My elementary school music teacher, Mrs. Erdle, encouraged us all to join the school choir. I loved music (and still do), so I jumped at the chance to have an extra hour of singing at the end of the day every Friday. I was the only boy in the entire sixth grade who signed up.
Mrs. Erdle rarely used the textbook containing old standard compositions like “Hot Cross Buns” and “Frere Jacques.” Instead, she introduced us to some of the “hip” new music of the early seventies from new acts such as The Carpenters, Elton John, James Taylor and The Partridge Family. She typed up the lyrics of songs including “Close to You,” “Your Song,” “Fire and Rain,” and “I Think I Love You” and then rolled out purple-printed ditto copies for each of us. Nearly fifty years later, I still have those treasured sheets.
She was “cool.” She made music “cool.” She made us “cool.”
That spring we learned every single song on the debut album of a relatively new teeny bopper group, The Partridge Family. I took part of my birthday money – a whopping $3.99 - and begged my father to take me to the local shoe store (of all places) to buy the album. The cover is now worn, the vinyl is scratched, but it still has a hallowed spot near my old record player.
Every Friday afternoon, the girls and I rocked out to such great songs as “I Can Feel Your Heartbeat” and “Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque.” For some of the songs, I could hit the high notes with the sopranos; for others, puberty guided me to the alto section.
Mrs. Erdle delighted in hearing our harmonious voices. She wanted to share our gift with others. She signed her choir up for numerous district choir events and showed us off to anyone who would listen.
And they listened. We were the “cool” choir. We got to sing the David Cassidy songs.
When we poured out our souls singing “Bandala” and “Brand New Me,” the teachers and kids from the other schools sat up straight, swayed to the music and tapped their feet…and they smiled. When we sang out, “Stop! Stop! And look around! Somebody wants to love you!” with all of the enthusiasm and animation that sixth graders could muster, the crowd cheered and joined along in the merriment.
So many years ago…yet the words to every one of those songs are still fresh and alive in my memory. Just mention a title, and I can sing every lyric – in key – and perform all the choreographed moves that Mrs. Erdle taught us way back in 1971.
Today, my fellow Baby Boomers and I are reaching our senior years. I think it would be fun to have a choir reunion. Perhaps we could bill it as “The Great Seniors’ Teeny Bop.”
I wonder just whatever became of my fellow sixth grade singers. As we fast approach our sixties, we are beginning to realize that we are not invincible, that we ache more and remember less. We worry for our parents, we worry for our children, and we worry for ourselves. Sometimes we wonder as the Partridges did in “Only a Moment Ago”:
“Why has the music stopped?
Where have all the happy people gone?
I know they were there,
Only a moment ago.”
David Cassidy has revealed that he has been diagnosed with dementia. So many of the singers and actors and athletes that my generation admired are now facing end of life struggles. It happens to everyone. I get that. But now it is happening to the people from our generation, and we are fighting hard to hold on to our own youth, trying hard to stay “hip,” to still be the singers of the cool songs.
I loved Mrs. Erdle and still do. I imagine she is up in heaven directing a choir of angels as they make their way through the seventies songbook. I want to be in that choir someday. Not anytime soon, mind you…but someday.
For now, I’ll just keep practicing the old songs, and I’ll keep remembering the old times…
“Only a moment ago,
It was spring and I was singin’.
Only a moment ago,
I could see where the road would lead
And what tomorrow was bringin’…”
Copyright, Tim Ramsey, 2017.