Friday, June 12, 2009

Footloose Friday - VIII

When I dabbled as a disc jockey for a radio station in India, the quest to make the shows interesting was never-ending. For two hours each week I anchored shows that played an hour of English songs and an hour of Hindi songs. The third hour was devoted to listener requests, so the radio jockeys had no control over what songs would be played. I would try to mold the English and Hindi play lists around a theme - Rafi songs, or songs of the 60s, Oscar-nominated songs; or compile trivia about the songs that went on air; or make up quizzes about the songs that the audience would call in or message the answers to.

One evening as I was trying to arrive at a play list for the next day, I came across a CD in the radio station's library. Almost lost in the tightly-packed rows on the shelves was a compilation of the title songs from the James Bond movies. I had played some of those songs from the CDs of the artists that had sung them (Golden Eye from a Tina Turner CD, for example) and I had wondered why no one had ever thought of collecting all the James Bond movie songs in one place. Phew! That one CD made my prep work easy that day.

Golden Eye is hands down my favorite Bond song, followed closely by McCartney's Live and Let Die.

And then there is Carly Simon's Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me.

I've always enjoyed this song whenever I've listened to it and the other Carly Simon song I am familiar with, You're So Vain.

These days I just listen to her with a new ear, a new understanding and a new respect for her art.

In this heartbreaking but beautifully written personal essay in The Daily Beast titled How I Found My Voice, Simon traces the history of her struggle with stuttering. Who knew!

Here Simon describes the frist time the words got stuck in her throat:
As I tried to speak this line, a snake that had been hibernating near my oesophagus, grabbed at and strangled the beginning of each word. As the word “fair” struggled to live, the serpent constricted its passage and as if deprived of air, I balked two or three times at the ‘F’ before the word emerged ravaged and in need of oxygen.

This was the unhappy and astonishing birth of my stammer or at least my first gripping self-conscious awareness of it. My sisters and cousins, if they noticed this—and I can’t imagine they didn’t—must have been puzzled by the strange new guttural utterances. They likely imagined they were temporary and didn’t even consider to do or say anything about it. This would fade and disappear—like scratches, bruises, and babysitters.

For at least the grammar school and high-school years, there was merciless teasing, graduating by about eighth grade to a less beastly imitation and “behind the back of me” fun. In the early years, I was beaten into states of self-hatred and begging to go “home.” Home plate. Please let me go home. To my mother. I was assaulted, bruised, battered, and broken. I knew the answers in class and couldn’t raise my hand. I had to learn that the first devastating lesson was to learn to have the courage to face life.

My mother and I had the closest of times a child and mother can have. I would sit on her lap and we would practise the words. Any word. She would rock me and relax me. Sometimes a word would roll off my tongue, perfectly, passing the throat guards undetected and my mother would say: “See darling, you can do it!”
It's an amazing and humbling story of how she still struggles with speaking, but found along the way that she could sing. And so beautifully at that!

If you'd like to read the article, please do (click on the 'How I Found My Voice' link above), but come back and tell me which of the Bond songs you like best.

Related Post: My Day as a Radio Jockey.

This is the eighth post in the Footloose Friday series. The rest are here.


Rosaria Williams said...

What an interesting, rich post, about music, about lyrics, about personal journeys. The piece about Carly Simon was priceless. Yes, the lady gets our respect.

Kavi said...

Ah you were an RJ !! Thats lovely ! I wonder which channel though. And what a personal story...

You know, sometimes you wonder the many fears that a mothers lap can undo !

And Golden Eye ! Any time !

Jinksy said...

I've heard that singing always helps those who stammer or stutter - perhaps the music centre of the brain soothes the speech?

Sylvia K said...

Terrific post, Sujatha! Love the Bond music, think Carly Simon's is my favorite although I really like all three of them. Amazing story about Simon as well. You always bring lovely things into my day! So glad to have found you in this lovely blogging world!

Have a lovely weekend!

Choxbox said...

loved reading this!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

As always, you find the most enlightening, and interesting subjects and topics to consider... and in your own beautiful way, you make us think! This is a wonderful, thoughtful, and sensitive post! Thank you! I'll bet you were a favorite DJ! You would have been for me!!! I also want to say that your new header photo is absolutely stunning!!! ~Janine XO

B o o said...

Golden eye has been my most favorite bond song. Tina Turner is awesome in that song. I get energized when I hear the song. Cool lyrics too! ;)

San said...

Wow, I didn't know that about Carly Simon. Funny. Just the other night I rented a movie called "Little Black Book." The movie wasn't that great, but there was a character who would sing a Carly Simon song to discern how she really felt about something in her life, usually a man in her life. Then, at the end of the movie, the real Carly Simon had a cameo role, playing her self. Nice synchronicity with my coming to this post. I was directed here by the lovely Sniffles and Smiles. I thank her for that.

Ugich Konitari said...

Yes, Carly Simon was part of my grad school days (69-71), though I was never impressed with the Bond stuff. And I am just so impressed with what and how she writes about her battle with the stammer and stutter. I guess the deep sensitivity, her relentless effort, and her sense of maternal comfort, just overflows in her songs. Maybe the words, maybe the tune, but mostly her timbre...

sujata sengupta said...

What an amazing story!! And its so great to know that you were a RJ!! wow really cool!! My hubby has a dvd of all the bond numbers and hes a die hard fan, I like The Golden Eye a lot. and lovely profile picture and awesome header!!

Gymnast said...

Beautiful indeed. Yet very few , like, Simon , venture to overcome their weaknesses , break out of their comfort zones and go on to become legends.
I bow to the wonderful persistance and courage of that beautiful mind.

Sujatha Bagal said...

@ Rosaria, glad you enjoyed it!

@ Kavi, that part of the story resonated with me too.

@ Jinksy, I never knew that. For people who struggle with speech whatever relief is available must be welcome, but it's just so right that the relief comes from music.

@ Sylvia, thank you for that lovely compliment. I think the same about you - that I'm very glad to have found you as well! :)

@ Chox, :)

@ Janine, thank you for being so encouraging and supportive. I was not very comfortable being the anchorperson for the songs, but I did have great fun interviewing people - writers, sportspersons, media celebrities, etc. I was trying to push the stations to do more talk radio and I am grateful for the wonderful opportunities they gave me.

@ San, so glad you liked this post.

@ Boo, I am a great fan of all Tina Turner songs, but especially that one.

@ Ugich, certainly after that article I have new appreciation for her art.

@ Sujata, thanks! Being an RJ was quite an experience!

@ Gymnast, those ARE great qualities to admire, aren't they?


Unknown said...

Golden Eye happen to be only Tina Turner's song I like. you can search at if you can find your interest there.

Anonymous said...
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