A Curious Choice For An Iconic Moment
Admittedly, this post will show my age. I was eating lunch yesterday and going through my phone when I saw that someone named Josh Kaufman had been chosen to sing (Back Home Again in) Indiana along with the Indiana Children’s Choir, at this year’s Indianapolis 500. My first reaction was “who?”
So I went to Wikipedia to find that, contrary to the press release stating that Kaufman is a native Hoosier, he is actually a native Floridian, who moved with his mother to Blacksburg, VA. Apparently, he has been living in Indianapolis for the past five or six years. His claim to fame is that he won The Voice in May of 2014.
Most that know me will not be surprised to learn that I’ve never seen The Voice. Susan watches it from time to time, but I don’t. About ten years ago, I watched a couple of seasons of American Idol. That probably fulfills my quota for watching reality singing contests for the next thirty years or so.
Knowing that Susan was more familiar with The Voice than I was and that she is much more up on pop-culture than I am, I texted her to ask if she knew who Josh Kaufman was. She didn’t.
So, I went to You Tube to see who this guy was and what kind of voice it took to win The Voice. I was hoping to come upon several videos featuring someone with a booming baritone voice. I wasn’t looking for a Jim Nabors clone, but someone with a voice that commanded more stage presence than last year’s a cappella group; Straight, No Chaser.
Knowing that everyone was expecting me to despise anyone who wasn’t Jim Nabors, I did my best to give them a chance last year. But in all honesty, their performance in that setting left me cold. It might sound good on the stage of an auditorium, but in the giant outdoor setting that IMS provided, I felt something got lost in their performance. It just seemed a little…light.
So not knowing who Josh Kaufman was, I had my hopes up that this would be a powerful voice that could belt out that iconic song. After listening to a few samples on You Tube, I was underwhelmed. The best way I can describe Mr. Kaufman’s voice was that it was a soft and airy version of Michael Bolton. If you knew me in the early nineties, you’ll know that was no compliment. Michael Bolton’s voice made me change the radio station quicker than any other. He sounded like Harry Caray wailing in pain with laryngitis. So imagine a softer version of that on Race Morning. Here’s a sampling of Josh Kaufman’s work.
Doug Boles and his staff have done an absolutely tremendous job in promoting the upcoming 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. From the special tickets to events like the 100-day countdown at Midnight on the Yard of Bricks – this event has had a special feel to it, even more so than the 2011 100-year celebration. And it is showing up in ticket sales, as this year’s race appears headed for the first sellout in over twenty years. So I have high praise for everything Boles has done up to this point.
With that in mind, I guess you could expect a clunker here and there. It’s just a shame that it came with what is my favorite part of the pre-race ceremonies,
Last year was a firing squad for anyone stepping up to the mic to sing that song. It’s like being the coach to follow John Wooden, Bear Bryant or Vince Lombardi. It’s a no-win situation to follow a legend. Anyone, no matter how great they were, would have a hard time being accepted.
Had it been last year or next year, I may be OK with someone I had never heard of with a wispy high-pitched voice. But this is the milestone 100th Running. I expected more.
Saving the day may be the Indiana Children’s Choir. Presumably, they will back up the winner of The Voice. I think a much better choice would be to have them perform alone. I really like this version and would be fine if this was what we got on Race Day.
I’m not sure I understand the reasoning behind this choice. Were they turned down by every Holiday Inn lounge singer within a fifty-mile radius of the track? Was this the deal they made when they got Blake Shelton for Legend’s Day; that they had to take a former winner of The Voice to perform my favorite part of the day, except for the race itself? Were they limiting their choices to Indiana residents? Aside from last year’s Straight, No Chaser there have been only a few Hoosiers tabbed to sing the pre-race song. Nabors was no Hoosier. Nor was James Melton, who was the first to perform and sang it five times between 1946 and 1954. Dinah Shore was from Tennessee and Mel Tormé was from Chicago.
Besides, I’m not sure you can call a thirty-nine year old who moved to Indianapolis five or six years ago a real Hoosier. Since Kaufman currently lives in Indianapolis, maybe IMS figured they could save on airfare and hotel. I wonder how many Race Day performers have slept in their own bed the night before the race.
The reaction on Twitter and Facebook seems to be mixed. Many obviously had no idea who Josh Kaufman was, like me. Others applauded the selection, but many of those were cheering the fact that the Indiana Children’s Choir would be part of the act.
I will keep an open mind and hope that I am pleasantly surprised. I have no choice. It’s not like they’re going to go back and uninvite him simply because a grumpy overaged blogger sitting at a keyboard in Nashville doesn’t care for the pick. I’m having a hard time imagining how his voice will mesh with the children’s choir, but perhaps I’ll be proven wrong. It’s certainly happened before. In the meantime, I’m putting in my request for next year’s singer right now – TV personality Mike Rowe. Now, he can sing!