I am Beyonce, but better

Mouth organs

In my head I am Adele. I am Aloe Blacc and Eminem. I am Florence Welsh and Fiona Apple. I am Elton John and Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Michael Stipe. I am Kylie and Dolly, Janis and Dusty, Aretha and Billie, all rolled into one pitch-perfect, perky-breasted package. Give me a stage and I will strut with the best of them.

Except back in the real world, I am Ruth, and I can’t even sing Happy Birthday in tune. I am that girl who was asked to mime in school performances.

I have done my dues, when it comes to being a fan of music. The first single I ever bought was on vinyl, that’s how old I am. (It was the Pet Shop Boys, that’s how cool I am.) I’ve been to hundreds of gigs – from smoky bars to stadiums, theatres to record shops to living rooms. As a teenager, my pocket money all went on music mags – Smash Hits first, then Select, Melody Maker, NME, Q. I made mixtapes and compilation CDs, joined in with swag swaps all over the world. Thankfully my tastes improved over time, and I moved from boy bands to bluegrass, from Disney to deep funk. Now I play music everywhere – in the car, in the bath, when I run. I surround myself with sound, in the hope that some of it, just some, might work its way inside.

But it never does. The most basic chords are a strum too far. I have the natural rhythm of an ironing board.

I wish I had music in me. I wish I could caress sweet sounds from a clarinet like my old friend Archie Taylor could. I wish, like my husband, I could pick up any old harp and play the blues. I wish I were a Corr – not Jim, obviously – and that I could fiddle and pout and make people whirl. But I am as bad with drumsticks as I am with chopsticks. I fumble, I’m halting, I stutter.

I would like, just once, to make beautiful music. If I could stand on stage playing saxophone – cradling that silver seahorse in my arms – I think I would always be happy. If I could make my fingers dance over the black and white keys of a piano, or jauntily pluck at a ukulele, or even just stand there and sing; gently, soft, and sweet. That would be lovely.

My son is trying hard to help me. He says, ‘Don’t worry Mummy, it’s only me listening’. He holds my hands and jigs up and down on the spot, grinning at me like a loon. “Come on!” he says. “Sing something! It’s not that difficult.”

But it is difficult. It’s impossible. When the sound that comes out of my mouth so markedly misses the sound I want to make, it makes me think I shouldn’t even try.

Only when I’m alone, with my headphones in and my hips swaying, do I feel that the music is in me.

In my head I am Stevie Nicks. I am Brian Molko and Billy Corgan, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. I am Aimee Mann and Louis Armstrong. I am Shania and Shakira and Nicki Minaj.

In my head I am Beyonce, but better.

In my head is where the music can stay.

49 responses

  1. I hope you don’t mind if I share this! I love this post from the top of my swaying-to-the-music-head to the tips of my tapping-a-beat-off-the-beat toes.

  2. I can so relate to this!! I always dreamt of being a musician and I would love to be able to play the piano. My ten year old son plays and after only two years of lessons he can play brilliantly and I get goosebumps when I listen to him. One day I will learn, when I have time. The thing is Ruth you do make music with the words that you write and if you were any more talented that just wouldn’t be fair on the rest of us. We all have different talents.

    • Ahh, you must be super proud of your boy – it sounds like he has worked so hard to get to where he is. Thank you for your lovely kind comment x

  3. Fab post, I can play, and just about hold a tune, but a wonderful singing voice alludes me. It takes more than singing in key to have a truly wonderful voice, but then again, voices come in many forms, and your writing voice is as beautiful and lyrical as many a wondrous piece of music!

  4. Ah but your words are your music, your voice.Beyonce wishes she was haldf as good!

    I once taught mums to sign with their babies through a singing group and a snotty lady suggested I used a cd instead of sang as I was off key. I pointed out its about parent/child play and communication not singing skills.Pah! Didn’t knock my confidence..sang off key even LOUDER the nest week.

  5. Pingback: I am Beyonce, but better

  6. It sounds like you have an amazingly eclectic taste in music, whether it’s in your head or otherwise 🙂

    My first vinyl was an Aztec Camera album, and I think Pet Shop Boys are indeed very cool!

  7. You can’t be that far different in age to me – one of my first singles was West End Girls. I’m also a fabulous singer, Brian Molko has nothing on me. I positively ooze sex appeal and emotion when I sing and never hit a bum note. In my head 😀

  8. i love the way this post is written – the words are great and i love how you compare yourself to all those music stars. music tastes are so individual aren’t they ?
    My kids think i am a great singer, in reality of course I am rubbish x

  9. I too love the style of this post… Take heart that we cannot be good at everything, and whilst I can sing (even if I do say so myself!), I cannot write like you can! 🙂 x

  10. I have been told what I lack in talent I make up for in enthusiasm. Love Dorky Son for being so supportive though. Z covers his ears and says STOP SINGING MUMMY!!!

  11. awesome – I am the same. However i love to sing and do it on my own in my car! Chloe recently dared me to sing down the the mic at KFC drive through – I did!

  12. I love to sing and the recent Frozen film had the girls belting out at all times of day, so I joined in with them.
    First vinyl might have been The Specials or possibly George Benson – exactly – who?
    Another fantastic read xx

    • Ahhh, that’s lovely. If it’s happy singing then it really doesn’t matter what it sounds like. I hope your days are full of songs again soon x

    • You need to go for a long walk Mich, and belt it out in the middle of a field where no-one can hear you, get your confidence up again xx

  13. Oh, my dear…. I wish I were as “old” as you! My first record (a 45 rpm) was Paul Rever and the Raiders. Ouch. I, like you, can’t hold a tune well… and have a nasally, gravelly voice which is only to be used in private, especially in the shower. But in my head, I am silver-tongued… Welcome to the club… (It’s a big one!)

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