When I was a child I remember my parents singing together and singing to me. Because of that, I know a whole repertoire of songs that were popular way before my time.
I can still hear Mom and Dad harmonizing on romantic songs like: "Old Pal I'm so blue since you left me. Life's been a burden to bear. I wonder if you still love me. I wonder if you still care."
There were also silly songs like: "K-k-k-Katie, beautiful Katie. You're the only g-g-g-girl that I adore. When the m-moon shines over the cowshed, I'll be waiting at the k-k-k-kitchen door."
Their era was the 1940s and World War II, so Mom and Dad also sang a lot of patriotic songs like: "Over there, over there. Have you heard? Send the word over there. That the yanks are coming, the yanks are coming, the yanks are coming over there." Actually, that's a WWI song that was resurrected in WWII and became popular all over again because the words were catchy and the tune so singable.
I wondered the other day what will become of songs like these when the generation that sang them is gone. Sure there will still be phonograph records preserved in the Smithsonian, but just to look at, not to play. There may also be sheet music saved in archives somewhere, but no one will actually sing it. And that's sad.
Probably the only place songs like these will still be heard is in old movies like those shown on the Turner Classic Movies channel. But few people ever watch them anymore. Even the people who were young in the '40s and '50s are bored with the old movies. That fast talking, phony style puts off even them. So how long will the music survive?
The answer is - till it comes back into style.
Now, if you're thinking "that'll never happen," don't be too sure. Linda Ronstadt revived a whole CD's worth of '40s music just by rerecording it with style. So did Sting and Harry Connick, Jr. Broadway plays from the '40s, like "Oklahoma" and "South Pacific," are suddenly box office smashes all over again, and their music is being discovered and devoured by the younger set.
Rock music has its place. I'm a child of the '60s and '70s, so I grew up with rock and I love it. But I believe that, more and more, people are hungry for songs that are singable. That's why Andrew Lloyd Webber has become such a success. He knows how to write that singable kind of music that sticks in your mind and heart forever.
Witness the recent success of Scottish singer Susan Boyle. She isn't young or beautiful or sexy, yet her debut album in its first two weeks on the market has outsold every other female singer ever, even Madonna and Taylor Swift. Why?
Some say it's just because of the way she was discovered on the television show "Britain's Got Talent." I disagree. The reason is that her album is beautiful, singable, sing-along music.
Recently, I was holding my 4-month-old granddaughter, and I started singing to her the first thing that came to mind - an old song I'll never forget, "Thank heaven for little girls, 'cause little girls get bigger every day. Thank heaven for little girls. They grow up in the most delightful way."
So what old song is your favorite? Is there something your mother used to sing to you, or something your Dad always whistled in the shower? Teach it to your kids. Sing it with your grandchildren. Music passed down from generation to generation is a precious gift, with a life all its own. Barry Manilow had it right when he said he "writes the songs that make the whole world sing."