What About the Other Songs?

Dylan was getting ready to perform again at the senior living community.

Given that he sang a number of songs that residents didn’t know in his prior performance, I suggested that Dylan sing some songs from the 1940’s, since those are the songs best known by people whose average age is 85.

“Okay,” he said without flinching.

“Do you want me to get you some karaoke CDs?”

“YES!” Dylan said. (Since most of our communications are via text, I know that he said this emphatically, in ALL CAPS.)

So I spent yet another $15 on yet another karaoke CD. And when it arrived two days later, I made note of the six songs most likely to be known and loved by people in that senior residence. Dylan took the CD upstairs to his “studio” and started learning the songs.

Or so I thought.

Three days later, Dylan could only sing five words: “I did it MY WAY.”

“It’s the only one of those olds songs that I like,” he said.

“What about the other songs?” I asked. “Aren’t you learning those?”

“No,” he said. “I’m not going to sing songs that I hate.”

“But they are songs that the residents are going to love!” I shrieked. “You need to do the songs they like, not what you like!”

“Performing is a cooperative effort,” Dylan said. “I will sing some songs that they like and some that I like.”

“They don’t even know the songs that you like,” I said. “I thought you wanted them to be happy!”

“But I’m not going to sing a song I hate!” he said. “I’m the performer and I think I know what are the best songs to perform.”

The argument went on longer than it should have.

This is why you will not be able to have a career in music, I wanted to say. You don’t think about them. You only think about you.

I wanted to say, No one is going to want to see you perform if you don’t do what THEY like. I wanted to say, Performing is about giving of yourself, not having a fun time and showing off how great you are.

I remembered Dylan declaring – for years – his loftiest ambition: “I just want to make people happy with my singing.”

But now that ambition has taken a back seat to his teenage will: I want to do what I want to do, and if you don’t like it, I don’t care.

A few weeks ago, I watched those senior living residents closing their eyes, hands to their hearts, singing along with the TWO songs they knew, dreamily diving into the music they loved so well. They were so incredibly happy for those six minutes.

Music is therapeutical. It can transform people from the space they’re in to a whole different time, in just a few seconds. The people in that community can go from being stuck in a nursing home to sitting in the front seat of a 1949 Ford pick-up with just a few notes.

And maybe Dylan will sing those two songs for them again this time. So for those six minutes – out of an hour – they will be transformed. But it sure won’t be a performance designed to make them happy.

It will be a performance designed to make Dylan happy.

And the Ford pick-up will have to wait and find them in their dreams.

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