Thursday, April 14, 2011

Anyone can be American Idol

" I have a simple life. I come out and sing.
 In my job I have a contract that says I'm a singer. 
So I sing."
Tony Bennett

I  love being a singer, but I'm glad that I attended--and finished-- law school.  I don't practice law, but I think like a lawyer. For example, I know the meaning of the word "fungible." 

The term describes goods that are legally equivalent, all the same, virtually identical, so that one is pretty much like the other, eg  grains of sand.

After 17 years of singing, I have decided that most singers are essentially fungible.  Most, not all.  And most audiences, even instrumentalists, can't distinguish an excellent voice from an entertaining vocal presentation.  

"You have to be able to listen. You have to listen to the singer
and give them what they need to sound good."
Ray Brown 

This means many very talented, highly trained singers often end up working as unpaid amateurs or on the cheap.  A few of the better ones may earn a free drink or two from the house, perhaps a plate of pasta after the gig, a percentage of the band's tips, and/or maybe a Jackson or two or three from the register.  Generally not enough to pay rent.  Musical theater singers in community productions may receive a nominal stipend to subsidize gas, baby sitters, or a wig for the show.

"This is a common fault to all singers--
among their friends they will never sing when they are asked; 
unasked, they will never desist."

I figure there are  approximately a zillion such quasi-pro singers. And 74 percent of these zillion singers appear to be middle-aged women, fighting off that slooow grandma vibratos (wobble) or the really fassssst billy goat vibratos (tremelo) and other aural ills.

And these gals gradually get wrinkling, spotting, sagging, increasingly hairy faces with which to present their repertoire. Finally, these older gals may be lugging around exhaustive emotional baggage from years of  rejection, disrespect, and the no-to-low wage situation.    

They can't be American Idol, but matronly Susan Boyle proved that a great singer can soften Simon Cowell's hard heart on X FACTOR.

And most singers can be better technicians, more marketable just by learning to play some simple chords.  At the risk of should'g on myself, I wish I had learned to play that piano I bought 25 years ago.

A prolific composer friend similarly suggested I would add value to our collaboration by penning lyrics to his music.  But I've been reluctant, intimidated by the high bar set by geniuses like Sondheim, Gershwin, Porter, Hammerstein, Sheryl Crow and Sting et al.

Until today.  

This morning  I nonchallantly opened a link inside a Facebook pal's message, and I just may have clicked onto my path as a future professional lyricist. The link showed a concert video with an audience totally gaga for a folk singer's SIMPLE lyrics:

If just about anyone can sing, then just about anyone can write song lyrics like these. 

I think I can.
I think I can.
I think I can. 

DeNeice Kenehan has been not singing for friends when urged and singing when not requested since her early 40s.  She studied voice in Las Vegas with Greg Enriquez and Rhonda Carlson and in Los Angeles with maestro Seth Riggs. DeNeice performed comedic leads in musical theatre and cabaret before moving to San Diego in the late 90s.  She has sung in San Diego clubs, churches, and at a variety of private and public events. She enjoys singing at Balboa Park--in the domed Museum of Man, at an annual gala in the photo arts museum, at House of Italy functions, and mostly in the Prado women's restroom, where the tiled flooring and walls create amazing acoustics. She says the powder room at the El Camino restaurant, site of a weekly jazz jam, runs a very close second.


  1. There must be an award for someone who can sing AND write with such dynamic and alacrity as this. Never mind the spots, sags or billy goat vibrato. Nice piece, talented lady....

  2. "Give them what they need to sound good" - Ray Brown. This statement immediately brought to my my mind Diana Krall's "Live in Paris". This has one of the most fantastic bands to ever back up a singer in my opinion. Oh wait, that should be IMO. Sorry, I forgot I wast typing on the internet. As fantastic as a vocal jazz presentation as Diana give, along with her superb jazz piano playing, it's the bands selfless dedication to the "music" that makes this my favorite music video. I hope you have heard it.