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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Friday, November 11

Duets & Life's Regrets


A few nights ago, I listened to Natalie Cole and her father singing a duet of “Unforgettable,” and it reminded me of all the great singers who seemed to specialize in duets. A daughter, Natalie, singing one of her father’s best-known songs and doing it as a duet with Nat, her dead father. And they pulled it off beautifully. When I think back to the earliest duos I can remember in the 30’s and 40’s, it has to be Jeannette McDonald and Nelson Eddy, but since I was just a young pup when they were singing to each other, none of the songs stands out. Then moving forward from those two, Judy Garland sang with all of her guests on The Judy Garland Show, and of that many, two stand out—the songs she sang with daughter Liza Minnelli, and the unforgettable duet with the young Barbra Streisand as they sang “Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again.” I guess that all well-known singers probably sang a number of duets in their day, certainly all those who had television series, like Dinah Shore, Carol Burnett, Dean Martin, Doris Day, Perry Como, and Andy Williams, but some of them made it their specialty. Tony Bennett did it back in the day and is still doing it today. Probably the best-known is when he and K.D. Lang sang “Because of You” and when he and Lada Gaga recently joined voices for the tv special Cheek to Cheek Live, the best of which are “Anything Goes” and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love.” That leaves me with the two singers who specialized in duets with just about everybody—Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand. Frank even came out with Duets I and Duets II late in his career, but because he was over eighty at the time and his voice was approaching dreadful, neither of these two albums, despite their sales, was very good. Then there’s Barbra. I swear that everybody who sings a duet with her sounds better than on anything they ever sang solo. Even those who aren’t known as singers sound good, for example, Don Johnson of Miami Vice fame with her does a wonderful rendition of “Till I Loved You.” Celine Dion, who joined her not face to face but from one coast to the other, sounded perfect when they sang “Tell Him.” Donna Summers on “No More Tears” never sounded better as a soloist than this one with Barbra. I think Barbra could make even Donald Trump sound pretty good if she and he combined on a rendition of “Guilty.”

Going from duets to singles, I can hear Frank singing “Regrets. I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.” Which reminds me of my own regrets in life, only a few, but worth mentioning. Frost, in “The Road Not Taken,” speaks of only two roads he contemplated. But most of us have at least a dozen forks in the road that determine where we’re going. How important those decisions are as we make our way through life. When I was a really stupid eighteen-year-old, I chose to volunteer for the army instead of waiting for the draft to find me. I went to Korea and rose to the rank of tech sergeant. When I was about to ship home in 1954, I was told I might consider re-upping and going to French Indochina to help out in the Communist attempt to take over the southern region. I was tempted, but I declined, probably the only smart thing I’d ever done in my teenage years. But I was tempted. I could have done my twenty years and then retired at 50% of whatever I would have been making as a master sergeant (I’m assuming I would have risen to that rank in twenty years). And I’d have been only thirty-eight, with life enough ahead of me to have a whole new career. That was fork number one. After I got home, I flew to New York to join Chuck Cavallero, a buddy I met in Korea who collaborated with me on writing songs. We were going to storm Tim Pan Alley with our songs. There, I took a job with the Washington Detective Agency and might have stayed with them for a career in private-eyeing. But after six months, I chose to leave New York, leave my friend Chuck, to return to South Dakota to go back to the University of South Dakota to get a degree. That was my second fork in the road. I regret leaving Chuck and our friendship, never after that retaining a connection with him. Later, I also left another friendship with a man I met in South Dakota, Bill Pilgrim. He was a kindred spirit who ignited a renewed interest in me for writing creatively—novels, short stories, songs. And he too I left behind when I finished my degree and began teaching. He died when he was only thirty-eight, and to this day I regret that I never stayed connected with him. I think my main regret is that I never learned to play the piano. I’ve always loved music and began writing songs when I was about fourteen or fifteen. And I think I had a pretty good voice. But as a young man from the Midwestern sticks, unless I played a pretty good jazz piano, how was I ever going to get any of my songs heard by anyone? Right. I wasn’t. I’ve written quite a few songs but I’m the only one who will ever hear them. I have them in my head but nowhere else that anyone will ever knnow. Here’s one I wrote in 1983:

“One Woman”

One woman,
God created one woman,
A number one woman,
Her name was Eve
And she conceived a plan:
She picked an apple for Adam
And lost her place
Before the race began,
But one woman
Won one man.

One woman,
God created one woman,
A lovely one woman,
With Helen’s charms
Troy’s fire alarms began.
Because the pony was phony
They found that they
Had lots of fires to fan,
But one woman
Won one man.

Chorus: Woman, woman,
Where it all begins,
Woman, woman,
Thus the planet spins,
Woman, woman,
Where it always ends—
Woman and man
Can never be friends.

One woman,
God created one woman,
Juliet was one woman,
Only fourteen,
But she had seen her man.
She found him under her window—
Their fathers fought
Against the family plan,
But one woman
Won one man.

Chorus: Woman, woman,
Where it all begins,
Woman, woman,
No one ever wins,
Woman, woman,
Where it always ends—
woman and man
Can never be friends.

One woman,
I fell in love with one woman,
She was my one woman,
But I forgot
That love was not a game,
And Eve and Helen and Julie
Compared to her were truly
Rather tame.
And all it cost me
Was that one man lost his
Only one woman.

Chorus: Woman, woman,
Let’s begin again,
Woman, woman,
Stay with me and then,
Woman, woman,
We can make amends—
And you and I
Will always be
Lovers and friends,
You’ll be my one woman,
My number one woman—
Then we’ll be one—
Man and woman.

I can hear it in my head but no one else will ever hear it. There, that’s my main regret.

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