Hold Your Applause, Karaoke Hits Pause

by Kevin Burton

   A stay-at-home order basically formalizes what I want to do anyway.

   I like my house. My wife is here. My stuff is here.  The TV is set to “off.”  Alexa spins the tunes.

   The refrigerator hums in what sounds to me like the key of contentment.

   Church via media is something I did for years. Going back to that is not a big deal.

   As we follow the CDC guidelines during the virus crisis, my style, what little remains, is not being cramped, with one exception. 

   A night on the town for me almost certainly would have something to do with karaoke.  That is not happening these days of course. My main haunt in the old days (before March) hosted karaoke Thursdays and Fridays.  Or I could travel a few more miles and find a Saturday show in another town.

   The last week in April is National Karaoke Week. I found citations for this going back to 2013 but have not found out who originally declared such a thing.  Alert readers, jump in and help if you can. 

   Karaoke started in Japan around 1971. I got started in 1982. How a wallflower like me got to be a karaoke hero I will never know. 

   My first karaoke performance was at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus believe it or not.  I sang “Don’t Do Me Like That,” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  It went OK.  I have done better since but to this day have never had a larger audience. Probably a thousand people heard me.

   Not long after my “debut,” I was waiting at a bus stop with my friend Alex. We were headed from point A to point B on the nothing-happening, just-another-day tour.

   So we’re on this bench waiting. A guy pulls his car up to a nearby stoplight. He rolls down the window and proceeds to scream at me every unprintable hyphenated insult known to 1980s-era man. We were a little worried about the guy’s intentions. We were properly speechless.

   Longest light I ever sat through.

   Then before the light turned green the guy called me a “blankety-blank-blank Tom-Petty blankety-blankety blank…” 

    My friend and I brightened instantly.  “Hey!” Alex said “he must have seen you at the fair…”

    “You never know who may be lis-ten-ing tooo yaa.” croons Paul McCartney in the song “Take It Away,” another 80s treasure. It’s true, you never know.  It could be some important impresario, could be a waitress, rolling her eyes before checking her watch, could be a loud-mouth dude with a limited vocabulary.

   You could perhaps make a compelling case that karaoke is among the cheesiest of pastimes. It is imported from Japan but seemingly made for American swagger.  It’s often fueled by booze, but just as often marinated in memories and/or ambitions subdued by the demands of life.    It could be anything from a sigh to a shout.

   In these virus times, what we have is “quarantine karaoke” on Facebook. Have you seen that? It’s a thing.

   Some of the elements of regular karaoke are in place, including apparently the consumption of booze, though my reportorial investigation took place at 2:50 p.m. on a recent afternoon.

   “Brenda” is entertaining singing and dancing to “Born to Be Alive.” A  Patrick Hernandez tune I was not aware of previously.  I just missed “Becky” who did a song on a break from work. Rats.

   “Kate” puts on a blonde wig and becomes Rizzo doing “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” from Grease.

   People are having fun. The goal, as mentioned in Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” is to “forget about life for a while.”

  Amen to that.   

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