One of the things that drives me batty is watching people sing, when I don’t believe they believe what they are singing. Maybe it is the actor in me, but I want a singer to be a storyteller. I really don’t care how many “runs” or big notes you can show off with – what gets the hair to stand up on the back of my neck is when you carry me with the truth of the words you are singing. Because music can very easily manipulate our emotions, so when you marry soaring musical beauty to a genuine personal journey in a song, then something really special can happen.
As such, the singers I love are the ones who explore a song with depth and truth. This is very generous on their part, a true giving, a powerful gift to the listener. I adore Elvis Presley, Freddy Mercury, Sam Cooke, Jim Morrison and Michael Stipe. But today I want to talk a little bit about Frank Sinatra, and one particular album that I think captures the brilliance of storytelling throughout, and is in many ways as useful an acting lesson as watching any movie. Before the first time I listened to it, I liked Sinatra fairly well as an amusing, cheeky, bombastic crooner, and even thought he was a half-decent film actor. But after hearing this record, I truly understood a new level of being carried gorgeously, agonizingly, delicately through a crashing wave of songs, of having one’s spirit gently drawn through a set of stories of drifting dreams and smoke, of heartbreak and clinking glasses, of streetlight and desire. That album is In the Wee Small Hours.
I’m listening to it now as I write. An experiment …
I’m lying awake in the middle of the night, missing her. By the silent phone. Longing. In the silence. That’s the worst time.
You don’t get it. Really what it is to be lonely. Alone. To the tips of your toes. Since she walked away.
Look at the state of me. Lost and mumbling. I threw myself into it and got destroyed. But hurting still feels so much better than nothing.
I’m fine. Except when I remember her. And everything reminds me of her. What am I going to do?
I sit there in the darkness. In that old chair. I chain-smoke. And I fantasize about her. God, it’s good. Then I wake up.
I can’t stop picturing her face. All day. If she just felt the same way …
Believed her. Breathed for her. Shoulda known better. And the worst thing is she’s gonna say, I never saw you that way.
Why bother with all this romantic magic? Because afterwards it’s just worse. Like shards in your heart.
Hey God old pal, what the hell is this love thing you made? And what has it got against me?
Last night was It. With her. But today’s been so long without her. So let me just think about those kisses …
There’s no way she’s getting rid of me. I’ll be waiting when she’s done with him. Waiting. Because she’s meant for me.
Things have gotta get better. I gotta get out from under this cloud …
You told me I’d be alone, never believed it. But you were right. Damn right.
She’s with me! Well, she’s not here, but I’m in bed dreaming, and there she is … dancing …
All my joy is gone. And I’m never getting it back.
My life is empty now she’s gone except she’s always on my lonesome mind, day and night. I wish my heart would break but it won’t. You see, my love is endless. What’s gonna become of me?
That’s the story Frank just told me, about lost love one Spring. Pretty profound and poetic. Give it a listen and see…