Friday, September 14, 2012

The First Song

The first song I ever sang in public was called You Light Up My Life.

Remember that one? It was sung by Debbie Boone. People either loved it or hated it.

It hit number one in the fall of 1977. I was 14 years old and in the ninth grade. Apparently I was at the age to love the song.

I recorded You Light Up My Life off of Casey Kasem's American Top 40, using a cassette tape, of course. And then I played it back a hundred times until I learned all of the words.

Then I played it another hundred times so I could learn the guitar chords. I remember the song had an Am and D in it.

My father in the 1970s had a Top 40 band called Music Inc. The band one Friday night played a dance at Breckinridge Elementary School in Fincastle, a benefit for either the high school band or the PTA, I can't remember which. I think it was a Halloween dance, actually. I seem to remember ghosts, but maybe that was just my fear.

I had been told to bring my guitar, which I did. It was an Epiphone Les Paul imitation, black in body, that I had received as a Christmas present when I was 12. I still have it.

As I tend to do when the weather changes, I had developed laryngitis from the pollen. I recall protesting that I couldn't sing.

No matter. I was going to sing anyway.

I was so scared I could scarcely breathe. The band would be backing me up, but we only rehearsed the song one time. And that was a disaster because my guitar hadn't been tuned in standard tuning. Retuning my guitar down to standard meant I would be singing in a different key than I normally sang in.

Oh the terror! How my knees knocked and my fingers twitched. The time passed so slowly I was sure I was in a time warp and had been transferred to another universe.

Eventually, my father called my name. I made my way to the stage. I plastered a smile on my face as he introduced me. I took my guitar from its stand. I strummed the guitar and forced my scratchy voice to belt out the words.

I know there were screeches and bad notes. I was not then, nor am I now, really a vocalist. I can carry a tune decently enough but I have never been what one might call a great singer. That first time on stage was no exception.

"So many nights, I sit by window..."

Egads. I can't imagine what everyone thought. It probably wasn't as bad as I imagined - I didn't stumble too much or have to restart the song - but it couldn't have been great. I was trembling when I finished. I left the stage to polite applause.

One of my classmates immediately began to make fun of me, I remember. And her voice singing You Light Up My Life would follow me down the halls of the high school for the next several weeks.

But I had done it. Despite my fears, I had mounted the stage, picked up the guitar, and made my way through the song, for better or worse.


  1. The classmate was just jealous.

  2. My heart is pounding just thinking of the stage fright. I turn to jelly if I have to speak in public.
    Your story did bring back some good memories too. My friends and I would all hold our transistor radios while we walked along and sang the top 40 songs. I remember a lot of Carpenters songs.

  3. why, are some folks so mean. i bet you were just fine. you had guts to get up there. i sang many times in front of the class & school & even at church... but it never got easy. the butterflies were always there. but i kind of enjoyed those butterflies. better to be i try than i never did get up there? you know what i mean ... (:

  4. And, that took a lot of courage to do, Anita. Good for you and boos to that classmate who harassed you afterwards.
    BTW did you get my email requesting your address? We are planning our Blue Ridge road trip for early Oct and plotting out places to stop and VA bloggers to visit. You can email me at the address on our blog. Thanks.


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