I wonder if Normblog - currently on the loose in New York - plans to go along to Woody Allen's second home, the Cafe Carlyle, to hear the sublime Barbara Cook? She'd be worth every cent of the Trump-size cover charge.

Stephen Holden is one of Cook's greatest fans. Watching her latest show, he finds himself despairing over the irresistible rise of that new national institution, "American Idol":

I thought back to the Broadway anthology unleashed on the April 5 edition of "American Idol," whose nine contestants struggled to articulate fragments of songs like "The Impossible Dream," "People," "My Funny Valentine" and "Hello, Young Lovers." The paradox of this toxic singing contest, which is the rough equivalent of the old "Ed Sullivan Show" in suggesting the median level of mass musical taste, is that it has the power to canonize songs, which its clueless judges then go on to treat as stunts in a gymnastic competition that rewards crude physical prowess.

To listen to Simon Cowell dismiss the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic "Hello, Young Lovers" as a "mind-numbingly boring" song that belongs on "a washing powder commercial in 1965" was to hear an ill-willed philistine sneering through a cloud of his own noxious vapors... The third judge, Randy Jackson, doesn't know the difference between a dude and a "dogg" (his two favorite words).

Let's not kid ourselves: the ascendance of "American Idol," and its turning of music into sports, signals the end of American popular song as we know it. Its ritual slaughter of songs allows no message to be carried, no wisdom to be communicated, other than the screamed and belted song of the self.

Ms. Cook, who gives master classes in how to sing and tell the truth, could talk herself blue in the face to these people and never be understood.

|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/04/great-voice-i-wonder-if-normblog.html|||4/14/2005 02:10:00 pm|||||||||