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Lucy Kaplansky’s Career Choices

Lucy Kaplansky was a successful, rising young singer/songwriter in Chicago and New York City, but decided to go in a different direction. She continued singing while getting a doctorate in psychology. Kaplansky started her own practice and worked at a hospital dealing with the adult mentally ill population.

She continued singing, however, and “was often pulled into the studio by her by her friends.” One thing led to another – it all is related quite nicely at her site – and Kaplansky realized the fame that had been predicted for her years earlier.

It was hard to decide which Kaplansky songs to feature on this post. I could have chosen from any number of her compositions. According to the bio, one of the groups she was in – Cry Cry Cry (with Dar Williams and Richard Shindell) – released an album of covers that was very successful. Right before reading that, I watched a video (above) of Kaplansky singing Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” which she calls “one of the world’s great songs.”

Three thoughts struck me (which is two-and-a-half more than usual). The first is that she delivered a great, emotionally charged version of what really is a masculine song. The second was that the honesty of the unadorned version (it’s a mediocre recording taken with a handheld) adds to the overall impact. It’s a song about imperfect people. A perfect production isn’t necessarily the best treatment.

The third–and probably most important–is that the choices singers make in what songs they cover are very revealing. In fact, those choices may provide as much insight into their personalities, in a slightly different way, than what they write themselves. I’m not talking about a bar band doing “Magic Carpet Ride.” I am talking about an accomplished artist with a long list of her own songs choosing “Thunder Road” from the thousands of choices she has. Just what is it about a particular song that resonates?

Below is “The Beauty Way.”

Lucy Kaplansky’s website was used for this post. The homepage photo is by C. Eugene Emery Jr. 

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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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