My kids begged me to let them watch the Grammys. They had heard that Adele would be performing for the first time since her vocal cord surgery. Her song “Rolling in the Deep” was our family’s song of last summer. My daughter learned it at Rock n Roll Camp; my son played air guitar to it every time it came on the radio; my husband taught it to his high school music class; I insisted that we sing it every time we had a singalong. But Adele’s struggle with her vocal cords also resonated with me.
I have had polyps on my cords for my whole musical career- maybe even for my whole life, but it wasn’t until I had a camera stuck down my throat in the fall of 1995 (when we were recording our CD Gotta Get Over Greta for a record label and were in the middle of 3 weeks of studio time at a Big Fancy Recording Studio (Long View Farm Studio)) that I knew. I relate to everything that Adele has been going through and have followed her story: cancelled shows, disappointed fans, brilliant doctors. I have always had the choice of whether or not to go under the knife– or the laser as it is now. Adele did not. Her polyp started bleeding–hemorrhaging. She had no voice and had to have the surgery.
The technology has come so far since I was first diagnosed with my polyp. Surgeons now use the same techniques they would use on infant skin. The problem is that vocal cords are tiny and any cutting into them or lasering them can cause scar tissue to develop which can be worse than the original pathology. But infant skin needs to be elastic. It has so far to grow. So scar tissue must be minimized because scar tissue is not elastic. All this is to say that Adele, despite being in the hands of exceptionally well trained surgeons, was not guaranteed a positive outcome. She was not even guaranteed any voice at all after surgery, let alone the incomparable one she was born with.
So when my kids begged to watch, I acquiesced. I thought, “Last week I let them stay up to watch football and I don’t even like football.” So we turned on the TV and Bruce Springsteen, one of my favorite artists of all time was singing his new anthem reminding us that we take care of our own. And by “our own” he means every one in the country. Everyone. I was glad that my kids were hearing that.
I did not let them stay up til the end. I did not even let them stay up to hear Adele, but I promised that I would record it. As a result, I watched almost the whole thing. Awards shows are basically stupid. But at the Grammys, the artists actually do the thing for which they are being awarded. If you ignore the boring speeches in between, you are just watching a brilliant, amazing concert. Highlights for me were Bruce, Bonnie Raitt, Paul McCartney- a septegenarian who sings as well as ever, The Civil Wars- who won Best Folk Album- when do they ever give folkies any airtime?, Taylor Swift (I know! But I thought she was great.) Foo Fighters- although I am clearly too old to understand what the heck that thing was with the mouse. I could have done without Chris Brown. Musically, politically, ugh. But that’s for another post. And, of course, Adele.
The next day, I sat with my kids as they watched Adele’s luminous performance. Her voice was different from the CD. It was less husky, less edgy, but it was strong and pure and lovely. I heard vocal choices she was making, that I am guessing from my vocal studies, she has to make, to protect her instrument. She still belted out that chorus and she still brought the house down. I felt the room rooting for her–a room filled with human beings who know how scary and painful it would be to have their voice compromised.
Sitting there with my kids, I knew that they too were rooting for her. I love that they understood what it meant to come back from an injury. Just as many kids watch their favorite football players or baseball players return from the D.L.
Resilience. It’s probably what we want most for our children. Difficulties will befall our kids when they are grown and we are no longer there to scoop them up and cuddle away the pain. We want them to be able to withstand those difficulties. Watching Adele, only 23 years old, so accomplished already, and yet so close to that threat of having all those accomplishments in her past and not in her future, was sending the message to all of us that if she can be resilient, so can we.
We ended our Grammy viewing with the all-star playing of Golden Slumbers led by Sir Paul- he’ll be 70 in June. He sings as beautifully as ever. This is a great concert. We all agreed. But, being a Monday morning quarterback, and a feminist, I had to add: “That all-star jam would have been even cooler if they’d asked Bonnie Raitt to join them and take a solo.” And my children nodded- in unison.