Watching young children dancing along to my songs recently and how they joined in to sing without hesitation, I felt joy for them, yet a pang of sadness for adults. Most adults are so ‘grown-up’ they have lost their ability to dance unhindered, let alone sing without being conscious of how their voices will be perceived.
Thankfully the thoughts of adults passed quickly on that occasion though, as the joy emanating from the children was too wonderful to ignore. There were no two dancers alike, no one looking to others for approval or concern. The only interaction with others was when they grabbed each other’s hands to dance together, jumping around freely and joyously.
Of course, in pubs you will find adults courageous enough to dance. Alcohol does that. But what a pity it takes a substance to loosen many up in Western society, loose enough to dance freely with individual expression.
I also know of stacks of people who love singing in their cars and at home alone. Yet they won’t sing a note out loud in front of others, in fear of singing out of tune, or being ridiculed, or both. Does it really matter if someone is not pitch-perfect? No!
The best gigs I ever do, the ones I enjoy the most, are those where the audience sings along with me. This sometimes takes encouragement from me but with time, I have come to read an audience enough to know if it is worth it. Folk audiences in particular are the best for joining in. You can count on them every time. And it is great.
Singing lifts the mood. It gets air in the lungs, blood flowing, endorphins released. Music is such a wonderfully joyous, healing language. If you’ve never watched the Swedish film, As It Is In Heaven, do yourself the favour. It is a truly beautiful celebration of singing.
It saddens me when people don’t sing due to concerns of how their voice will be perceived. (It is also interesting that some of those who mock others are often not brave enough to sing out loud themselves).
A long time back, I spent a year or so working in the deserts of Israel. The only songs that all of the international workers seemed to know at the time, were John Denver songs. And I was the only one who knew them word for word. We had a great team of people working together. So after singing as a group one afternoon, sitting on the trailer behind the tractor, a new habit was formed.
Each afternoon at sunset thereafter, we would all sing songs together as the farmer transported us home. Sometimes singing would start in the greenhouses and packing sheds too. It was wonderful. I recall one particular friend who couldn’t hold a note at all, but absolutely loved singing and did so constantly. The memories of her singing as she trellised tomatoes hour after hour still bring me great joy.
When I first started singing in public, which initially terrified me, I was told often that my voice was unique. This brought more attention to me than I wanted. It was the songs that I wanted the attention to go to. But I love singing now and I love that my voice is my own. It is an expression of me. We are all different though, and each of our singing tones is unique. Not everyone will like the sound of another’s singing. This is a fact of life. The main thing is to just enjoy singing and to do so uninhibited. Celebrate the gift of your own voice, whatever that is.
Why should you not give yourself the pleasure of singing? Why should anyone rob anyone else of the joy of singing at the top of their voice?! They only do that if you allow them to. So sing my friends, as loudly and joyously as your heart desires. If people don’t like it, shrug, smile, and sing on! Just think of my friend trellising tomatoes and the delight those memories still hold for me, almost two decades later. It was her joy of singing that brought me joy too.
And of course, then there is dancing, which suffers similar inhibitions for similar reasons. Dancing is great for you, in mind and body. Even with injuries, parts of the body can still dance. Yet people hold themselves back from dancing when they feel like it, in fear of how they will look in front of others.
Sometime before the Israel stint, I worked on a tropical island for a couple of years, at a resort. My friends and I were all young and healthy, dancing all the time. I don’t think I’ve ever been fitter. Each night the resort guests would come into the lounge area and sit smiling, watching the band, waiting for anyone else to get up and dance. This was often my friends and I.
And then guaranteed, as soon as we were up dancing, some guests would get up to dance. And by the end of that song, the whole dance floor would be full of happy guests dancing away.
Why must we be so scared about what other people think? Who are we ripping off by being so self-conscious? Not the other people, that’s for sure. Only ourselves. There is still a child within us all who wants us to be uninhibited, to sing and dance for no other reason but the pure joy of it.
Alcohol is not necessary to loosen you up. All that is required is a willingness to silence the mind enough to hear the heart. And the heart wants to sing and dance. Don’t worry about what other people think. If you feel like singing, sing. If you feel like dancing, dance.
Re-learn this carefree life by watching children if you must. But really, that looseness is still within you, bursting for expression.
So just sing my friends. And just dance. Allow the joy of both to flow through your life. It’s time to stop being so grown-up. It is time to grow down. Be a child again.
Just sing. Just dance. Just do it!
To listen to HAVING FUN and to watch the film clip, please visit YouTube.