This morning I had to sit in my car in the parking lot after my commute for a few minutes, just processing, absorbing a song that I’d just heard because it made me FEEL. Wiping tears away because I was able to actually hear something so musically brilliant that it moved me – something that hasn’t happened much in the last 15 years since my hearing loss. This recent hearing adventure has come from a rather unexpected place: the blues, specifically as played by Hugh Laurie. I love hearing again, because beauty of music like this heals me.
As a hearing person, there was always music coming along that moved me: Colm Wilkinson singing “Bring Him Home”, the Carmina Burana, Dennis DeYoung singing The Best of Times, Dave Koz playing “Castle of Dreams”. The genre rarely mattered if the music was good. In 2001, as a single-sided deaf person, I did a show called “Personals” that closed with a song “Some Things Don’t End” that had harmonies so well done I had to close my eyes on stage while singing because I was keeping from crying. But I did always have a soft spot for jazz, and the blues to some degree, because of my dad’s love of it. Chuck Mangione was one of my first concerts when I was probably 8 years old and I remember being absolutely thrilled by him (but to be fair, I was also thrilled by my other first concerts – Air Supply and Juice Newton).
One song I learned in high school was Louis Jordan’s “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin” (written by the amazing Joe Greene). It was a down and out blues song and I loved it. I knew it in the context of the musical “Five Guys Named Moe” – which led me down a dangerous path of the blues/musical theatre combination. Suddenly “Jelly’s Last Jam” was one of my favorite shows, celebrating the songs of Jelly Roll Morton with unbelievable choreography by Gregory Hines (I was fortunate enough in college to see Savion Glover in the show. I wrote a term paper for a class called “Anthropology of Dance” that was basically my review of the show and if it held up to my expectations – it did.)
But then I was profoundly deaf. Just hearing music AT ALL was a struggle. Understanding of any new music was out of the question for a long time. It took a couple of years, but eventually with my hearing aid, a very patient musical director, and an angel of a sound guy, I was able to learn some roles and perform them pretty flawlessly. But I never really FELT them, never really got that deep dive into the character that I’d had with some roles in the past – partially because the music was so much work. From there on, I generally kept my singing to things I either knew really well before my hearing loss or had even sung before. My biggest accomplishment musically during my hearing aid years was in 2005, when I was able to take the sheet music for “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin”, transcribe it into a key that worked really well for me (a feat for someone who doesn’t really play piano well AND is deaf), and sing it like my own. Still very proud of that one:
Back to the present. Someone online mentioned to me that I should listen to Hugh Laurie’s albums. I was always a big fan of him on House and knew the character played the blues because Laurie did, but I never really checked him out because of the whole “not listening to new music” thing. (Tangent: I love Dr. House. LOVE him. I wish my doctors were like him. Cut the bullshit and tell me what’s wrong with me. As one who has spent a lot of time in my life awaiting diagnosis, I always wanted the ridiculously smart guy to figure me out – even if he was an asshole). Eventually, I pulled up these albums on Spotify and gave them a listen. And they are freaking phenomenal.
I picked his second album, Didn’t It Rain, this morning for my commute instead of my usual “pre-hearing loss songs” playlist – I don’t know why exactly. I’ve been rewatching Chance on Hulu, having recently read the book, so maybe I just have Hugh Laurie in my subconscious. As good as it sounds on my computer while I’m working, it sounds 20x better in my car when I’m really listening. His song “Careless Love” came on as I got off the highway and made my way into the work parking lot. I don’t know how long I sat in the parking lot just letting that song surround me. Any coworkers who saw me probably thought I was nuts. I’m reminded of a time a little less than a year ago that I sat in the car in the work parking lot crying because I could understand what was being played on the radio. Today I sat in the car and cried because I heard so well that a song made me really feel again. Thank you, Mr. Laurie.
You should all go out to your car and listen to this really loud right now, like I just did again over lunch:
Amazing how things can change in just a year. I can actually hear when it’s raining now and don’t have to ask anymore.