By Clyde Davis
I was singing my wife Janice to sleep with the words of Harry Chapin’s “Taxi” … “It was rainin’ hard in Frisco, I needed one more fare to make my night…” She woke up on the last verse, so I went right into “Cat’s in the Cradle.” True, I don’t sing well.
As always for me, thinking about Chapin led to thinking about Jim Croce — both such talented balladeers, both dying in accidents so tragically young. If the taxi driver and his lost love are indelibly printed on my memory, the same is true for “bad, bad Leroy Brown” and “big Jim Walker, the pool shootin’ son of a gun.”
Where have such voices gone? The answer emerged quickly in the silence of our bedroom — Ruben Studdard. Lest I be mistaken for an American Idol fan, let me make one thing clear: I had no idea who Studdard was until after his American Idol days. His music may not be balladry in the Chapin sense, but the torch doesn’t have to be carried in exactly the same format, now does it?
This led to a fellow freelance columnist, who purports to write music reviews for — let’s just say one of Albuquerque’s free papers. This fellow, who rarely gives anyone a positive review, trashed Studdard’s Christmas CD and closed his column with the prediction that the mellow-voiced big guy would be selling hamburgers by the end of the year.
But only if it’s because of his celebrity endorsements. Music may be fickle — after all, some people valued The Ramons and The Clash, not to mention rap music. But most folks, I think, are like me — we may not know music, but we know what we like.
There’s always room for a melodious, expressive voice.
Perhaps Studdard will make some ballads — find some characters like Chapin’s taxi driver, or Croce’s Leroy Brown, or even Barry Manilow’s Lola and Tony. Ballads or not, though, I bet he’ll still be singing successfully — and you, Mr. Albuquerque freelancer, will still be fretfully listening to whatever it is you call music.
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at: