If you ask me about my love of music, I will readily admit that I am a fan of almost every genre. My Spotify playlist runneth over and I have favorites across a wide spectrum of artists. I will, however, tell you one thing with the utmost sincerity.
I don’t sing.
But that would technically be a lie. Because, I do sing. The real truth is, I don’t sing around people.
That’s why you’ll probably never hear it. Who knows? Maybe I’m actually really good. It doesn’t matter, though, because I’m fairly sure I’m not. I imagine those American Idol failures standing dumbfounded before the judges as their dreams are dashed. I can hear Simon Cowell cackling as he says, “You should call it, “Hi Blog. I’m a terrible singer.” It’s a no. Off you go.”
I love my hidden singing. In the shower, I’m a superstar and, with no one around, I can belt out a tune with the best of them. For the majority of my life, no one ever heard my singer/songwriter skills firsthand. I would twist around the lyrics to popular songs and make them about random insanity like stealing chicken wings. It was usually ad-libbed and fine-tuned, until eventually I didn’t even remember the original words. Few, if any, people heard these gems.
And then, the universe gave me kids.
Children are more than an audience for Dad jokes and TV shows. They’re also a captive crowd for miserable musical performances. In fact, they’re more than that. They’re my muse.
My daughter, Olivia, was the first one to get bombarded by Dadtunes. A messy avocado lunch saw the song “Bette Davis Eyes” become “Guacamole Hands.” “Purple Rain” became “Crazy Pills” about the fictional medicine she claimed to take during her wildest toddling moments. From Billy Joel to Meatloaf, I covered them all and dedicated them all to her.
The longest running song, however, is one that’s inception I managed to videotape. Today, at the age of twelve, she still endures it now and again, but it was when she was less than a week old that I made it up. I recorded the whole thing on my handheld video camera.
She was comically tiny with her entire body laying in my right hand, rocking to sleep, with her almond eyes – nearly entirely pupil – staring up. 2008 WWE Smackdown played in the background as I started to sing a song that, magically, came together on the spot. It was to the tune of “Doe, a Deer, a Female Deer” and could only be about Olivia.
O – my gosh…you are so cute.
L – Look how cute you are.
I – I think you are the best.
V – A very cutie pie.
I – I think you are so great.
(At this point I lifted her tiny arm in the air and, in a high pitched voice, sang “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” To this day, it’s her least favorite part of when I sing this song. )
A – And now we’re at the ennnnd….
O – is how I start your name! So we’ll start again at O, O, O, O…
And then I sang it again. That’s it. That’s the one that started it all and, to this day, it has persevered. A part of me worries that I’ll get drunk at her wedding and sing it. Another part of me is even more worried that I won’t get drunk at her wedding and still sing it. Either way, that song is getting sung at her wedding. Get your tickets early.
Lucas, three years her junior, has gotten many of his own hits and they’ve evolved since the George W. Bush administration hits of his sister. There have been full-scale updates of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” and Adele’s “Someone Like You” just to name a few. When I say full-scale, I mean it. They’re like four verses deep. Insane Dad Bops became big business by the time my little man arrived.
One of my favorites happened when he was still a baby and had to have his diaper changed. I love it because it illustrates how one moment can live forever in an improvised lyric. I had him perched on the changing table, complaining about the grossness of it all to his tiny little face.
Yuck, Lucas. You’re a stinker. That’s right. You. Little Mister Stinker! How often? All the time! That’s right. Little Mister Stinker! All. The. Time.
And then the instruments in my head kicked in. They started playing a slightly upbeat version of “Happy And You Know It.”
Little Mister Stinker All The Time!
He’s a Little Mister Stinker All The Time!
He’s a Little Mister Stinker…
I looked down and there he was, little Mr. Stinker, with his hand shoved into his mouth.
… always chewing on his fingers!
He’s a little Mister Stinker All The Time!
At the conclusion of the first sing-through, I will do it again louder, faster, and with an operatic British accent. But that’s true for most of these songs. That’s how Little Mister Stinker All The Time entered my infinite playlist.
You know how people with pets from rescue shelters say, “They really saved me.” Well, that’s how I feel with these songs. Sure, they’re about my kids and for my kids, but I have to be honest. They’re for me too…or mostly, I should say. During some of parenting’s most stressful moments, it’s the reimagined version of “Mr. Vain” or “You and Me” that gets me through. It may occasionally put smiles on their faces, but that’s kind of hit and miss at this point. It’s more for me.
I don’t need Simon Cowell. I’m a Dad. My kids are the song inspirations and my entire captive studio audience. Without them, I’d still sing, but it would be far less interesting and no one would be there to hear any of it.
And that would be a shame because, I’m probably really good. You’ll have to wait for her wedding to find out.
Preorder James Guttman’s New Book
You must be logged in to post a comment.