July 30, 2007

Tomorrows waiting deep in your eyes

I've been uninspired to write anything lately. Busy with life, which is good right? But I need good music to inspire something.

If you've not read Tricky Richard's review of the Barbra Streisand concert, do it now. He did such a great job of understanding and then describing what it is like to be a fan of an artist for many, many years - a lifetime - as both the fan and the artist age. He is not a longtime Barbra fan, but he gets it because music means so much to him. My sweet friend Rebecca also went to see this Barbra tour last year and agreed with his review - she wrote that to me in her pretty script in the package I received today, Barbra's recent double live CD.

I have to admit that when I put the album on, I was taken aback by the changes in Barbra's voice. The crystalline quality is not there and her range is much lower, deeper. It's actually husky. Eww. Who is this singer? For a few minutes it was like meeting someone from your distant past. You're briefly thrown by the changes in their face: the way their mouth doesn't look as young anymore, new lines on the face, grey hair. But soon these things start to blend into their personality and become invisible. You start to see the person you always knew.

My favorite Barbara Streisand song may be Michel Legrand's What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life. More than the lyric, I am drawn to the melody and the performance. It's incredibly beautiful. Do you know the experience of hearing a song for the first time and feeling deja vu? It sounds so trite, but some of you will understand that. It's chemical, the way the music just seeps into and under your skin.

For all of my life I've been tapped into some source of melancholy, but it's not something I often express. I tend to it through music, as I've written before. You know how it goes: the one who doesn't cry in real life, but always cries in movies or at concerts.

I discovered this song, though I'd known Barbra's music for years, in 1990, when I was briefly out of school and working. It was the heighth of Fall and I'd drive around with this boom box on the floor of my old car, playing cassettes. I'd bought this cheap Babs tape and started playing this song a lot. I kept nearly wrecking the car as I reached down to rewind the tape (God, what a pain cassettes were). Everything was crisp outside and this song is nothing if not autumnal.

So I wanted to include Barbra's recent live version of What Are You Doing here on this blog. While the original vocal was this "bravura" performance that climbed all over the scales, and yet remained very seductive, the new version is wiser. Rebecca brought this up, that Barbra's more burnished voice gives the lyric a more reflective feeling. The final lines, "All I ever will recall of my life is all of my life with you" wreck me every time. They read terribly, but when you hear them sung... oy vey esmir.

Barbra Streisand What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life EXPIRED

There are so many music fans who will never approach Barbra because, you know, she may not be too cool. Maybe her music meant something to their parents or even their grandparents. I know this is true for Rebecca. Maybe one day you will play a song your mother liked and you'll get it, finally, and you will not have the luxury of calling her to tell her. That is melancholy. This song might not mean anything to you now, but when you are 60 or 70 years old, who knows? Think that far ahead, do it now.

Side note, the opening comments she makes ("I feel it, I feel it") she sounds exactly like the comedian Sandra Bernhard imitating a diva. It's uncanny.


Anonymous said...

Ha ha. Do you guys refer to her as "Babs" in America as well?

xolondon said...


Dan said...

This is such a great post, I don't even know where to start. I started listening to Barbra's music when I went off to college in 1990. Talk about something that was decidedly not cool as grunge took hold, but for me, it was an honest extension of the musical taste I already had. It was too soon for me to recognize my attraction to "divas" and (as Lucas puts it) my having the "gayest taste in music of any straight man alive."

I have never thought much of "What Are You Doing..." as it fell out of that phase of her career where she recorded A LOT of forgettable stuff. That mid-to-late 70s stuff was not the best ("Evergreen" notwithstanding), but listening to this song this morning, it makes me wonder what the hell I was thinking all this time. I have been missing a gem. And I can't agree with you more that her performance of it NOW seems to carry so much more weight and gravity now that she's older.

I totally have to go look up that original track now.

D'luv said...

The short ugly guy from ABBA looks odd in that black dress...