Essay: Rock and Roll Singer Brenda Lee

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Rock and Roll

Singer Brenda Lee was known as "Little Miss Dynamite" because her tiny stature -- she stood only four feet nine inches tall -- belied a powerful voice that captivated fans in the early days of rock and roll. Petite Lady Gaga likewise captivated fans with a big voice when she made her debut album in 2008. Both women were stars of their generations, but the similarity ends there. The rock and roll of the twenty-first century is barely recognizable as the same genre that started, some say, with Bill Haley and the Comets in 1955. The lyrics reveal there are some common themes -- teens are still obsessed with love and loss -- but the language is more frank and the delivery usually much more outrageous than what was seen and heard in our grandparents' generation.

Brenda Lee sang well in a variety of styles, including rockabilly, country, gospel, rhythm and blues, and easy-listening. Surprisingly to some, she cited Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and Edith Piaf as vocal influences. Still, John Lennon is alleged to have said of her, "She has the greatest rock and roll voice of them all" ("Brenda Lee Biography," n.d.). In the 1958, Lee had a hit with "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," a catchy carol that is still popular today during the holidays. In 1960, Lee scored again with "I'm Sorry," a tune introduced with lush orchestration in which she apologizes to her lover: "I'm sorry, so sorry/That I was such a fool… You tell me mistakes/Are part of being young/but that don't right/the wrong that's been done" ("I'm Sorry" lyrics, 2013). Lee sings in a plaintive voice. She is sad about making a mistake that perhaps ended a relationship or, at the very least, hurt someone she cared about very much. The details are absent, but it does not matter. We understand the emotion behind the lyrics. Most people can relate to having said or done something as a teen that caused damage to a relationship. Anyone who has ever been in love understands this terrible feeling of regret and loss.

In her song "Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)," Lady Gaga also sings about the end of a relationship. The closest she gets to an apology are the lines: "Boy we've had… [END OF PREVIEW]

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