Monday, August 28, 2006

I Used to Want To Be A Background Singer

In the late 1950's and early 1960's when every girl who dreamed of singing wanted to be a solo artist, I wanted to be a background singer.

I had all the choruses memorized -- every do-bop-she-bop-we-op and every ramma-ramma-ling-lang. I knew every background lyric verse to "Come Softly" (dum-dum-dum-be-do-wah be-doobie-do..etc), and I imagined myself one of the tough chicks in pink capris who said .."yes we see" and "we get the picture" to the lead singer of "Leader of the Pack".

I even knew the extensive Marcel's backup lines in "Blue Moon"
(Bom ba ba bom ba bom ba bom bom
bom ba ba bom ba bom ba bom bom
Blue moon, moon, moon, moon, moon
Di, Di, Di, Di, Di, moon, moon, moon, blue moon
Di, Di, Di, Di,Di)

And I memorized all the we-muh-wey lines from the Token's The Lion Sleeps Tonight".

Maybe I would grow up to be a Shirelle or a Chantel, a Shangri-La or a Chiffon (He's so fine --do lang do lang do lang -- And I wish he was mine -- do lang do lang do lang-- That handsome boy over there -- the one with the wavy hair..."

But glory be, if I could only be a Ronette, singing backup for Ronnie Spector on the closing ecstatic verse of "Be My Baby"
(Be my be my baby) Be my little baby
(I want it only say) Ooh-oh-oh-oh, ooh-oh-oh-oh
(Be my be my baby) Oh-oh-oh, oohh...
(I want it only say) Oh, oh, oh, oh, oooohh...

The Ronettes were "IT" with their black rimmed eyelids, glossy pink lipstick and anti-gravity hair. Their silk suits were so tight you could see a bead of sweat form as a bulge. Yet they weren't cheap looking. They were just plain cool, and unabashedly sexy.

I would sit in my bedroom listening to them on my Sears and Roebuck portable Silvertone transistor radio with the simulated leather carrying case in medium gray. I would sing along and would just so deeply want their life. I wanted to sing to a boy like that and have him open the door to his souped up convertible and drive me around town.

But I was the "smart girl" in school -- the one with the over-protective Roman Catholic ethnic parents. In their great wisdom they protected me from being anything near the local Ronette. But there, in my room, late at night listening to Ronnie Spector and all the girl groups in America, I could almost feel the heat of the stage lights as I adjusted my imaginary Dynel hairpiece to fall just perfectly over my left shoulder as I waited for the curtain to open on the rest of my life.


Blogger Songbird said...

I'm with you; I always longed to be a back-up singer, even though that day was mostly gone by the time I knew what they were!

8:02 PM  

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