I’ve always thought the very best way to express one’s creativity is to sing. I sing every day. I doubt there’s ever been a day I haven’t sung, even if it hasn’t been out loud. As a matter of fact, I’m plagued by ear worms. A song can run through my head literally for weeks. If I love the song I don’t mind. But sometimes a song plagues me by playing over and over and over in my brain, and I don’t really even like it. I don’t sing in the shower, but I do sing along to the radio in the car, and if my stereo is playing, I’m singing. I seem to have a knack for remembering lyrics, and everything reminds me of a song. The sad thing is I really don’t have a good voice. My range is limited; if I sang in a choir, which I haven’t been lucky enough to do, I’d probably be put with the boys. But boy do I love it. I love it with all my heart.
Tonight Jim played for me a recording of Carole King and James Taylor giving a concert for public television. They’re both pushing 70 probably, but they sounded just as they always have, and they were so full of life. I knew every single song — all the words — and I sang along, except when tears constricted my throat. How people can sing sad songs is beyond me. How can Bonnie Raitt sing “I Can’t Make You Love Me if You Don’t” without crying? I’ve no idea.
The first time I ever heard Carole King’s Tapestry album was the summer after my senior year of high school. I was dating a submarine sailor named Tommy who I met on Virginia Beach, and we were making out to that album at his rented house. The relationship with Tommy went nowhere because I went off to college and forgot all about him. But my relationship with Carole King endured. She wrote a song called “So Far Away” which, to this day, I think is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. I remember listening to it after I moved to Phoenix, Arizona when I was 19, pining away for my lost boyfriend.
So far away.
Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?
It would be so fine to see your face at my door.
But it doesn’t help to know you’re so far away.
Long ago I reached for you and there you stood.
Holding you again could only do me good.
How I wish I could. But you’re so far away.
What is it about that song? I don’t know, but I can’t sing it without a catch in my throat. Still.
And James Taylor. I made a CD for my mother of all my favorite James songs. When she lay in a hospice bed for a week, we played it for her again and again. She probably couldn’t hear it, but it comforted me to know James was with her. I first heard the Sweet Baby James album when I was about 13. That album cover! Never had a man been so beautiful to me, and his songs were singable for a teenage girl with a deep voice. I remember standing in line all night in the cold for tickets to his concert on my college campus. I wanted to have his children! Carly beat me to it, and when they split up, I actually cried.
So tonight, there he and Carole were, true friends and longtime collaborators, taking me back to my teenage years, when life was ahead of me and anything was possible. I sang the songs again, my voice echoing in our empty living room as we prepare to move after 20 years in the same house. Like Carole, like James, to my ears I sounded young.