Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mostly Tha Voice

Flicking through my iPhone earlier this evening, I popped up the Washington Post website. I scrolled down the page past the Palin/McCain/RNC news -by the way,  I am playing my favorite RNC game-counting the black and brown people in the crowd and seeing if I have to use both hands.

Anyway I notice that Don LaFontaine, the voice of the movie trailer, passed away on September 1st.  Geico used him in a great commercial:

R.I.P Don LaFontaine.

After losing another great voice in August, Isaac Hayes, I started to muse about the importance of the voice in identity, especially for black men. My voice is tinged with Chicago and New York accents and constructed with proper English, 70's jive and late 80's hip hop. Depending on how mad I get, depends on the mix of ingredients in my speech. In general, my voice does not contain the usual timbre of most black males.  Yes, my voice has some "whiteness" in it. I think it's because I ain't got no bass in my voice and I like to use the English language to it's fullest extent. My singing voice is a clear, smooth tenor. I can't really do the vocals runs of a Prince, or Stevie Wonder or Sanada Maitreya (Terence Trent D'Arby). 

My voice doesn't have grit or heft of my father, the authoritative depth and rhythm of James Earl Jones, the controlled cadence of Denzel Washington,  the booming versatility of Paul Robeson, the 9mm spitfire of Samuel L. Jackson, the comedic, sarcastic, jive whine of Richard Pryor, or the suave intelligence of Barack Obama. I have my voice and I love sounding like me.

By the way, I consider Barack's speaking style closer to Malcolm X than anyone else. Malcolm X is my favorite speaker. His voice was so solid, so clear, so smart, so hip, so "right on".  To borrow a phase from another great orator, Ossie Davis, I think Barack is our new "black shining Prince".