Lorna Court writes about her experience in one of our Spring classes: Divos: Six Men Singing Pop, Rock and Opera, taught by Neil Ritchie.
Even though Neil Ritchie calls his course “6 Divos” he might as well have called it “6 Heartthrobs”. Whatever your taste or generation, this course is for you. Neil’s choices range from Pavarotti to Sting; Nat King Cole to Frank Sinatra; or Elton John to Jon Vickers. Every week my classmates and I keep time with the music and secretly swoon with its rich magic, and the memories the songs and singers evoke. Last week was Nat King Cole, and there was a whole lot of swaying and shimmying in the room!
But for me it was week one and Elton John. My generation grew up with his killer songs and crazy glasses. We played his songs at our dances, on our dates, and on the radio when we were supposed to be doing homework. When he played the Pacific Coliseum we raced to be part of that audience, lighters aloft, SO proud of our seats in the nosebleed section. EVERYONE talked about his glasses! At an age when we were all wearing contact lenses, there he was flaunting the most flamboyant collection of eyeglasses we’d ever seen. (Maybe it WAS OK to be “4 eyes” after all?)
Oh yes, we were fans, but as adoring adolescents we took Elton John and his art at face value. It’s only thanks to Neil Ritchie (6 Divos; Feb 2014), that I’ve learned more about Elton John’s background and work style. I didn’t even know that wasn’t his real name! He was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, and performed as “Reggie” until he rebranded himself using the names of his first bandmates, Elton Dean and Long John Baldry. Did you know he writes almost all his songs within an hour? AN HOUR! (So he could have written a hit by the time our class took its morning break!) He likes his lyricist to finish first, then he takes the words, sits down at the piano and usually an hour later, voila!
But sometimes even geniuses cut it a little fine and get themselves into trouble. In this case it happened with Princess Diana’s funeral. As everyone knows, Sir Elton John was one of the Princess’ close friends, so sang at her funeral. However, it turns out that he’d planned to compose a brand new piece for the occasion, but he and his lyricist, Bernie Taupin got their wires crossed. As always Elton waited for Bernie’s lyrics before composing his music around them. In this case he didn’t receive the lyrics until the night before the funeral, which would normally have been fine, except that Bernie had misunderstood what Elton wanted. Apparently Bernie thought his assignment was to re-write the lyrics to “Candle in the Wind” for Diana, so that’s what he did. By the time Elton discovered the mistake the pair were out of time, so instead of working on a new composition, Elton spent the night memorizing the words for “Goodbye England’s Rose”. (The dedicated lyrics worked, the performance was perfect. “Candle in the Wind 1997” sold 33 million copies and is considered the best selling single of all time, although Elton John has said he will never perform that version again, at least not unless Princes William or Harry request it.)
Roll on next week! We still have Sting, Jon Vickers, and Old Blue Eyes to go!
Lorna came to the 55+ program with an arts education and a business background, so is now revelling in as wide an array of courses from other disciplines as possible — Physics to Fashion, Astronomy to Archeology. (She says it’s incredibly liberating to know these are courses that it’s impossible to fail!) As a Headhunter Lorna conducted thousands of interviews, examining the backstories behind the events and choices that shape people’s lives. The same curiosity led her to these courses, and she finds them addictive!