Don’t worry that it’s not good enough. #PlagueSongs, no. 29

As we celebrate our one-year quaranniversaries, I invite you to sing!

When I began this series last March, I titled the first post after this song… even though the song I performed was Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” By the third Plague Song, I began using a lyric from each song as the title. But, at the beginning, well, what better way to start than with Joe Raposo’s generous invitation to sing?

Raposo (1937-1989) wrote the song for a 1971 episode of Sesame Street. I don’t see that first version on YouTube, but here’s a performance from 1974.

From the very beginning, the song included Spanish lyrics. I use the lyrics from the Spanish version on the record Sesame Street: Fiesta Songs! (1998), which doesn’t translate the “Don’t worry…” line. Discovering this version, I see that Luis has translated it! Had I heard his before recording mine, I would have used his version. (In the spirit of the lyric, I will not worry that my version is not good enough!)

By the time Bob, Luis, Susan and the Kids sang the version above, “Sing” had already been a major hit for the Carpenters (1973) and a minor hit for Barbara Streisand (1972). The song has also been recorded by Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, Shirley Bassey, the Ventures, Ivy, Pink Martini, Kristin Chenoweth, Jane Monheit, and the Chicks (with Muppet chickens!).

Here’s a playlist of 23 different versions, including one in German – “Singt ein Lied.”

As I approach a year of doing these Plague Songs (once a week for the first 22 weeks, roughly once a month after that), I am struck by the fact that three were written for children: this one, “Rainbow Connection” (written by Paul Williams & Kenny Ascher for The Muppet Movie, 1977), and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (written by Fred Rogers for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, 1967).

Also, all three of these songs date to my early-1970s childhood. Though I am not nostalgic for my youth, songs of the era do offer comfort – and a bit of melancholy. When rehearsing “Rainbow Connection,” I arrived at the verge of tears more than once. When learning “Sing,” I had a similar experience at the “la la” chorus: the melody is cheerful, but the G –> G maj 7 –> C maj 7 chord progression has a kind of wistfulness to it. Are 7th chords more likely to create this emotional response? Or is it simply that this particular song calls me back five decades in time?

I don’t know, but I do think a song with emotional tension between music and lyrics can “stick” more powerfully. Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” (also one I performed) is one such song: broken-hearted lyrics set against a bouncy pop tune.

As we await access to the vaccine and a gradual move to some less fraught “normal,” I hope you are finding the songs that sustain you. And I hope you are singing.

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Indeed, why not perform a song? Singing will lift your spirits. Trust me. Need ideas? The playlist below offers many places to start.

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