller as an good old days tune almost made me question my sense of immortality.

I do remember that Karen Carpenter had a nice voice, but I was never into their music.

Whitenoise said...

yeah, the Carpenters didn't fit neatly into any categorization. Listen to the pent-up agression in the fuzz-guitar solo from Goodbye to Love. And, yes, Karen was a peach. Strangely, they were considered very MOR back then...

Cheri said...

I've been to two weddings so far and I haven't heard Thriller but we did get some Billie Jean and some Jackson 5 hits! MJ is one of my favorite 70's and 80's artists, even if he is a freak now.

laughingwolf said...

'thriller' scared the crap out of my younger daughter, but she kept popping up from behind the couch to watch, anyway....

Anonymous said...


Laura said...

Goodbye to Love is one of those songs that I love to sing out loud, though I can never quite maintain Karen Carpenter's low notes. P sings Close to You, pretending it's all about him--but I pick up the lyrics he misses so together we have a whole song.

I am a sucker for Billie, Dolly, Patsy, Susannah McCorkle--a torch singer who died too young. Something about a woman's heartfelt voice...what is it, I wonder. Our mothers singing lullabies? xo