Two-part fancy: A new voice and perfect English
Here's my fantasy: After undergoing a minor medical procedure that requires anesthetic, I wake up to discover that I suddenly possess a terrific singing voice.
Don't scoff. I read not long ago that a woman in Oregon underwent oral surgery and came out of it speaking with a British accent. If something as weird as that can happen, surely a person could emerge from brief unconsciousness singing like Kristin Chenoweth. After all, Kristin Chenoweth and I already have two things in common: We're both women, and we both have vocal cords.
So let's say I come to and realize when I start singing with the car radio that my career options have suddenly exploded with possibilities. This is what I'd do: I'd record a lot of classic songs that everybody already knows, except my versions would be grammatically correct. That will be my special gimmick, the thing that sets me apart from other singers. "Not Taylor Swift," people will say. "I mean the other one -- the one who sings, 'I don't get any satisfaction.' "
Most of the time, of course, people won't even notice the slight difference in lyrics -- that will be my point -- and sometimes the songs will be even better. That will be my point too.
Here's an example. I've been listening to Loggins and Messina's Danny's Song on an oldies radio station lately. I always thought the song was sweet in spite of its brainless moon-June-tune lyrics ("Yeah we've just begun, we're gonna fly to the sun," for instance. Didn't Icarus teach us anything?)
My point, though, is that one line in particular has driven me nuts since I first heard the song in 1971: "He will be like she and me, as free as a dove, conceived in love ... "
He will be like she and me? Why not just pound a nail into my eye? Loggins, who wrote the song for his brother, should have written "He will be like her and me," which is correct, though it doesn't sound right, either. So I plan to re-write the lyric altogether and sing, "He will be like both of us, a wuss of a dove, conceived in love ..."
Isn't that better? I think we can agree that it is. If you think the word "wuss" is insulting, I'll remind you that the song was written by one brother to another. Brothers are always insulting each other; that's how they express affection.
Once "she and me" has been eliminated, the song can continue as written. I think the public will like both the adoring superficial message and the edgy undercurrent, the one that says "This soppy song is right up your alley, bro."
Creedence Clearwater Revival's Fortunate Son is a classic, except for the chorus lines that go, "It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no senator's son ... I ain't no millionaire's son, I ain't no fortunate one." I'll tidy those up and sing, "It isn't I, it isn't I, I'm not a senator's son ... I'm not a millionaire's son, I'm not a fortunate one." It'll make listeners feel mysteriously content, as if they've taken off shoes they hadn't realized were too tight.
The best part about my second career plan is that my playlist is endless. More ungrammatical songs are out there than grammatical ones. I can sing Paradise by the Dashboard Light: "There is no doubt about it, baby must go out and shout it ... " and "Well, the south side of Chicago, is the worst place in the town," and "I wonder why your sparkling earrings lie against your skin so brown," and "Feeling good was good enough for me, good enough for Bobbie McGee and me" and of course, "Lie, lady, lie, lie across my big brass bed."
Granted, I might hear from a few attorneys who are all excited to hear me messing with copyrighted lyrics. But I'll invoke the names of such upstanding English language grammarians as E. B. White and Edwin Newman and ask if the police would arrest someone who is merely carrying the flag for consistent, correct English usage.
And not just for correct English, but for correct English in beautiful songs, sung, miraculously, in a pure, clear voice that didn't exist before I had that hangnail removed and woke up singing like a bird.
A bird who knows that you aren't anything but a hound dog. What's more, you have never caught any rabbits and you are no friend of mine.
Reach ThisWeek's Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.