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Harris Blackwood: Get 2nd opinion before American Idol audition
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In 1952, a 7-year-old girl from Georgia made her national debut on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour singing a song that had been introduced by Nat “King” Cole called “Too Young.”

She may have been too young in some people’s eyes, but Gladys Knight would use that event to launch a career to superstardom.

Around the same time, another Georgia girl, Brenda Mae Tarpley, made her debut on amateur shows, including Freddy Miller’s “Stars of Tomorrow.” Later, she would be seen on “TV Ranch” on Channel 5. She would eventually be discovered by singer Red Foley, who was making a promotional stop in Augusta. Today, we know her as Brenda Lee.

Amateur shows, both regional and national, have offered a once-in-a lifetime chance to many performers. In the 1980s and ’90s, there was Ed McMahon’s “Star Search.” The show launched the future of Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Ray Romano and Drew Carey, just to name a few. In 2002, the Fox network rolled out a show called “American Idol.” After 14 years, the network says the current run will be the grand finale.

“American Idol” gave a boost to the career of 16-year-old Diana DeGarmo of Snellville, who finished second in the show’s 2004 season.

What made “American Idol” different from the rest was the regional audition tour that leads up to the performance competition. This is where anyone who thinks they can sing, shows up and auditions. Not every person who auditions makes it on TV, but some of them do and the result is sometimes sad.

Some people can sing on pitch, that is, they sing the right notes. Others are not quite on pitch but are loud. Then some confuse loudness and pitch. Trust me, they are not the same.

An old adage says some people “couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.” Some of those show up at “American Idol” auditions minus the bucket.

Often before major medical treatment, a person may seek a second opinion about their condition. This can be a good idea for those who have thoughts of entering a national singing competition. Let me suggest you should do this before you drive halfway across the country for an audition. If you are relying on the opinion of family alone, this is extremely important.

I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: The Ten Commandments gives a clear exemption for family members.

The King James Version of the Bible says “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

If the only source of validation of your singing prowess is from family, go a few doors down the street, ring the doorbell and ask your neighbor to give you a listen. If the door closes before you finish, this could be a sign.

This is not in the Bible, but it is often said “When God shuts a door, he opens a window.” If you see your neighbor jumping from a window before you hit the chorus, this should give your reason to rethink your singing career.

The final run of “American Idol” may well give us another budding young star. But I hope it gives us a few laughs at futile attempts at singing before we get there.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

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