December 10th, 2011 | by Greg Barker

A Vocalist Who Can’t Sing

His unexpected success reveals a timeless question for all performers.

I feel totally vulnerable revealing the name of one of my favorite vocalists.

The fact is, he can’t sing.

And it gets worse.

His musical career has been the subject of searing criticism, numerous parodies, and endless “cheese factor” comments.

George Clooney famously said that he’d take a song from this singer to a desert island and play it as an incentive to escape.

Yet, I’ll persist in revealing his identity – because he gives me the courage to keep creating.

It’s William Shatner (yes, Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise).

An Astonishing Surprise

In 2004 Shatner released his Has Been album, surprising fans and critics alike.

I find myself playing it over and over again, entering into his joys, his struggles, his failures and his insight.

This week I asked myself, why does this album mean so much to me?

Is it because I am incurable Trekkie? Or because I think, ‘if Shatner can make it as a singer, there’s hope for me?’

It’s something deeper.

Shatner knows what he’s good at – and delivers.

His strengths: a commanding narrative voice, a great sense of timing and a fearlessness about putting his heart on the line.

He doesn’t apologize for his obvious weaknesses, but forges ahead – in spite of a multitude of critics – and reaches the audience.

A Timeless Question for Creatives

Shatner’s “vocal work” can push us all of us in the creative arts to ask the question: what are some of my natural strengths that I can develop and deliver?

These may not be what you or I think they should be – but they are present in our soul, just as they are for Shatner.

Of course it’s not an easy journey – as evidenced by the failure of many of Shatner’s earlier “singing” forays.

And when I am considering my own fear of failure I meditate on the words of the title track of Shatner’s album:

What are you afraid of?
Failure?
So am I.
“Has been” implies failure.
Not so.
Has been is history.
Has been was.
Has been might again…

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  • maxGuest

    also, shatner is a terrific stage persona – he’s likeable in every aspect (unless you’re a deranged sociopath or a punk) at least what we see on screen. That’s why i’d buy his cd, too, although i am perfectly aware of the strong cheese flavor.

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  • Mrstratocaster1

    Shatner shouldn’t even sing in the shower. He is terrible.

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  • Mjacobson

     . . . putting his heart on the line . . . recognizing this imperative in the creative endeavor is critical. The allure of giving a calculated presentation rather than sharing who we are is irresistable to most and separates the mediocre from the true artist, who instinctively reaches out from the stage or off the page to touch the Image in us all. Great post brother. 

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