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« Discoveries made (or not) while piling books in stacks | Main | Conceptual art »

July 28, 2007



Perhaps an elderly performer cares more about continuing to perform than he does about his reputation.


Oh, no doubt, but that raises the question: is it therefore "cruel" to point out that the actor is no longer competent? (This was Teachout's point.)

When it comes to singers, my youthful exposure to Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Peggy Lee (all late 1970s-on editions) resulted in considerable cognitive dissonance, since I just wasn't able to cotton to vocalists who couldn't hold a note without cracking, let alone enunciate clearly or even find the correct pitch. Eventually, I heard recordings of them singing in their prime, and said, "oh." But late Sinatra in particular was just horrifying. As the critics kept trying to point out, with less and less patience...


Well, yes, Sinatra became ludicrous to many people, including me, but the people who loved seeing his performances weren't deaf, and they still paid good money to see him -- because the feelings he evoked meant more than their critical judgment. I don't think the critics had much of a role to play, though they tried, of course.

I disliked Sinatra, but I really liked Ella Fitzgerald and seeing her perform in her last period gave me pleasure. Criticizing her wouldn't have been cruel as much as stupid, like pointing out another elderly person's infirmities. I think we use the wrong criteria sometimes.


I think the difficulty, though, is that many people my age didn't initially hear the great Sinatra, Lee, or Fitzgerald. We just heard people who had entirely lost their voices, and then perhaps later heard what they used to sound like. So there was no nostalgia factor--or even just plain memory factor--to buffer the listening experience.

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