Sunday, October 17, 2010


Every now and then, a singer whose voice fills my every sense, will offer a performance that stands out from all the others. Sometimes it is a rocking performance that gives you chills for the power and control, like the ones I have shown in my last few blogs. And sometimes it is a ballad where you don’t breathe until it’s over. There have been a number of both kinds of performances over the years. They fill my memory bank and trickle into my days on long drives or whisper to me in quiet moments before I drift off to sleep.

I can hear him and I can picture myself, right down to where I was sitting. In My Life from the PBS taping in March, 2010. How do you sing with a lump in your throat? Meadowbrook in Gilford, NH (2005) where I cried silent tears for an acoustic version of I Can’t Make You Love Me that he sang directly in front of me from about the 10th row. The Mann Center in Philadelphia in 2006 where we heard Lover All Alone for the first time, and I rubbed Nan’s back as the song took hold of her. Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2004 for Measure of a Man that the audience sang to him, followed by the most tender version of Fields of Gold imaginable. You could almost see his voice as if it was a summer breeze caressing the tops of wheat stalks bending gently to the music.

This weekend was the annual fund raising gala for Clay Aiken’s National Inclusion Project. As with all the galas, they offered awards to those Champions for Inclusion and auctions to raise money for this incredibly worthy cause. He ends the event with a short performance as a way of thanking the donors. He’ll sing from whatever album is out and and then add a song we've never heard from him before. At this gala he added a special song, a Joni Mitchell song made his own through changes in key, tempo and melody. A song beautifully signed by volunteer Deb Leicey and he positioned her right beside him, because inclusion is always in his heart. Her hands became another instrument on the stage.

Those songs that were classified as pop (or folk) back when pop wasn't a four letter word thanks to today's singers who can barely sing, are as suited to him as the pop/rock style of Alone. I heard someone say recently that he has a theatrical quality voice that sings contemporary pop better than anyone. And it is so true. I felt like I heard Both Sides Now for the first time on Saturday. Granted, I was in elementary school when it was released but I remember vividly my twenty-something mother sitting on an orange shag carpet in the living room trying to learn the chords on her guitar. I can’t wait to send her this clip.

I know there are people out there who can still write like this. He’s one of them. I hope someday soon, he’ll believe it too.

Visit those other performances here:
In My Life
I Can't Make You Love Me
Lover All Alone
Measure of a Man/Fields of Gold