I have to take issue with Saturday's New York Times' article headline: Unlikely Singer is YouTube Sensation.
Why the hell is she "unlikely?"
Because she doesn't look like a star. So?
Because she's 47? So?
Because she's an unemployed spinster from Scotland? So?
Susan Boyle isn't an unlikely anything. None of us are.
Instead, she's a human being who's been kissed by an angel -- of song. And by the grace of divine order, we were privileged to receive her gift poured out for all the world to hear last Saturday night on Britain's Got Talent.
By her own report, Miss Boyle has been singing since she was 12. If we do the math, that means she's been holding, thinking of, nurturing and growing her dream for 35 years. She's also been singing during that time -- when she could, where she could, when asked, and probably when not asked as well.
Miss Boyle has sung in her local church for more than three decades, but she didn't pick a church song for her first worldwide venue. (I can't wait to hear her knock "Ave Maria" out of the park!) Instead, she chose a song about dead and dying dreams -- ALL THE WHILE holding out for her own dream of being a professional singer, in her own words, as good as "Elaine Paige."
The conventional wisdom from her first Scottish television interview, from the BBC, and various other sources yammered on about how Miss Boyle is so inspiring because ...
she's an underdog ...
looks and age don't matter ...
it's never too late ...
she reminds us that we should never give up hope ....
I hold a dissenting opinion.
Susan Boyle is the exact right singer with the exact right song for our exact right time.
Our world is falling apart. Our dreams, if we want to continue in the new world that's forming, must be different. We can't keep the same dreams, in the same forms, doing the same things to make them come true, when the environment for their becoming is drastically changed. We can't. We have to let life kill the dreams we dreamed, and let new dreams surface.
Interestingly, the only other song I found online sung by the angel-kissed Miss Boyle was "Cry Me A River." Originally written for a film set in the 1920s for Ella Fitzgerald to sing, it was tossed out because, according to the song's author, Arthur Hamilton, "no one will believe a Negro knows the word 'plebian.'" I kid you not. I know the song from Streisand's debut album. Miss Boyle sings this depression-era song as though she was born to it. She, too, is one of the plebian, from Latin roots plebius, of the common people vis-à-vis the patrician people.
The Times says, "Miss Boyle's apparently complete lack of formal training fits more purely into the archetypal talent-competition narrative: Unknown From Nowhere Reveals Extraordinary Gift and Stuns World."
Let's take it apart idea by idea, shall we?
Unknown: to whom? She took care of her mother all her life. Her mother knows her. Her church folk know her. Her brother knows her. Now we know her. Unknown, not so much.
From nowhere: please? She told us where she was from, a small collection of quiet villages in Scotland. No one is from nowhere.
Reveals: nope. She didn't reveal it. She received it, cared for it, used it as much as she could in as many venues as possible until that 35-year nourishment program sent her into a venue where she could pour it out, and Miss Boyle stinted nothing. She rained, she poured, she blessed us.
Extraordinary Gift: I'll give you this one. Her gift, and a gift from the angel of song it is, is truly extraordinary.
Stuns World: Well, certainly it stunned the three cynical judges of Britain's Got Talent. Piers Morgan said he gave her performance "the biggest yes in three seasons of the show." Amanda Holden said, "Definitely yes." And the arrogant Simon Cowell took credit for knowing what they were about to see in advance, adding (finally), "three yeses," and letting a tiny flash of his buried enthusiasm for talent peek through his cynicism before the clouds descended again.
Was the world stunned, really? I don't think so. I think instead we were awed, delighted, overjoyed, reminded of who we are, blessed by this generous outpouring of song that was, to quote Amanda Holden again, "the biggest wake-up call ever."
Wake up, rise, let the old dreams die. Keep nourishing the ones that do not go away. We, like Miss Boyle, will live to sing another day.
Visit Susan Corso's website at www.susancorso.com.
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