Saturday, January 10, 2009
I have a new hero, and his name his Bob Cilman. He's the charismatic leader of that average-age-equals-80 singing group that calls itself Young@Heart. Have you seen this documentary? Do you know who is out there rocking the Stones and Cold Play and the Ramones and Springsteen—screaming or gentling or whatever the song demands? Do you know how lyrics change their shape and meaning depending on who is singing? Take "Stayin' Alive," sing it at 92, and see what that means. Take "I will Survive" or "I Wanna Be Sedated" or "Road to Nowhere."
But most of all—oh, most of all—take "Fix You," and give it to a man whose singing partner has just, a few days ago, passed away, to a man who himself is four months older than the doctors said he ever would be, and who sings seated beside his oxygen tank, which grabs at the air as his resonant voice wrestles with the words. Lights will be guide you home ... and I will try to fix you.
They sing at a prison and every damn thing that can happen to a face happens to the faces of those prisoners. They sing for those who mourn, and hearts crack open. They sing because they are not afraid of who they are, who they have become, what time has done to them. They sing for each of us, and Bob Cilman—the man who made this happen, the man who was serving meals to the elderly and then assembled a group and then started needling and even yelling when they got it wrong because he expected them to get it right and who now stands on that stage singing and dancing and prideful and gorgeous alongside his singers—Bob Cilman is my new hero.
Watch just one of these videos, and he'll be yours, too.