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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 is 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.
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Tuesday, December 6

The Voice Again

Last night we watched the semi-finals on The Voice, with the last eight still standing (still singing?). Only two of the eight have a lock on making it to next week’s finals, Ali Caldwell and Billy Gilman. Caldwell soloed with Dolly Parton’s song and Whitney Houston’s best-known recording of “I Will Always Love You.” She could very easily have fallen on her nose with this song, but she didn’t. It was a show-stopper for her, and she’s a cinch to make it to the final four. Gilman covered Celine Dion’s “I Surrender,” with a final note that seemed to go on forever. I think he’s not only a cinch to make it to the final four, but will very likely win it all in the finals next week. Who will be the other two? They will probably be two of these three: Christian Cuevas, Wé Macdonald, and Sundance Head. Josh Gallagher, Brendan Fletcher, and Aaron Gibson will very likely be going home. I’d like to see Wé and Christian make it, but Sundance, the bearded wonder, may be the spoiler. He has such a powerful voice and seems to have the voting audience behind him.

I wish I had a say in what Billy Gilman chooses for his final song. I’d have him sing “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha. I realize he’s not even close to being the agéd knight Don Quixote, but he doesn’t have to be. Talk about a show-stopper. I can hear him, doing the first eight bars acapella, then a quiet drumbeat accompaniment for the next eight bars. Then a modulated eight bars of the bridge, and then a building toward the final eight bars with a key raise and volume increase to that emotional ending “the unreachable star” with him holding that final upper-register note for an impossible length. He would literally raise the roof, hit it out of the park, win the whole shebang right there. But will he do it? No. He’ll sing something powerful but probably not something I’m familiar with.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, popular songs today aren’t what they used to be; the lyrics are less important, the rhythm more important. And most of them no longer adhere to what most songs of the past did—32 bars of 4-4 or 3-4 rhythm in an AABA or ABAB pattern. “The Impossible Dream” uses 32 bars in an AABA pattern, just like nearly everything else written before 1970. Most of the songs from the Great American Songbook were written for Broadway musicals, by writers who weren’t also performers: Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Rogers and Hart, Rogers and Hammerstein, to name only the best known. Others were written by big band leaders like Duke Ellington’s “sophisticated Lady.” There were also a ton of songs written before 1970 that were only radio fodder, not very complicated or meaningful, some just plain silly, like “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?” or “Come On-a My House” or “The Purple People Eater,” some not so silly but still pretty meaningless, like “I’m Walking Behind You” or “That’s Amore” or “The Little White Cloud that Cried.” These were written by professional Tin Pan Alley people, who needed only a few hours to write them and cranked them out by the dozens, played over and over again by the many radio disc jockeys in the pre-television days, performed by the many pop singers of those long-ago decades.

Today, most of the songs are written by singers, who also perform them, and don’t seem to conform to any set length or pattern, and too often don’t depend on much meaning or substance. Ah, well, I still have the many great songs of the Great American Songbook. Now, if only Billy Gilman would sing “The Impossible Dream” for his knock-it-outta-the park final solo next week.

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