Sunday, 20 August 2017

My Top 90 Mid-Life Crisis Songs #2: Mr. Tanner

Imagine you'd wanted to do something - to be something - since you were a small child. Imagine you'd devoted a large part of your adolescence to honing a particular skill, and a large part of your 20s trying to turn your passion into a career. Imagine everyone told you you were really good at it, that you kept getting close... positive rejections, promised offers that never became reality, encouragement from professionals in the same field.

When do you stop dreaming? When do you call it a day? Because, realistically, you have to at some point. You might be 30, you might be 40... you might be 90... but at some point, you have to accept the reality of the situation. It's not going to happen.

2. Harry Chapin - Mr. Tanner

Mr. Tanner is a dry-cleaner from a small mid-western town with an exceptional baritone voice. All his friends tell him he should try it professionally, so one day he does. He saves up the money and books a ticket to New York to perform for a concert agent.

Harry Chapin wrote this song after reading particular scathing newspaper reviews of a singer's debut performances in New York.
Mr. Martin Tanner, Baritone, of Dayton, Ohio made his
Town Hall debut last night. He came well prepared, but unfortunately
His presentation was not up to contemporary professional standards.
His voice lacks the range of tonal colour necessary to make it
Consistently interesting.
Full time consideration of another endeavor might be in order.
Mr. Tanner goes back home to Ohio and never performs again...
Excepting very late at night when the shop was dark and closed.
He sang softly to himself as he sorted through the clothes.
This blog is my shop, very late at night.
But music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
And it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
He did not know how well he sang; it just made him whole.

Although Harry Chapin died in 1981, his 1974 lyrics to Mr. Tanner were recently turned into a children's book by the illustrator Bryan Langdo.


  1. Very much approve of this post, Rol, from the opening capital letter to the closing full-stop.

    Think I might be having a bit of an existential crisis that just happens to coincide with my mid-life years. Have been thinking a lot lately about how I'm good at quite a lot of things but not truly great at anything and, realistically, I never will be. It's quite sobering. I might post about it soon, since I have not, present company excepted, been swamped with Fantasy Cover Versions...!

  2. Being in the creative field myself, I completely get this, it's so hard and some areas, such as writing and music, seem to be especially tough. I do believe there's a big element of chance too, it's not just talent... so one can have the talent but miss the chance (and vice versa!) The main thing I feel about it is that one should always keep on doing what they love regardless of any end goals in mind. It's harder to find the time, I know, if it's not going to pay the bills, but if it's an essential part of who one is, something that makes one who they are, then never stop. Sometimes fate has a weird way of working things out at the most unexpected times (I say that from experience).
    I love that Bryan Langdo took on this story for illustrating.

  3. Ditto the comments above - One of the main reasons for me giving up my job is so that I can have one last-ditch attempt at helping Mr WIAA succeed in his chosen field. He's won all the prizes (I've shared the pictures) but as C says, he just needs a bit of luck, and a bit of good marketing. I don't think it's an age thing as we are most certainly middle-aged now, what you need is a window where paying the bills doesn't take precedence over everything else. Not an easy one though for anyone and I'm still having daily palpitations at the thought of what I've done. Ironically I don't think we'd ever have done this if I hadn't started blogging, as I feel I've sharpened up my writing skills enough (although you may disagree) to try the two-handled approach - Writing and Sculpture combined. Time will tell.

    As usual I've gone on a bit but Mr Tanner should very definitely continue to sing late at night in his shop as at some point there will be a window, when there may be an opportunity to sing for his supper. In the arts there is no retirement age, so no reason ever to give up on the dream.

  4. Of course that should be two-handed approach - sharp indeed!


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