You Light Up My Life #Monday Musical Memories

After my family moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, in the 1970’s, I entered a talent contest every year. The Stars of Tomorrow show was usually held in February. Prizes in first, second, and third place were awarded in three age groups: elementary, junior high, and high school. When I performed, I accompanied myself on the piano.

⠠⠔ 1974 when I was in the sixth grade, I sang “El Condor Pasa” by Simon and Garfunkel. I didn’t win but didn’t let that keep me from entering every year after that until my sophomore year when I sang “You Light Up My Life” and won first place. Since there were only two other contestants in that division besides me, I figured I would win something, but I never expected to win first place.

I still remember that night. They always announced the third and second-place winners first. After the other two contestants received their third and second-place trophies, the realization hit me. It was all I could do to contain myself. When my name was finally called, despite my limited vision, I sprinted across the stage to receive my prize.

I was then entitled to enter the state competition, held that year in Powell, a five-hour drive across the mountains. This contest only had two divisions, representing each of two parts of the state, with three prizes awarded in each division. My division had a lot more than three contestants, and the competition was stiff. I didn’t win, but like all other contestants, I received a trophy for participating. I still felt like a star.

The song, “You Light Up My Life,” played an important role in my adulthood as well. One year, after my late husband Bill suffered two paralyzing strokes, and I became his caregiver, I gave him a special Valentine gift. It was a doll wearing a red dress. When her hand was squeezed, she sang “You Light Up My Life.” I should have played the piano and sung him the song instead, and I eventually did. But every night before we went to bed, I would squeeze the doll’s hand, and as she sang the song, we would embrace and kiss. It was our nightly routine for a long time.

Bill did light up my life, and I didn’t realize it until after he was gone. Even when he could no longer use his left side, he lit up my days. Although he couldn’t sing, he filled my nights with song. I was drifting at sea until he told me he loved me and pulled me to shore.

Sometimes, you don’t know a good thing until it comes along, then leaves you. Bill was that good thing. Now, I’ll sing the song the way I did the night I won first place in the Stars of Tomorrow contest.

you light up my life

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

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I’m a Star

I wanted to be a star ever since I sang Simon and Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa” while accompanying myself on piano in the Kiwanis Club Stars of Tomorrow contest in Sheridan, Wyoming, back in the 70’s. I was twelve years old at the time. A couple of years later, my younger brother Andy found an old paint can he used as a drum and a wood chip I pretended was a microphone. To hear me read a poem I wrote about that experience, visit https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/I%27m%20a%20star.mp3 .

Soon after that, Andy got a drum set. Our band moved from the front porch to the dining room with me on piano and vocals and Andy on drums. As a sophomore in high school, I again entered the Stars of Tomorrow contest. They had a silly rule that a younger person couldn’t accompany an older person so Andy couldn’t play the drums while I sang “You Light Up My Life,” accompanying myself on the piano. However, I could accompany Andy on piano while he played drums. In this fashion, we performed “You Don’t’ Have to be a Star to Be in My Show.” To hear the original sung by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nb9jJg_wIU . Andy didn’t win, but I took second place with my rendition of “You Light Up my Life.” Here’s what it sounded like. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/you%20light%20up%20my%20life.mp3

After graduating from high school, I decided not to move to Nashville, New York, or L.A. and try to make it big. I went to college where I majored in music and eventually got into music therapy. For fifteen years, I worked in a nursing home, singing old standards like this one. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/stormy%20weather.mp3 After fifteen years, I decided to become a writer when I married my late husband Bill.

Three months after our wedding, Bill suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side. I became a caregiver but found time to publish two books and write poems and stories and submit them to publications. Now that Bill is gone, I have more time for that and have published a third book and am working on a fourth. I still sing but not as often.

Recently though, I became a bit of a celebrity in my home town. I entered a talent competition connected with our monthly third Thursday festival that runs during the summer months downtown. To my surprise, I won and was asked to sing the national anthem at a polo match. Andy and his wife Christina, who were visiting from Florida, managed to catch most of my performance on video. The sound you’ll hear in the background is the wind, not bombs bursting in air as you might imagine. It may take a little longer for this one to come up when you click on it. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/national%20anthem%20polo%207-26-2015.MOV

If you’re within the sound of my voice, I’ll be performing on the main stage at the next third Thursday festival in downtown Sheridan on August 20th. It’s located in front of the old Woolworth building on the corner of Main and Grinnell. My program will run from five to five thirty p.m. I’ll accompany myself on guitar instead of piano.

I’m not a super star like Olivia Newton-John or Debbie Boon, but that’s okay. I love to perform when I get a chance, and audiences love me. That’s what matters.

It’s the same with my writing. I’ve published three books with a fourth on the way, but I’m not a best-selling author. That doesn’t bother me. I love what I do, and my readers enjoy my work. As the song goes, “You don’t have to be a star.”

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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