In Tune with June!

My darling daughter, Jolie, gave me an unusual gift from Walmart – it’s a Scrub Daddy – a bright yellow kitchen sponge featured on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” With two cutouts for eyes and a big smiling mouth, the sponge works effectively and makes me smile when I’m at the kitchen sink. I decided to check out the reality tv show where entrepreneurs make business presentations to a panel of “shark” investors. The “sharks” either compete with each to invest in products or leave contestants empty-handed. So sad! The multi-million dollar “sharks” often find weaknesses and faults in the applicant’s concept, product, or business model. I found myself at times feeling a bit unhappy when the eager contestants walk away with rejection but, as a viewer, I think it’s educational.
Adorable Joseph, who is one-and-a-half years old, says “gaga” all the time when he refers to his grandmother Dorrie, and she happily answers to that name. But “Gaga” — what does the word really mean? I couldn’t find it in several old dictionaries but when I Googled I did find some contradictory definitions: “obsessively and foolishly enthusiastic, demented, crazy.” Take your pick! So how did Stefanie Joanne Angelina Germanotta arrive at her adopted stage name “Lady Gaga?!” Yes, she became the singer, songwriter, and actress many of us know and admire. And yes, she became part of the unlikely-somehow-inevitable May-December pair with Tony Bennett that has sold out with their chart-topping 2014 album of jazz standards. In it, Lady Gaga has an explosive, gusty and gutsy rendition of the old Cher hit “Bang, Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down.” Her version of the song has a feeling of aggression rather than resignation. The lady can really sing. If you watched the Academy Award telecast tribute to “The Sound of Music” you saw a beaming Julie Andrews hugging her in appreciation. This was a generation-uniting musical moment. Less than a decade ago some folks questioned her gender. Certainly she has been something different than the female pop stars who have come before her. She seems to actively court confusion. As for Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, their voices blend nicely even though her manic energy exists on a different plane from Bennett’s cool repose. She sings like the powerhouse she is. Perhaps she should credit Tony Bennett for singing in a grand and dignified setting. Gaga’s been a duet between the masculine and feminine elements of herself. We have to realize that we now exist in a cultural moment in which we are allowed to admit there’s nothing weird about that. My erudite friend, Dorothy Moreton, took her out-of-town guests to see Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga at Radio City Music Hall, and they all loved the show. The collaboration of the two became a #1 record in the United States. The Lady continues to experiment with new music, ideas, and energy. Vocally, she possesses the range of a contralto and exhibits overwhelming expression, vocal phrasing, and immense emotional intelligence behind the way she uses her voice. “When I’m writing music I’m thinking about the clothes I want to wear on stage. It’s all about everything all together – performance art and fashion.” She strives to empower young women to stand up for what they believe in. That’s quite a goal. Rock on!
He was born Antonio Dominick Benedetto in 1926. There’s a coffee table book of his paintings which includes a number of portraits of famous people, as well as still-life, landscapes, and cityscapes. I’ve been to one of his exhibits and it was a surprise and quite impressive especially since he is not known worldwide as an artist. He’s a singer who doesn’t imitate other singers, but emulates instrumentalists instead. In 1949 Bob Hope (remember him?) advised the multi-talented man to take the name Tony Bennett. He’s made a career singing standards, including his signature song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Bennett has weathered difficult times but he credits his son, Danny, who is now his manager, with making key decisions. Bennett himself still has plenty of ideas about the music he wants to sing and, with a half century of professional singing under his belt, he’s in fine form. He says that he learned bel canto technique for preserving his voice. It teaches you how to breathe properly and how to sing so that you don’t push and don’t destroy your voice. Last year, Bennett collaborated with Lady Gaga on “Cheek to Cheek” which won a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. He continues to sing popular standards in his warm, husky tenor varying his timing and phrasing with a jazz fan’s sense of spontaneity to bring out the melodies and lyrics of his songs effectively. Although by the start of the 21st century Bennett seemed like the last of the breed but he’s remaining as popular as ever. He’s one of the legends of jazz and popular music. There’s an old song that my mom used to play on the piano, and it easily applies to Tony Bennett: “Just Keep On Doin’ What You’re Doin’.” One mo’ time — Rock on!
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