Thursday, September 4, 2014

Blog 194: Some Random Thoughts

By John Miller
Guest Writer

A Blind Man’s Journey
(Because you don’t need sight to see the world)

I can think of at least one song that defined my life for a stretch, “In the Still of the Night,” by Boys II Men. This is because it’s random singing led by my two cousins and me to create a singing group. Remember that concept? I don’t think many of those exist these days, as most are solo artists. But I suspect that history will bring them back eventually, which they did until deciding to emphasize gospel more.

My cousins and I had just completed a rousing game of basketball with an adult, one of my cousin’s fathers. How appropriate for Father’s Day? We then piled into his car to go and find some delicious, refreshing ice cream, probably at Dairy Queen.

The said song came onto the radio and for some reason, we began to sing it. My youngest cousin took the lead vocal, I sang bass and my other cousin did the “shoo-wops.” “Hey, that was fun!” we said, once the song concluded.

It really surprised me that I was even able to do this. All of my life, I’d been told by many that I couldn’t really sing or play instruments (have tried to learn the piano from time to time and had gotten decent at the trumpet when in elementary band) so I’d largely became discouraged from even trying. My cousins told me more than once to stick with it though, and working with some fantastic choral instructors and singing in a couple of church choirs, I began to expand my range.  

Due to our group’s origins, my dad suggested that we should have called ourselves the Backseat Boys. Law suit, anyone? We instead went with the name “Off Da Top,” because of course we wrote songs off da top of our heads! My aunt chided us for the less-than-professional spelling, but hey, why can’t we have a little fun? Like Music or Exscape.

Over the years, we continued to develop. Naturally, many of our initial favorites were Boys II Men tunes. I especially remember singing, “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” as we cruised Lake Norman while at a summer camp sponsored by the Metrolina Association for the Blind (MAB). The restaurant area was staffed by college-age women, and one each came to rub our backs as we sang. I nearly lost the ability to stay on the notes. Ha-ha. They also shut down the PA music, so that everyone onboard could hear.

There was another time at a Raleigh ice skating rink. My cousins and I weren’t particularly big fans of this recreational activity, so we sat at the table with drinks in front of us and worked on “Chi’s Baby, I’m Yours.” We made an error and we stopped to retry that spot, then we suddenly heard a loud burst of clapping. There had appeared a rather large contingent of young women, traveling with some kind of youth center. They opted to join us in singing “Kirk Franklin’s Stomp, The Preacher and Leader of God’s Property.” I think many members of the group came from Charlotte’s Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, our family original home church.

Our dream, like anyone who would have been doing such a thing, was to achieve stardom. I think in retrospect that it is quite fortunate we did not, as we had no idea what would have actually entailed. The great memories we do have though, like winning a talent show at UNC Charlotte, performing to an incredibly excited congregation at First Church, may in fact never be surpassed.

Even as my disorder continues to take away my hearing and makes singing more of chore than a joy, I will always continue to enjoy music. So, if I’m a bit flat, sharp, or slightly off rhythm, try not to be too harsh! Off Da Top hasn’t performed in many years, but we have floated the idea of giving it a shot again someday. Who knows?

About the Author
I am 34 years of age. I currently reside in Durham, NC, and work in a factory-type setting building product for the military. On one side, I work to maintain and enhance my online journal. At blind travel net, I read many other blogs and took courses on website construction and Word Press. I also enjoy reading and listening to books and music of every type for further inspiration. Clearly though, the bulk of my material comes from my own life experience.

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