Your own kind of music

Matt with his voice teacher after Matt's wonderful, nearly flawless solo performance of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" at the Vacaville Festival of Trees, 2003.

All smiles: Matt is congratulated by his voice teacher after Matt’s wonderful,
nearly flawless solo performance of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
at the Vacaville Festival of Trees, 2003.

“You’ve gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind of music
Even if nobody else sings along.” —
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil

This 1969 hit is a favorite of mine, as recorded by one of my all-time favorite vocalists, Mama Cass Elliot.  I play this song often for Matt when he and I are riding along in the car together.  It sounds in my ears almost as if it was written for him, but of course, there are others who share that feeling.  So many of us have felt different or apart at some point in our lives, and some of us will never quite fit in with the crowd.  Individuality can be a curse as well as a blessing, but there’s no cure for the loneliness except to accept our differences as gifts, and make the best of them.

Though Mama Cass didn’t write this song, there is no one on earth who could have been more certain to make it the hit that it became.  When I think about all that was best about the 60’s, Mama Cass often comes to mind.  This woman endured much prejudice and many cruel jokes, but she kept on singing, blessing the world with her musical gifts.  I hope you enjoy this lovely video as much as I do, and let it help you remember to sing the song that is yours alone.

One year ago today

A contribution to reality


  1. Julia, this post is one of my favorites. It can lift the soul and spirit to unbelievable heights. I particularly enjoyed the Susan Boyle clip of her getting ready for her first world tour. Talk about Defeat Despair, that clip say’s it in a nutshell. She has overcome so much in her life. The courage she has shown amazes me. Wonderful….Great post. :o)

    • Thanks Patricia, I just love Susan Boyle. I have her CDs and her book too. I videotaped the special about her that came on TV a couple of years ago, where the cast from Les Miserables was singing with her, and also featured her singing a duet with Elaine Paige, the singer whom she said she wanted to be like (and they laughed at her until they heard her sing). Isn’t it great when the fairy tale happy endings come in real life? Yes, I know her story isn’t perfect or without troubles, but she has broken longstanding records held by artists such as the Beatles and Barbra Streisand; how many people would have predicted that of her? Sometimes dreams do come true!

  2. Ann

    Thanks for sharing the Mama Cass video – it certainly brings back fond memories from college years.

    Matt’s smile in the photo is luminous!


    • Thank you Ann! That was such a happy night for all of us. One of my favorite memories ever. I cannot hear any version of “Do you hear what I hear” now without remembering that night.

  3. Raynard

    Julia when I was younger I tried to sing high notes.after sounding like a cross between The Bee Gees and Alvin and the Chipmonks ill hum a few .hope you liked the pictures and if you use Google they have a auto backup for your pictures. Morning church services were canceled due to know what I didn’t see during the holidays?that coke soda commercial about teaching the world to sing(Bty they did redo the one Eartha Kitt sung Santa Baby for J.C Penney or was it Tarshey I mean Target. They needed to as John Lennon said Let it Be…

    • Hey Raynard, the Bee Gees were really big stuff when I was in college. I never did see Saturday Night Fever but I did like to listen to their music even years before that. Sorry the weather was bad enough to cancel your church services, but better to be safe. I think everybody out there is way overdoing that song Santa Baby. I can’t figure out why it’s so popular when there are so many Christmas songs out there that are way better. I guess we could blame Madonna for that but don’t get me started…

  4. Sheila

    Julia, what a wonderful post today. Matt’s smile is more than enough to let us know how he felt about the performance. 🙂 That must be a happy time, riding along and singing. Thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed the Mama Cass video…. several times! Hope Jeff is doing well.

    • Thank you Sheila! Jeff is doing pretty well I think. We had Grady with us this weekend because Drew had a historian’s conference in DC and knew that MeMe and PaPa would love to have him here. Megan was kind enough to loan him to us and hopefully she got a bit of a break. We had fun and I think it lifted Jeff’s spirits tremendously to be with him. Isn’t Mama Cass the best? Of course I love “California Dreamin'” too! Matt and I enjoy a lot of music together in the car. From the time he was a tiny infant he has loved and responded to music. He’s a big fan of opera and musical theater. I’m so happy you liked the post!

  5. MaryAnn

    One of my great joys is listening to Matt sing in worship! My mother loved to hear him sing as well. The smile on his face makes anyone he sees feel special!

    • Thank you, Mary Ann. Music is one of the greatest sources of happiness for Matt, and it’s fairly obvious to all who know him!

  6. Julia, what a great post and picture of Matt. I’m not musically gifted but I do enjoy music.
    I know you and Jeff enjoyed Grady visit!

    • Yes, Merry, it was so fun to be with Grady at this age. He will be different each time we see him; they change so fast. I’m glad you like the photo of Matt. That was such a happy time for him.

  7. Debbie

    I love this post I do not remember this song at least not the words. I will listen again in the morning to start my day. I think I will make it my January wake up song to defeat all the cold dark days of winter .THANKS!! I live near Raynard and we had our 3 church services
    but low attendance today, horrible roller coaster weather here in Delaware.

    • Thank you Debbie, I’m so glad you like it! It really is a great song for defeating despair, and what a voice Mama Cass had! Sorry your weather is so nasty. Hope it gets warmer soon. Thanks for being here!

  8. Awww, what a great picture of your Matt, he has such a big genuine smile. How infectious that must be. He’s really brave to stand in front of a bunch of people to sing, I think my knees might knock a bit.
    I can’t wait to watch this video, I always loved the Mama’s and Papa’s. I have a great CD of all their hits in our storage locker and every single song is just fab. Mr B is snoozing beside me already, but I will come back for a listen tomorrow.
    You’re so right about everyone not fitting in at some point. When I worked full time, I was one of the only girls there, unmarried and with no children (life dealt me a different hand). They were all a nice group, but I never felt like I had much to contribute at the lunch table because naturally, the conversation was usually about the kids, school, activities, etc. But I felt welcomed and that was so nice. I think no matter the circumstance, as long as people are careful to be inclusive, it makes all the difference.

    • Yes, Matt’s smile is really beautiful, it lights up our days. He really was nervous when he did his solo; we could tell because he didn’t sing as loudly as he normally can and does (that was the only “flaw” in his performance, but it did prevent him from getting too excited and going off-key, which was good).

      Years ago I became aware of how married women with children seemed to talk almost exclusively of their families. It always made me feel left out, partly because both of my sons were far from typical, and partly because there were so many other interesting things to talk about. When I would mention literature or politics or other non-domestic topics, it’s like people wouldn’t even hear what I said. Once at a gathering of women there was just one single gal there and at one point in the conversation I just asked her outright “does all of this talking about family make you feel excluded?” Wow, talk about cheeky questions! But to my surprise, she seemed greatly relieved to have someone ask her that, and she spoke up, cheerfully but emphatically, saying YES it certainly did. We went on to have quite an interesting discussion about what it was like to be a single woman among a throng of married women. I guess there was some internal squirming going on amongst all the other women but I didn’t care. And others seemed genuinely interested in what she had to say about the matter.

      When I worked as the librarian at a University-based Catholic school in Texas, the majority of our students and staff were bilingual or Spanish-speaking. I used to eat lunch at the table with some of the custodial staff, some of whom did not speak English. There was one bilingual woman who was always careful to translate to me, especially when there was laughter, about what was being said, so I didn’t feel left out. It makes all the difference in the world.

  9. I suppose people generally speak about what they love most but good for you to ask her about it. I think some of the gals couldn’t quite relate to my life as I lived in the country, drove an old pick-up truck and had very little extra cash to shop, holiday or see movies etc. But I’m a good listener and people love to be asked about their families, so I got on ok.

    The men in the office were more of a hoot to lunch with, but I didn’t want to be the topic of conversation from the ladies tables so I avoided the drama. Office politics can be a minefield if you don’t watch you P’s and Q’s. It was great in the summer. I could eat outside and just enjoy 15 minutes of quiet time…me, myself and the breeze.

    • Since I live frugally and don’t watch TV, I find that leaves me an outsider a good bit of female conversation. It’s interesting for me to listen to others talk, though, and I learn a lot that way. So many things I would not know about if I didn’t hear friends talking about them. When I worked at USAir, that was maybe my favorite job ever because much of the conversation was always centered on travel, and specifically, how to do it cheaply and easily. That was a topic I was ALWAYS interested in! I’ve been in work situations such as you describe, where I was eager to escape to be on my own at lunchtime. I used to have co-workers who didn’t understand why I preferred to eat lunch alone. I’m not very good at watching the P’s and Q’s, never have been.

  10. Rene

    I had to wait a couple of days to check out the video, but it was worth waiting for. I have always loved Cass Elliot and “Dream a Little Dream” is one of my favorite songs. Here is a link to another video everyone might enjoy:

    • Yes, I love “Dream a Little Dream” too, and love to sing it even though my voice is light years removed from hers. She put so much heart into what she sang, and her voice had such a clear, gorgeous quality that so few singers have. Dionne Warwicke is another one who has that bell-like tone. BTW, thanks so much for the link! I’m not sure I had ever heard that song before. I really like Joni Mitchell; her voice is totally unique I think. “Free Man in Paris” is my favorite if hers – and what a difficult song to sing right! This clip is gorgeous harmony! Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

  11. Patrick

    Ma Ma Cass what a voice and definately the most beautiful of souls ..Most people who hear her sing this song seem to be reduced to tears…The greatest compliment I believe you can pay to an artist…She certainly had something special that reaches into your heart…God bless her she was a gift from God ….we miss her so much.and how blessed we would be to have her with us today….Make your own kind of music just for Mama !…..

    • Patrick, I agree totally! Her voice was so clear and beautiful, and I think what made it so was the way she sang with all her heart. I feel so lucky to have had her music to lift my spirits during my teen years. She continues to bring happiness to Matt and me when we hear her singing. Thanks for being here with us, and for your comment.

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