My Childhood Soundtrack

What a legend. What an absolute legend.

Just two weeks ago, Barry Gibb (sadly the only surviving Gibb brother), at the age of 70, rocked it out on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2017. He still has the magic touch. What a song. What a voice. What a falsetto.

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I grew up listening to the Bee Gees. Or more accurately, I grew up watching them—specifically, their One Night Only concert in Las Vegas in 1997. Papa, being a fan, had bought the DVD. I first watched it at the age of 9… and subsequently watched it every night after. It was catchy, groovy, mesmerising. The three-part harmonies were lush. But what was most significant was the fact that it was Barry Gibb who provided me with my first exposure to falsetto.

‘Do you know what that high-pitched voice is?’ papa asked. I shook my head. ‘It’s called falsetto,’ he explained, before doing his own strained impression/rendition of Barry’s dynamic falsetto in ‘You Should Be Dancing’—which was mighty embarrassing. Yet, an important musical lesson nonetheless.

The first album I listened to wasn’t the Bee Gees, however. That accolade goes to Sir Cliff Richard, aka mama’s heart-throb. Almost every morning I would wake up to The Whole Story: His Greatest Hits playing in the living room and mama singing along while she vacuumed the house.

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It’s only now that I look back and snigger at 9-year-old me unabashedly belting out cheesy lyrics without thinking about a word I was singing. The first song on that album was ‘Move It’ which starts like this:

C’mon pretty baby let’s a move it and a-groove it
Well shake oh baby, shake oh honey, please don’t lose it

My romantic side that causes girls to swoon? Oh, I owe it all to Cliff. (Hah.)

Simon & Garfunkel taught me how to harmonise. The Concert in Central Park was the album we owned, and rather than listen to the whole thing, I would often play the opening two tracks, ‘Mrs. Robinson’ and ‘Homeward Bound’, on repeat because I loved them so much.

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And finally, the Carpenters. I’m a bit frustrated that I can’t clearly remember which album we owned. Again, another album which I didn’t listen to fully, but knew ‘Top of the World’ inside out.

Let me end with an anecdote that testifies to music’s transcending capability. I was in 4th grade and a new kid, Shun S., had joined the class. One day during recess I walked past the auditorium (on the playground side) humming ‘Top of the World’. I bumped into Shun who immediately and excitedly blurted, ‘That’s the Carpenters, isn’t it!’ And that was the start of a friendship, a very musical friendship, that would last for the next 8 years.

Funny how a 1972 American song caused a Singaporean and a Japanese, born in the 90s, to bond. Voilà! The power of music.

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