Sunday, August 1, 2010

Barry Manilow, Bob Dylan, and me

I was listening to the radio the other day on my way home from work. This in itself is unusual, since I prefer either silence or songs from the dozen old cassettes I keep in the car. But I digress. As I said, I was listening to the radio, and I hear a commercial for Bob Dylan's upcoming concerts. And it made me remember a quote I used to loved, from a writer by the name of D.G. Fulford. Over 20 years ago, she wrote a column for the LA Daily News. I don't remember where I read it, possibly it was printed in the local San Jose Mercury News. Whatever. She was writing about Boy Dylan, and she's describing how his singing affected her: "I used to think that Dylan's voice was my personal silent dog whistle. It affected me viscerally."

Viscerally. The dictionary defines that as "deep, instinctive", or "dealing with elemental emotions". In layman's terms, it hit her right in the gut.

I remember that quote because it described how I used to feel about Barry Manilow. I used to feel a connection to him that couldn't be explained. I remember buying my very first Manilow album. I was just browsing through the local five-and-dime, wasting time til it was time to pick up my youngest from kindergarten. I picked up a record album, and looking into the eyes of the singer on the cover, I literally felt something snap into place. I didn't realize what was happening then, I just knew I had to buy that album. And eventually, every album I could get my hands on.

There's a book by Richard Bach, called "The Bridge Across Forever". One of the main characters talks of being lonely, even in a crowd. She askes "Did you ever feel you were missing someone you've never met?" I had felt like that my entire life, even after I met and fell in love with my (now ex) husband.

Barry's voice spoke to me, and filled up the spaces that had been empty and lonely.
I imagined a connection between us, a soul connection I was convinced came from past lives together. In 1987, when the call went out for questions for a Q&A at the fan club convention in Washington DC, I sent in my postcard. My question was "Do you believe in reincarnation, or at least acknowledge the possibility of the soul having more than one chance at human existance?" I attended the convention, and the Q&A. Imagine my shock when I realized Barry had picked my question as one of those he would answer. And his answer was yes, he did believe.

Over the years, I had several opportunities to meet Barry. Each time, I hung back, and let the others with me have their pictures taken, or, on the one instance I actually was in the photo, I stood off to one side.

D.G.Fulford understood. Defending herself to disparaging friends, she said "You're not from the same planet that Dylan's from. If you were from the planet, and spoke the language, you would be worthy to talk about this. But you don't get it. I do. Me and Dylan, man, we're tight." "Well, please. Me and Dylan, man, we're not tight. I had a chance to meet him once but was too afraid. I would have died, you see, if this idol had met me and not recognized me from the aforementioned planet."

"I would have died, you see..." My greatest fear was not that I would never meet Barry Manilow but that we would meet and he would not recognize me as his soulmate.

During the period of my most intense Manilow addiction, I was also a student of New Age philosophies. I remember reading a book that discussed harmonic resonances. The idea was that everything in the universe vibrates with a certain frequency, and if you hear something..a symphony, a bird song, whatever, that vibrates at the same frequency, the resonance brings a sense of well-being, and can awaken memories or inspire action. Some even suggested that certain vibrations could bring about world peace. I've often wondered if that explains Barry's success. Does his voice vibrate with a frequency designed by the cosmos to touch a chord in humanity? Is there some hidden message in his songs that mankind needs to hear?? We'll probably never know.
But I do know that his voice has always been MY personal silent dog whistle.

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