I've noticed, here and there on the internet, some mentions of Hugh Laurie's recent musical exploits. You probably know him as an actor from House or the older Jeeves and Wooster series or even way back when, from Blackadder (loved that show). And you probably are aware that he's a pretty decent musician.
Many of the remarks I've seen have been somewhat disparaging, stuff posted by those considering themselves 'real' musicians, calling Laurie an amateur, butting into 'their' business and stealing the limited gigs available to the true at heart.
Okay, as a musician, perhaps he is an amateur though he plays better than many professionals I've heard. I suppose it's the commitment rather than the skill level that counts for these folks!
But the thing is this: musicians are a dime a dozen. Hugh Laurie is an entertainer. It does not matter if there are thousands of starving musicians out there who can outplay him. They can't out-perform him and that is what people pay to see, mostly. It takes some charisma.
To turn this conversation to me -- I always manage to do that eventually -- I am a pretty gawd-awful musician. But I'm never 'myself' on stage. Myself isn't anyone you'd want to see or hear. I am essentially an actor when I get up and play, not a musician, and do not pretend otherwise.
Not on the level of Hugh Laurie, of course, music or entertainer-wise!
This train of thought just led me to a side-spur. Let me switch the tracks here...
I occasionally see complaints about people singing in 'ethnic' voices, trying to sound Irish/English/Jamaican/Afro-American/whatever. Some decry the lack of 'authenticity.' Some even seem to feel it's in bad taste.
But this also I consider acting. Do we complain when an actor takes on a role that requires a different voice? No, we applaud him if he pulls it off well. We should think no differently of the singer performing a song. That's a role, too.
The biggest complaint I might have about the current pop singers out there -- and this has been true for quite some time -- is that they're all about technique and forget to play the role. Their performances are empty. Their act is posturing, not heart-felt. The words could be (and often are) meaningless.
How we could use a Sinatra around now!
SB June 2011