Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jackie Wilson's Melisma - 20 notes for the word 'for'

'The extent to which the music is integrated with the literal meaning in soul is apparent in some of its basic stylistic conventions, the call and response structure, for instance, where a phrase from the lead vocalist - which may not even take a verbal shape - is as often echoed by the band as by other singers. Or the distinctive use of melisma - the concentration of several notes into one syllable - by soul performers. The effect of this technique is often to give the impression that the singer is none too sure that the words exist which could adequately convey the power of what he is feeling. When Jackie Wilson packs more than twenty notes into the word "for" in his version "Danny Boy", the literal meaning of the song is virtually superseded' (Ian Hoare, Mighty mights spade and whitey: soul lyrics and black-white crosscurrents, in The Soul Book, edited by Ian Hoare, London: 1975)

Check out the closing bars of this song for the example given - 20 notes for the word 'for':


bat020 said...

see also this recent post from Robin @ It's Her Factory on melisma as a signifier of blackness http://bit.ly/iicnhB

Anonymous said...

this is not his first single. This version was from the mid-60's. He first recorded Danny Boy when he was about 15 or 16 years old in 1950. However this is NOT that version.