If Carol King and Bob Dylan Were Auditioning for American Idol...
3/27/2017 10:39:15 AM - It's a weeknight, I've given my kid a bath and we're kicking back, winding down the night with mindless TV, and somehow I turn the channel to "American Idol." It's season 4 (or is it 3?) and there are the young hopefuls in another round of auditions, trying to prove their stuff, desperation and hope igniting the air to the point that I feel nervous for them as they sing the cover of yet another pop song to the insults or praises of the three judges evaluating them with a touch of boredom in their otherwise vacant stares. As a singer, I can't help but marvel over some of the singing techniques and natural vocal abilities, and I think of myself younger, in my teens and early 20s which is the age of these contestants, and know that there was no way I could have made even the first round of the auditions. But is this really what music is about, how what is judged through the show is how we should judge singers and musicians?

When I first decided to become a singer, which was some time in my 20s, I questioned and dissected what it is that I wanted to become, who my idols were, and what I valued as a great artist as opposed to a great singer. Being a child of the 70s in America in an era of social consciousness, feminism at full throttle, and witnessing the ever-changing musical landscape supplied between that introduced to me through my jazz musician parents and the popular musics of that time, plus my bi-cultural rearing, I knew that my perceptions of music, or life for that matter, was and still is probably different from the norm, but at the same time it is the epitome of what those of my generation experienced in America. The social homogenous state that Americans are limited to today was not true of our generation; we've become a franchise-dominated, dummy-fied, red-blood-substituted-by-Starbucks zombies ruled by a media happy to censor life as a series of Nick & Jessie and Dubbaya. Instead there was an electric undercurrent as a result of being in the post-civil movement era, the ever-changing cultural moods that made one aware of the melting pot America was (and still is), where the rebels were revered for their unique and renegade outlooks, and the general feeling that we were breaking out of the seams of polite normalcy to a more natural and individual state of being. It was an America that tested its freedom to its utmost. And the true artists were representatives of that awakening, challenging us to look inward as much as to effect the outcome of our lives and how we dealt with others.

My personal musical heroes at the time were Stevie Wonder, Carol King, Chick Corea and a few others. It wasn't until much later that I learned to appreciate such artists as Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, The Last Poets, Nikki Giovanni, Joni Mitchell...in another words, the artists who helped to shape a certain consciousness on the young and the young at heart in the 70s. (Can you imagine these artists under the scrutiny of Simon or, God forbid, Paula?!) The music was stimulating, the words thought provoking, and the rhythms and sounds were organic and infectious, fusing well with the body's own biorhythm. They were the philosophers, humanitarians, teachers, and one of us. Without demanding to be placed on pedestals, they earned their place in our hearts as people of unique talents and who we looked up to. We weren't jealous of their wealth or for the jet-set parties they attended, but they inspired us to search deeper into our souls and challenged us to learn a little more about the language of the music they spoke, and by deciphering their language, maybe understanding the secrets to life.

Continued on Part II
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