It's My Nature
Tales of Love from the Great American Songbook
I love singing, it’s my nature. I am told my sound is melodious. I could always carry a tune or melody but I never found an inspired audience among my family or friends. There was no freedom of expression in my childhood home. I used to practice in the basement of my parents’ home, but my mother was always annoyed, and she would say that she was trying to take a nap. Which was ironic since she was a singer herself.
In fact, singing has gotten me through a few tough times and fun times. Growing up my high school buddies and I would harmonize on neighborhood street corners. Then working as busboys and dishwashers in a restaurant, we operated a commercial dishwasher machine made by a company named Hobart. To relieve the stress and boredom of performing mundane labor we would harmonize and sing “doo-wop” songs in the dishwashing area. We called ourselves “The Hobarts”, as we did our own rendition of late 1960 hits by the Temptations hits “Runaway Child” or “I’m Losing You” as we did the Temptations Walk in a circle about the Hobart machine. Sometimes we would do other artists, like the Esquires’ “Get on Up” or Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Your Precious Love” when we took the trash out to the dumpster. A couple of us guys sounded pretty darn good among the dirty dishes, soapy water and bubbles.
When I went into the military I kept myself amused by singing and laughing through the stress of rigorous training. Sometimes the other soldiers would join in when we were assigned tasks that needed to be completed for an anticipated inspection. In this environment, I learned how to work under stress, and I learned how others worked under stress. Later working for a government agency, I have on occasion volunteered or been asked to sing the national anthem at formal ceremonies. I am thankful for the opportunity, so I do the best job I could do with the voice I had. If you do not know it, I will tell you that “The Star-Spangled Banner” is the only song that if a word or line is missed, everybody in the room knows it. There have been many beautiful renditions by a long list of magnificent vocalists and there have been some renditions that did not meet the patriotic challenge at all.
I wanted to become better at the craft so I enrolled in music academies teaching in operatic style near my military duty stations. My first vocal coach was a male opera singer named Marc Rattray. He helped me create a “drop dead” audition song, “The Twelfth of Never”. It worked. I auditioned and earned a part in a local musical production titled “Five Guys Named Moe”, featuring the early rhythm-and-blues music of Louis Jordan. I knew the name Louis Jordan but not the range of his contribution to music. I marked the date on my calendar and began to prepare myself to perform my audition song. On the day of the audition, I was in Virginia visiting my wife with our children. I promised myself that I would make it back for the audition, and I practiced all the way back driving south on Interstate 95. I dropped my children off at home and took my newly acquired skills to audition for the musical play. I performed the song, thanked the folks for the opportunity, and went home. As I walked in the door, my phone was ringing. On the other end of the telephone line the musical director told me, first, that I got the part, and second, the rehearsal times. This was unbelievable! My character was Four-Eyed Moe, who sang alongside five other characters: No Moe, Big Moe, Little Bitty Moe, Get Moe, and the dreamer, No Max. This was another great theater opportunity and experience. I saw myself singing but I forgot to see myself dancing. I was clearly the newbie in the ensemble, the one with the two left feet, but I helped the show to be a success.
A few weeks after the play ended, my office associate Alma asked me to sing “Always and Forever” at her wedding. I practiced and performed the song as she asked. It went very well as the musicians gravitated to my song, and we finished the song very nicely. I did not try to mimic the unique sound of the original presentation, but I did add my own twist at the end. I appreciated when a young lady standing along the wall said I could sing for her anytime. I smiled and thanked her, because I felt good enough at this point that I could incorporate vocals into a speaking career. I decided to work hard at building my confidence and skill level. I have been working harder to be better ever since.
When I left the military, I learned about a music workshop hosted by jazz master Dr. Harold McKinney from a musician and former high school student. The workshop was held weekly at the Detroit SerNgeti ballroom on Woodward Avenue. I was very appreciative of the information, and I went down and introduced myself to him. At the time, Dr. McKinney was recovering from major surgery, and the workshop was his way of giving back to the community. I began attending the workshop, and Dr. McKinney and his assistant, Gloria, helped my voice and confidence go to another level. I learned about the musical and cultural differences between singing from the diaphragm and singing from the throat.
During the same time, I also worked with a voice coach at Marygrove College named Kim Streby. Kim was an opera vocalist and taught from an opera background. We worked well together. In celebration of Detroit’s 300th birthday in June 2001, Kim and I put together a musical show at Marygrove College in conjunction with the many other events scheduled around the city. Unfortunately, we did not attract a huge crowd, but we gave a wonderful performance. My family helped me put on the show, and I was pumped. I knew I was on my way up the ladder. Although I grew on R&B, jazz, movie themes and Broadway stage songs, I would have loved to be an opera singer. It is powerful music and I continued to train in it.
A few weeks earlier, I’d tried to get Dr. McKinney to participate in the show, but with no luck. He, too, was working to host a showcase at the SerNgeti, which he expected his students to participate in. I was one of those students, but I did not have the opportunity to prepare myself to perform between my eight-hour teaching job and my own show. I attended the showcase at SerNgeti, and I remember Dr. McKinney telling the crowd that there was another talent in the room that day who should have been on the stage but wasn’t. I assume he was speaking of me because he was looking in my direction when he spoke. I appreciate that he thought I had talent.
After our show ended at Marygrove College, I could not wait to see Dr. McKinney at the next practice session and give him the good news. I gathered up my family for the drive home. I was ecstatic as I drove north on Livernois Avenue toward 8 Mile Road. As I passed the famous Baker’s Keyboard Lounge located on the right-hand side of the street, I noticed a billboard that read “Rest in Peace, Jazz Master, Harold McKinney”. This was unbelievable. I read that Dr. McKinney had slipped into a coma and died the previous day. He was gone, and perhaps my career as a vocalist was too. But I kept my aspirations and developed a live radio jazz recording at the Jazz Café at Music Hall hosted by Judy Adams and a music video titled, “Rah! Rah! Detroit!/Michigan Morn”.
My confidence level was growing. In early July 2001, I represented the Michigan Chapter of the NSA at the national convention in Dallas, Texas. I was a bit nervous, of course. On the plane, I spotted a prominent female chapter member who owned and operated a booking agency. She was also heading to the convention with her lovely daughter. She elected to let her daughter ride in first class while she rode in coach. I knew her only slightly from the chapter meetings, but I had begun to learn that marketing your skills every chance you get is part of being successful. The plane had taken off and then leveled off above 30,000 feet. I practiced my drop-dead song and mustered enough nerve to go back to the rear of the cabin to sing for her, even though the flight attendants had just begun to serve. I had to treat this awkward opportunity as an audition. I saw myself singing, so I got down on one knee in the middle of the aisle and sang “The Twelfth of Never”. The people in the vicinity seemed to enjoy my performance. When we arrived in Dallas, we shared public transportation to our separate lodging, and I serenaded the ladies as we rode along. It was an opportunity to perform and what I learned was that I can carry a note even at 30,000 feet. I did much better with my serenade in the sky than I did representing the chapter with my talk at the convention. A few short weeks later, the horrible destruction on 9/11 unfolded in New York City ending any encore performances in the aisle of an airplane at 30,000 feet.
I love baseball and I began attending the Detroit Tigers Baseball Fantasy Camp in Lakeland, Florida in 2003. Each year, I would perform the national anthem at the celebrity game at Joker Marchant Stadium. I wanted to be the first ever to sing the national anthem and then immediately come up to the plate after the words “play ball” and hit a home run over the left-field fence. Once I was introduced as a camper, I would peel off from the other campers and head for the back of home plate to await my introduction as the singer of the national anthem. I would use those few minutes during the player introduction to prepare myself to sing.
At the celebrity game, there is a nice crowd of a hundred people or more, and I thought I did a good job each year. However, one year the performance did not go so well after my coach, a television broadcaster and former Detroit Tiger called me out of my trance to ask a question about some team business. I answered the question but I lost my silent preparation time. I started the first two lines and forgot the third. Luckily, I turned and saw radio broadcaster and a female executive for the Detroit Tigers, singing in key, and as a result, I recovered from the blankness and I finish up nicely. When I left the field, I told the camp director that I’d had an equipment malfunction, like Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction at Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. My coach did redeem himself with some fine hitting tips in later years.
On Sunday May 22, 2005, I had the opportunity to sing the national anthem at Comerica Park in Detroit. The game featured the Detroit Tigers against the Arizona Diamondbacks. This had to be destiny, because I got the call on Friday night and the next day my good neighbor gave me four first-class infield box tickets right behind home plate, so I took my wife and two of my daughters.
There were 23,124 fans in attendance, and yes, I was nervous. I was met by the club representative who chuckled when I provided him with my lengthy introduction. In reflection, it was a little bit over the top. With that out of the way, we walked under the stadium stands down in what I call the “Aretha Franklin Room” or the celebrity room to practice before I went out onto the field. Yes, I was still nervous, but I was prepared. The weather was beautiful leading up to game time, but suddenly the sky opened with a downpour of rain just minutes before I was supposed to begin. The rain caused the game to be delayed three hours and fourteen minutes. How do you like that? My big chance and it was literally raining on my parade. What should I do, forget about it and just go home? I spotted Detroit Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski pacing about. I knew I had to be patient and professional. If I packed up my voice and left, I would never get a chance to sing for the Detroit Tigers again, so I waited the three hours and fourteen minutes, and I went out there onto the field and gave them the best performance I could give. Afterward, I sat in my comfortable seat and was swamped by autograph-seekers. I saw myself being successful in my performance, and I was. This was ironic, because more than twenty-five years ago, I was sitting in the bleachers of Tiger Stadium in solitude and despair. But today, as baseball’s Bob Uecker would sum it up, “I am in the front row” a 180-degree turnaround from sitting in the bleachers in despair to singing to the crowd at home plate with pride. Wayne Rudolph Davidson aka Way-nee Dee Its’ My Nature: Tales of Love from the Great American Songbook
Performing a Romantic Recital with a Classical Pianist Its’ My Nature and its theme, Tales of Love from the Great American Songbook, is a romantic recital of jazz, Broadway and popular songs and ballads. It is the preciseness of classical pianist conveys the emotion of the lovers’ journey. The album is packed with themes of love and the Greek language recognizes four diverse ways as to how the word, love, can be used. In the Ancient Greek, those diverse ways are identified by four distinct words for love: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. Agápe or Agape is generally defined as the love of God for man and of man for God; Éros or Eros is generally defined as the intimacy of lovers fueled by sexual passion; Philía or Philía is generally defined as an exchange of love between brothers, family, friends, or activities and passion for another; Storgē or Storgē is generally defined as a natural affection of love for country or even a favorite sports team. Recorded at Rust Belt Studio and Terry Herald Studio in the Detroit Metropolitan Area, I attempt to melt these Greek aspects of love into the evolution of jazz, showtunes and operas from the Great American Songbook into a listening experience for anyone who loves or loves love. You can pick what Greek form is associated with the song you like.
Not just any Old Dude singing Old Dude Songs. These album songs express the prospect of love through the musical verse of jazz, Broadway and popular songs and ballads presented in an intimate romantic recital setting with classical pianist, Alexandra Zetye.
- I’ve Gotta Be Me (2:21) (Walter Marks) [Storge/Agape-1967-Broadway]
This song is a popular show tune from a 1968 Broadway musical written by Walter Marks and performed by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé. Sammy Davis Jr. recorded the song and it reached Number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1969. I consider this song as my theme because the words tell me to love and like who I. And provides me and my journey with both aspiration to have dreams and inspiration to accomplish those dreams. The piano accompaniment is rousing and conveys that optimistic attitude.
- Some Enchanted Evening (2:27) (Oscar Hammerstein & Richard Rodgers) [Eros-1958-No. 28 Broadway/Movie Song]
This song is a show tune from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. It is known as the single most popular hit song that come out of any Rodgers and Hammerstein show. The delightful piano accompaniment provides enchantment for special people in love.
- Tenderly (2:49) (Jack Lawrence & Walter Gross) [Eros-1946-No. 34 Jazz Standard]
Tenderly is wistful popular song written by Jack Lawrence & Walter Gross in 1946 that became a jazz standard. Sarah Vaughn was first to record the song in 1946 and it became a hit. In 1952, Rosemary Clooney’s version reached Number 17 on the Billboard charts. The piano accompaniment is warm, soothing and pleasant.
- I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire (3:10) (Eddie Seiler, Sol Marcus, Bennie Benjamin & Eddie Durham) [Eros-1941-Popular]
This song was written in 1938 by Bennie Benjamin, Eddie Durham, Sol Marcus and Eddie Seiler. After Pearl Harbor in 1941 it became popular when several artists and groups covered it. The Ink Spots’ version on Decca Records reached Number 4 on the charts. A love song of assertive and entertaining. Francisco (Frank) Garcia II, Detroit music legend and musicologist gives this song of the early 1940’s an injection of Detroit Techno.
- The Twelfth of Never (2:31) (Paul Francis Webster & Jerry Livingston) [Eros-1957-Popular]
The most popular recording of this song was made by Johnny Mathis on the flip side of his hit song “Chances Are”. Mathis’ version reached Number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1957. Jerry Livingston and Paul Frances Webster wrote the song based on a popular expression that a future occurrence of event will never come. This is the forever love song as captured in its rhythmical and luscious piano accompaniment.
- Over the Rainbow (3:10) (E.Y. Harburg & Harold Arlen) [Storge/Agape-1939-No.1 Movie Song & Jazz Standard]
This 1939 song is a classic Academy Award-winning ballad song with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. The American Film Institute ranked “over the Rainbow” the greatest movie song of all time on the list of AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs”. The song has been covered by numerous authors but Judy Garland provides the original and most famous performance of the song. This is the song of the century and the ultimate song of optimism. The piano accompaniment adds imaginative and pictorial flavor.
- Beautiful Dreamer (2:43) (Stephen Foster) [Eros-1864-Popular]
This 1864 song is Americana, a parlor song written in strophic form by Stephen Foster and published posthumously following his death. The song tells of a lover serenading a “Beautiful Dreamer” who may actually be dead, quietly and calmly. This is the ultimate love song for dreamers as the piano accompaniment is poetic and picturesque.
- If Ever I Would Leave You (3:57) (Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Lowe) [Eros-1960-Broadway]
This is a popular song from the Broadway musical, Camelot, written by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner in 1960. This was torch song as Sir Lancelot spoke of his love for Guenevere, the intended bride of King Arthur. The romantic ballad became the signature song for Robert Goulet. This is the ultimate love song for those loving from afar as heard in its longing piano accompaniment.
- Misty (3:35) (Johnny Burke & Erroll Garner) [Eros-1954-No 36 Jazz Standard]
Erroll Garner wrote this is jazz standard in 1954. It became the signature song of Johnny Mathis and reached Number 14 on the U.S. Pop Singles chart in 1959. The song has been covered by numerous artists. This love song captures want and desire of seeing and being with that special person. The piano accompaniment is beautiful and stylish.
- Since I Fell for You (3:28) (Buddy Johnson) [Eros-1945-Popular/Jazz Standard]
This blues ballad written in 1945 by Buddy Johnson became a jazz and pop standard. Johnson’s sister, Ella Johnson, popularized the song first. Later Lenny Welch recorded the song and made it Number 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1963. This is the ultimate love song to convey falling for someone like a ton of bricks. The piano accompaniment illustrates the drama of being in love.
- Who Can I Turn To? (2:25) (Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley) [Storge/Agape-1964-Broadway]
The song written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly in 1964 was introduced in the musical, The Roar of the Greasepaint-The Smell of the Crowd of the same year. Shirley Bassey was first to record the song but it did not make any recording charts in 1964. However, later Tony Bennett recorded in 1964 and the song became a hit, reaching Number 33 on US pop single chart and Number 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart. This is the ultimate love song for being in the state of dismay as described by an engaging piano accompaniment.
- Nature Boy (5:29) (Eden Ahbez) [Storge/Agape-1947-Popular]
This song was first recorded in 1947 by Nat King Cole and released on Capital Records as a single in 1948. The song was written by “eden ahbez” who was able to pass the song along to Cole through Cole’s valet. Eden Ahbez lived in a communal natural environment wearing long and beards and eating only raw fruits and vegetables. The lifestyle of eden ahbez was believed to the forerunner of the beatnik or hippie. The song was recorded by many artists and became a jazz and popular standard. In 1999, the song was honored by the Grammy Hall of Fame. This is song conveys that I love the world and all the people, place and things in it. Francisco (Frank) Garcia II, Detroit music legend and musicologist also gave this song of the late 1940’s an injection of Detroit Techno.
0:00 / 3:59
I've Gotta Be Me 2:240:00 / 2:24
0:00 / 3:12
Who Can I Turn To? 2:280:00 / 2:28
Misty 3:370:00 / 3:37
Tenderly 2:520:00 / 2:52
The Twelfth of Never 2:330:00 / 2:33
0:00 / 2:29
Over the Rainbow 3:130:00 / 3:13
Since I Fell for You 3:300:00 / 3:30
Nature Boy 5:290:00 / 5:29
Beautiful Dreamer 2:460:00 / 2:46