Sunday, March 01, 2015

Song of the Week: "You Are Not Alone"

Leonard Nimoy released five albums between 1967 and 1970. I didn't really realize that until I heard him interviewed on a Chicago radio show (Brandmeier, maybe?) and they asked him about it. He laughed it off as not exactly an old embarrassment, but as a sort of "Ugh, why did I think that was a good idea?" sort of thing. He had a good sense of humor about it. The host asked him if he'd ever heard William Shatner's cheese classic The Transformed Man, and Nimoy laughed harder, saying he hadn't realized Shatner had also had an album. "If it was as good as mine were," Nimoy joked, "they should have burned it."

I have all of Nimoy's albums, and while I don't share his assessment, I do think that as a singer he's a terrific actor. I don't think they're embarrassing, but they can be very earnest and Nimoy's vocal range almost doesn't exist. His first album, Mr. Spock's Music from Outer Space, sees Nimoy in character as Spock, doing space-themed songs. His second album, The Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy, continues this, with one side as Spock (including the kinda stupid song "Highly Illogical" and a dialogue between Spock and Nimoy examining their differences--real Birdman kind of stuff), and the second side as Nimoy (performing covers and the infamous/wonderful "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins"). This theme was dropped for albums three through five.

After reading Nimoy's autobiography I Am Spock back in the nineties, I was interested in his struggle to maintain the character of Spock; it sounded intense and alienating, as he used the persona to distance his inner life from the demands of fame, but also needed to be in character all the time to a certain degree, to the point where he admits in the book that he was too often detached from his home life, as it took him most of the weekend to cycle down and just be Dad. In that respect, his first two albums--cash-ins though they are--represent a sort of attempt to address Spock himself and separate Spock in his mind. (In I Am Spock, he even writes in-character and has conversations with him, using the character's logic to explain ideas and, in the process, examine himself.) To quote the Vulcan: fascinating.

So, as a tribute to the man, this week I present "You Are Not Alone," from his first album which is, in my mind, kind of fantastic. It's sincere in the way only the late 1960s are.

Goodbye, Mr. Nimoy.

1 comment:

Keir said...

Look- he sang "If I Had a Hammer." A great socialist tune. And then, for reasons completely illogical, ended the song by speaking the following lines with America the Beautiful playing in the background and thus totally misrepresenting the song's meaning:
Well, I have a hammer.
And I have a bell.
And I have a song.
A song to sing all over this land!
It's the hammer of justice!
It's the bell of freedom!
And the song is the song of love!
Love between all of my brothers,
And love between all of my sisters.
All. Over. This. Land.