I dreamed a dream –
The fairy-tale launching of Susan Boyle
by Janet Lane
Who hasn’t heard of Susan Boyle, the homely woman with the angelic voice who inspired the world? She stood before the Britain’s Got Talent judges, enduring their eye-rolling and other visible expressions of dismissal. Patient and gracious, she answered their questions, revealing her age (good grief, 47!), the fact she’d never been given a chance with her singing, and most of all her dream, to sing with the likes of Elaine Paige, a famous English singer. That brought another round of cruel eye-rolls from judges and the audience as well.
Then she sang, and the rest truly is history. Her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables gave me goosebumps, and I didn’t hear it live – like hundreds of millions of other people, I saw this remarkable audition on YouTube.
I needed to hear more. I listened to her Cry Me a River, and I saw her second performance on Britain’s Got Talent when she sang Memories from Cats, one of my lifetime favorite songs. More goosebumps. Her voice is, quite simply, fantastic, but it’s also her interpretation of the songs, the life and passion she gives them. She delivers, and she delivers with a straightforward honesty I’d almost forgotten.
Contrast her performance with the current video pop star kings and queens. Always aware of where the camera is, they “act” their way through songs, delivering carefully rehearsed expressions and movements meant to convince you that their songs are filled with the passion of the lyrics and essence of the song. We know it’s not passion. It’s contrived.
Not so with Boyle. She simply sings.
In addition to her unaffected delivery and her angelic voice, she represents hope for anyone who possesses a special talent and strives to succeed. It’s a tale as old as time itself, embraced more passionately in the United States than anywhere else in the world: Cinderella. Rags to Riches. Or Rocky Balboa, from downtrodden to triumphant.
Susan Boyle touches all singers who have hope in their hearts, all singers who have a dream. By extension, she touches all people who possess artistic talent. She shows us that Cinderella can win. J. K. Rowling did much the same thing with Harry Potter, climbing from welfare-supported obscurity to dizzying fame and success.
Boyle is exceptional. Youngest of four brothers and six sisters, she never left home. She stayed long after her siblings left, sacrificing her own pursuits by taking care of her 91-year-old mother until her death in 2007. Boyle tried to do honor to her talent, learning from a voice coach, attending Edinburgh Acting School, and spending her entire savings to produce a professional demo tape which she distributed to record companies, radio talent competition and local and national TV. She endured such mocking in 1995 at a local talent competition called My Kind of People that she almost backed out of her audition with Britain’s Got Talent.
Hard to imagine now, isn’t it? She came this close to not doing it. She was too old. Not pretty enough. Had tried and tried and failed. Why subject herself to more public humiliation?
Her mother believed in her, that’s why. When it came down to something balancing on those scales we use to make our decisions, her mother’s faith in her, her mother’s urging her to try Britain’s Got Talent, tipped the scales and made her keep that audition date.
There are many fascinating aspects of Susan Boyle’s meteoric rise to fame. As writers and artists, this is her biggest gift to us, a message. A reminder: Thank the person who steadfastly believes in your dream. At times when your faith falters, trust that person’s faith, as Susan Boyle did.
You have a dream.