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Soul Song

by Veronica Coldiron 2 months ago in humanity
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A Music Career Worth Fighting For

Natalie Grant Cover sung by Ronni Right

My mother told me early on that the only things that would hold me back from obtaining all that I desire, are the things that I allow.

When I found myself alone with two small boys, I was lost. I wasn’t grown yet at thirty-two years old. What if I messed up? Who was I? How would I raise two kids by myself?

Mom had this to say:

Ronni girl, it doesn’t matter how old you get. In your heart and soul, you are still the same person you have always and will always be. Change is in your hands, and no one else’s. All that you’ll ever need to succeed in the world already exists inside of you. You are who you want to be. You just have to decide who that is. The years that pass can’t do that for you.

Truer words were never spoken.

One afternoon when I was fifteen, I stayed after chorus class and had a talk with my teacher. I wanted so badly to oblige her and sing with the Sopranos, but I simply could not keep up. I could get there, but it was such a stretch that it hurt afterward. I explained my desire to sing, how much it meant to me to stay safe in the Alto section. She listened in silence, then asked me to bend over.

I stopped in mid-sentence. “So… what?”

“To begin, I want you to sing the first line of the song we practiced today.” She replied.

I started it, attempting to control my voice, when she put her hand on my shoulder and shoved me so that I stood bent almost double. An odd thing happened. In that position, with my tummy squished, the voice was much stronger.

“I think you need to see a doctor.” She responded to my sudden burst of vocal ability.

“What’s wrong with me?” I asked.

“I’m not sure.” She answered. “That’s why you need a doctor. At first, I thought this was a lack of ability to understand how to push, but listening to you today, I can hear there is something in there (pointing to my throat) obstructing your vocals. Even with the push there is a soft “rasp” to your sound.”

“Do you think it’s serious?”

“Probably not.” She replied. “But you’ll want to talk to your mom and dad right away about seeing a doctor.”

I was terrified. When I sang, everything aligned rightly in the world. I couldn’t afford for there to be anything wrong with my throat.

Mom immediately sent me to a specialist. After several tests, he determined that I had polyps on my vocal cords. He said that those were caused by me learning the incorrect way to speak and he was going to send me to a speech therapist to get around the issue, rather than have them removed. According to him, laser technology wasn’t advanced enough yet and one miss could cost me my voice altogether. Since they weren’t malignant, we were going to try preventive maintenance as opposed to the knife.

When I asked him about my chorus class, he said to forget it. There was no need in pushing my voice. This took years to create in my throat and would take years to undo, if it worked at all. Singing was out and I was going to have to cut back on even talking. (Telling a teen-aged girl to stop talking is like asking the sun not to come up in the morning!)

All the same, I had a pretty good speech therapist who gave me a counting tool to keep track of how many words I used in a day, and he worked with me on speaking techniques.

I refused to let that squash my creative urges. I just focused on writing and dancing and let the rest go. Somewhere in my heart though, I mourned my loss of self-identity. In my head, (and in quiet when no one was listening), I was always singing... softly.

A few years later, mom married a guitar player who also sang, and everyone in the family could play something and sing like little songbirds… everyone but me. So, I picked up the guitar and my stepdad taught me a few easy chords. Eventually I learned six or seven chords and could play about a dozen songs, and it was just enough to impress people, but not enough to take me seriously.

At family functions, people tried to accommodate my condition by coercing me to sing tunes that wouldn't stretch my abilities. I almost hated it because my voice now paled in comparison to what I had, and what I’d always hoped to achieve. I generally excused myself saying I had a sore throat and would storm away to keep from being asked again. It didn’t help that my husband of the time always reinforced my complex by saying that I needed to leave the singing to my mother.

When that marriage dissolved, my brother had just embarked on his preaching career. He called me one Saturday to say that he was laying carpet at the church and asked me to come help. I was happy to do it, packed up my children and headed out right away. The boys went to the daycare to play, and my brother and I went directly to chatting and working on the carpeting.

Not long after we got started, someone knocked on the door. My brother rose, dusted his hands on his pant legs and excused himself, saying he’d be back in a moment.

As I finished rolling the carpet down the aisle, I could hear them talking at the door. The man was looking for someone and my brother said they could go see if they were home. I stopped for a minute, got up and went to check on the children. They were sprawled on the floor playing checkers, quietly minding their own business.

I couldn’t go any further than laying that piece down until my brother returned with the tools, so I started for the front of the sanctuary, were the altar stood. As I walked, the sounds of my footfalls echoed all around me. The few times over the years that I sang in front of my husband, he only ever told me how terrible it was.

As I arrived in front of the pulpit, I gazed up at the stained glass where a depiction of Jesus greeted me with open arms. I thought…

What better audience?’ At least I knew He wouldn’t judge me harshly.

I opened my mouth to really sing for the first time in over fifteen years and out came this melodious, beautiful sound. I poured my soul out into that song. It was the only religious song I knew at the time, "Amazing Grace", which I later recorded.

As I finished, I turned to find my brother and children standing there gaping at me.

I started with…

“I’m sorry”, but my brother interrupted.

Girl! You tore that up!” He shouted, hugging me as he arrived at the altar. “You just make sure to bring that with you to church in the morning!”

I laughed, blushing. Ordinarily, I might have thought my brother was trying to make me feel better, but my children were never really all that big on lying to spare any feelings, and their little open mouths and sounds of awe were enough for me.

The following morning, my voice sounded like it belonged to someone else. As I sang, my feet seemed welded to their place in the floor and though I weakened, I managed to stay up. Whatever happened that day, I found myself endowed with an amazing gift and anytime I opened my mouth to sing after that, people stopped to listen.

I was so excited about having my voice back that I started writing my own songs, appearing for local open mics and traveling to gigs. I established a band, appeared on cable tv shows and did as much as I could to spread the word of this new voice to the world.

For a few years I sang for a living. I tried using agents and agencies but none of them had as vested an interest in my work as I did so, I wound up handling my own career. I got a stage name and handled the business under my real name, becoming my own agent. I organized a record label just for my records, a production company to set up gigs and turned my singing career into a bona fide business.

I was even offered a recording contract. The advance was $100,000.00, which here on the East Coast is sufficient to meet living expenses with two kids for a year. The contract was on the West Coast however, and I would have had to take my boys away from everything they had ever known and go live somewhere with no support system, where $100k meant I had to hold down two jobs. I thanked them for the offer, but respectfully declined. I stayed in Georgia, got a home of my own, and started touring. The following three years came to an end fast.

Long story short…

After a terrible 6-month-bout with pneumonia and an airborne toxin that I was allergic to, my singing career died. The indie-entertainment industry is a fickle mistress and if you aren’t out there pushing your talent 24/7, you’re quickly forgotten.

I moved right along but after six months of not being able to sing, having to cancel my first European tour and missing all manner of recording time, my life fell into ruin. I lost everything, and my children had to go stay with my ex-mother-outlaw until I could get a traditional job and get on my feet.

I was homeless for a short while, and met a man who everyone called "Profit". He had quite the story and I was inspired to write about him. It became a turning point in my music career.

I used the song to generate income for the homeless shelter I was staying in, and the song did well. It even got some radio play. It didn't stick though. I got on my feet again and just as quickly as it had begun... it was over.

In my mind, I was a failure. All the people who chided me to quit singing and leave it to the professionals had been right. I had to move home with my mother and the boys came back to me. I sang when I could, but the gigs were further and farther between, until at last I resigned to singing for pleasure. I was tired of not seeing my children, not being there for them. Three years on the road chasing that old “carrot” of fame had made me the biggest jackass on earth and I didn’t need it.

I took some “office” tests with a couple of temp agencies, used what education I had and landed some administrative work, something respectable.

I married, raised a family to adulthood, went through husband number two, and came out the other side without looking back.

I tried a couple of times to get back into the business, to find an agent or a manager, but the last one I talked to wouldn’t even let me audition. He told me: “nobody wants to see an old fat lady sing”. And I took that as gospel at the time. I thought, 'maybe the world is better suited to younger more attractive women who sing as well as I do'. I thought, 'maybe my time has just passed'.

I feel that our dreams and desires take seasons in our lives. Singing has been a long season that never leaves me. My constant companion in life through happiness and grief, it is the one thing that has always defined me. It was a hard pill for me to swallow that maybe I couldn’t perform anymore, but what could I do? Then it occurred to me that if I can sing, and I enjoy doing it, then there is value in it. Some of the best times of my life came during performances, and some of the best friends I’ve ever had were established during my singing career.

My friend Debra was at every show when I was performing full-time. She was probably more disappointed about the end of my singing career than I was.

She died of Bile Duct Cancer a few years ago but before she left this world, she asked of me a favor. She had me autograph one of my original CDs for her and told me not to let my music die with an age or a dress size. She said that as an avid music lover, she knew good music when she heard it and really, music was about what those sounds do to you through hearing, not seeing. It’s nice to have the pretty package, but totally unnecessary. I thought hard on that discussion the day she passed and decided not to let the music in me perish with a bunch of hot winded old guys who think that unless I’m a 20-something in a size 2, people won’t come hear me sing.

The work that has been done in me, the voice that was given me, was never meant to be buried, but to be enjoyed. Now when I sing, I do it for joy. Won’t you join me? My music can be heard at:

God bless!

humanity

About the author

Veronica Coldiron

I'm a mild-mannered business consultant by day, a free-spirited writer, artist, singer/songwriter the rest of the time. Let's subscribe to each other! I'm excited to be in a community of writers and I'm looking forward to making friends!

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

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Comments (3)

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  • Carol Townendabout a month ago

    I sang at school in choirs and in some shows. I sang in churches, I've done studios and I still sing today. I'm 45, and my future mission is now to go back and create that CD I want. Never let anyone judge your beautiful voice based on your size. You sing beautifully and your story is sad but amazing.

  • Ashley Calleaabout a month ago

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Jennifer True2 months ago

    You have a beautiful voice and I like your story!

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