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Favorite Michael Moments, Part 17: So you're telling me that you *don't* weep openly over songs about telepathic rats? Huh.

7.15.2009

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16.

I currently have a CD in my car with "Ben" on it. And unless I want to take the Tear Train to Cry County, I have to press that skip button. It was recorded in 1972 for a movie of the same name about a bullied boy and his pet telepathic rat who becomes his best friend. The stuff of most chart-topping ballads, it ain't. I mean, a love song to a rat? Um, thanks but no thanks. But oh, when lovingly, tenderly, heart-breakingly caressed in the voice of our dear young Michael (14 at the time), I would be thrilled to have it played at my (imaginary) wedding; it's that's well-sung.

The song went on to be nominated for an Oscar (so technically Michael was Oscar-nominated!) and win a Golden Globe. It was also the first #1 hit for Michael as a solo artist. I don't really need to go into how personal this song must have been for Michael, as we know he was a very lonely child (he said he used to weep from loneliness), not to mention his strong feelings of closeness to animals (Bubbles!). Oops, there I went into it.

I swear to you, I cannot decide which version saddens me more: little Michael or older Michael. In addition to the promo performances on television shows he performed the song on the Destiny/Triumph tours with his brothers. Of course I must present all of them to you, as is my duty (and I am a slave to duty). First up is the studio album version:



And now older Michael live in 1975 (his voice is changing, and let's just say he puts Peter Brady's voice-changing to SHAME). But the real winning older Michael version is from the Triumph Tour in 1981, when he had mastered the song beyond belief (there's a long intro, feel free to jump through to a minute in. I don't...I love to hear him speak!):


I'm so torn because young Michael sings the song like a child to an imaginary friend or an actual pet; it's a child's feeling of being outcast and finally finding a friend. Adult Michael, on the other hand, sings it with such grown-up desperation for connection and fierce conviction: "I don't listen to a word...they say!" (2:53). How can you choose between his quiet, child-like sobriety and him singing the hell out of it?

What do you think? I think I need to perform an experiment, where I catch all my tears from both versions and then compare volumes.

I can't finish this post without telling you that in high school I thought this song was about Michael and I, and how people didn't see him "like I do" but I wished "they would try to" and how now it was us, now it was we.*

*Yes, I am talking with my therapist about all this. Life-changing self discoveries about my intense attachments to famous people, coming right up!

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