Talk To Me

by Jan 22, 2018

I have always considered myself an extroverted introvert. I can be on and outgoing among friends, work or business-related functions – however, alone in a crowd of strangers, I try my best to disappear. I think the reason for these feelings can be traced back to my teenage years when I would often be bullied or made fun of for my weight or effeminate behavior. I felt insecure and judged whenever I would be around kids my own age. And then there was the bar scene during my college years. I was fine and could have fun in a group of friends, but once they dispersed to flirt or dance and I was left alone, I would feel the need to blend into the wallpaper.

In the 1980s I began writing a musical. I had tried to pitch some of my songs earlier but the response would often be that my music felt like it should be in a Broadway show – which would mean, it’s not radio-friendly. Of course, I love musicals and have often lost myself in their songs, dance and drama. So why not write my own musical?

My songwriting has always been very personal as most of my songs are based on a relationship, good or bad. So when a friend shared a story of how she met her boyfriend, an idea popped into my head. The straight girl and me, the gay best friend – a decade before Will & Grace first aired. Then add in the kooky circle of friends and their own subplots – again, long before the TV show Friends came to be. Also, instead of a coffee shop, a piano bar was the favorite gathering spot.

The dashing, handsome (and thin) male lead with sarcastic wit and a great head of hair was based on me… well, at least the sarcastic wit and great head of hair. The female lead was based on my friend and the other characters were composites of people, past and present, in my life.

I wrote a very personal song to close the first act. The female lead had found love and was making plans to move away leaving her gay best friend on his own. He finds the courage to go to the bar alone but quickly falls into his old habit of standing on the sidelines. The chatter, laughter and clinking glasses of bar patrons begins to fade away as the orchestra starts to play. The lights dim and a solo spot illuminates the lead as he begins to sing: What am I doing here? I know the evening will end the same. With sadness mixed with desperation, he continues: What do I hope to find searching in a bar of strangers? Do I still expect a white knight to sweep me off my feet?

In the 1980s, when I tried pitching this song, I changed it to a duet, letting the female lead have the lyrics that I thought no one would be interested in hearing a male sing. However, a few weeks ago, I re-recorded Talk to Me as I initially intended. I have attached a link so that you may listen to the result. I hope that you’ll close your eyes and envision the crowd as you hear the chatter, laughter and clinking glasses. Picture the stage going dark and a single spotlight shining on the male lead. Hear the loneliness in his voice as he sings: Don’t judge me until you’ve heard my story, talk to me. Tell me those lies that no one believes but everyone wants to hear.

And feel his pain as he sings the last line: What am I doing here? Is lonely the word or do I still believe I’ll meet, Mr. Right?

As the music swells and then fades, the sounds of chatter, laughter and clinking glasses returns. The spotlight dims allowing him to go back to where he is most comfortable, in the shadows. The lights illuminate the party crowd and the curtain comes down on the first act.

J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark, is also an accomplished musician and founder of York & Friends Fine Art Gallery.

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