Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Story of Susan Boyle

"Susan Boyle's story is a parable of our age. She is a singer of enormous talent, who cared for her widowed mother until she died two years ago. Susan's is a combination of ability and virtue that deserves congratulation. So how come she was treated as a laughing stock when she walked on stage for the opening heat of Britain's Got Talent 2009 on Saturday night?

The moment the reality show's audience and judging panel saw the small, shy, middle-aged woman, they started to smirk. When she said she wanted a professional singing career to equal that of Elaine Paige, the camera showed audience members rolling their eyes in disbelief. They scoffed when she told Simon Cowell, one of the judges, how she'd reached her forties without managing to develop a singing career because she hadn't had the opportunity. Another judge, Piers Morgan, later wrote on his blog that, just before she launched into 'I Dreamed a Dream', the 3000-strong audience in Glasgow was laughing and the three judges were suppressing chuckles. It was rude and cruel and arrogant. Susan Boyle from Blackburn, West Lothian, was presumed to be a buffoon. But why?

Britain's Got Talent isn't a beauty pageant. It isn't a youth opportunity scheme. It is surely about discovering untapped and unrecognised raw talent from all sections of society. And Susan Boyle has talent to burn. Such is the beauty of her voice that she had barely sung the opening bars when the applause started. She rounded off to a standing ovation and - in her naivety - began walking off the stage and had to be recalled.

Susan, now a bankable discovery, was then roundly patronised by such mega-talents as Amanda Holden and the aforementioned Morgan, who told her: "Everyone laughed at you but no-one is laughing now. I'm reeling with shock." Holden added: "It's the biggest wake-up call ever." Again, why?

The answer is that only the pretty are expected to achieve. Not only do you have to be physically appealing to deserve fame; it seems you now have to be good-looking to merit everyday common respect. If, like Susan (and like millions more), you are plump, middle-aged and too poor or too unworldly to follow fashion or have a good hairdresser, you are a non-person. I dread to think of how Susan would have left the stage if her voice had been less than exceptional. She would have been humiliated in front of 11 million viewers. It's the equivalent of being put in the stocks in front of the nation instead of the village. It used to be a punishment handed out to criminals. Now it is the fate of anyone without obvious sexual allure who dares seek opportunity.

This small, brave soul took her courage in her hands to pitch at her one hope of having her singing talent recognised, and was greeted with a communal sneer. Courage could so easily have failed her. Yet why shouldn't she sound wonderful? Not every great singer looks like Katherine Jenkins. Edith Piaf would never have been chosen to strut a catwalk. Nor would Nina Simone, nor Ella Fitzgerald.

But then ridicule is nothing new in Susan Boyle's life. She is a veteran of abuse. She was starved of oxygen at birth and has learning difficulties as a result. At school she was slow and had frizzy hair. She was bullied, mostly verbally. She told one newspaper that her classmates' jibes left behind the kind of scars that don't heal. She didn't have boyfriends, is a stranger to romance and has never been kissed. "Shame," she said. Singing was her life-raft. She lived with her parents in a four-bedroom council house and, when her father died a decade ago, she cared for her mother and sang in the church choir.

It was an unglamorous existence. She wasn't the glamorous type - and being a carer isn't a glamorous life, as the hundreds of thousands who do that most valuable of jobs will testify. Even those who start out with a beauty routine and an interest in clothes find themselves reverting to the practicality of a tracksuit and trainers. Fitness plans get interrupted and then abandoned. Weight creeps on. Carers don't often get invited to sparkling dinner parties or glitzy receptions, so smart clothes rarely make it off the hanger. Then, when a special occasion comes along, they might reach, as Susan did, for the frock they bought for a nephew's wedding. They might, as she did, compound the felony of choosing a colour at odds with her skin tone and an unflattering shape with home-chopped hair, bushy eyebrows and a face without a hint of make-up. But it is often evidence of a life lived selflessly; of a person so focused on the needs of another that they have lost sight of themselves. Is that a cause for derision or a reason for congratulation? Would her time have been better spent slimming and exercising, plucking and waxing, bleaching and botoxing? Would that have made her voice any sweeter?

Susan Boyle's mother encouraged her to sing. She wanted her to enter Britain's Got Talent. But the shy Susan hasn't been able to sing at all since her mother's death two years ago. She wasn't sure how her voice would emerge after so long a silence. Happily, it survived its rest. She is a gift to Simon Cowell and reality television. Her story is the stuff of Hans Christian Andersen: the woman plucked from obscurity, the buried talent uncovered, the transformation waiting to be wrought. It is wonderful for her, too, that her stunning voice is now recognised. A bright future beckons. Her dream is becoming reality.

Susan is a reminder that it's time we all looked a little deeper. She has lived an obscure but important life. She has been a companionable and caring daughter. It's people like her who are the unseen glue in society; the ones who day in and day out put themselves last. They make this country civilised and they deserve acknowledgement and respect. Susan has been forgiven her looks and been given respect because of her talent. She should always have received it because of the calibre of her character."

49 comments:

  1. I just cant stop watching her video. I've been googling her all day!

    I've even setup a fansite!!

    Susan Boyle FansiteCant wait to hear what she is going to sing next!!

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  2. Amazing story...and an absolutely stunning and touching video!

    Thanks for sharing this!

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  3. She made my heart ache. I want to listen only to her version of that song ever again - none other versions so far can compare. What a sweet person she seems to be...I wish her well for the rest of her life.

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  4. Thanks for stopping by, folks. This is one of the finest human nature stories I've ever seen, had me crying at the end of the video. What a great soul she is...

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  5. For me, the greatest aspect of this story is the way in which millions of people all over the world have shown love, support and solidarity towards this very ordinary but amazingly extraordinary woman.
    There's a potential Susan Boyle in every street.
    They might not have a voice like that, but for lack of confidence or family responsibilities, they've stifled their own ambitions and talents and got on with their lives uncomplainingly and anonymously.
    Thank God Susan found the courage to risk ridicule and rejection to follow her dream and may it bring her everything she desires.
    Ukeukko

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  6. I have watched Susan Boyle singing over and over and the chills don't stop. I hope she doesn't change her looks and get all glammed up because she's perfect as she is.

    Your article on her is wonderful and obviously heartfelt.

    Thank you.

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  7. Susan, now a bankable discovery, was then roundly patronised by such mega-talents as Amanda Holden...I think you are being a little harsh on Amanda. You are spot on regarding the others and the crowd, but Amanda didn't appear to me to be snickering. I thought she appeared pretty neutral right up until her jaw dropped open.

    I am correct that Amanda Holden was the same judge who was so moved during Paul Potts' audition, right? Someone at work told me it wasn't the same person, but I am pretty sure it is.

    Thanks, RR

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  8. "She has lived an obscure but important life. She has been a companionable and caring daughter. It's people like her who are the unseen glue in society; the ones who day in and day out put themselves last. They make this country civilised and they deserve acknowledgement and respect. Susan has been forgiven her looks and been given respect because of her talent. She should always have received it because of the calibre of her character."

    Hear, hear!

    We cry when we watch Susan. Why? Because her courage in the face of ridicule reminds us of all the times we weren't strong enough to stand tall, and let our own voices be silenced...

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  9. Susan's story is similar to Paul Potts who won the 2007 BGT. Paul looked dishevelled and nervous when he came out on stage. He opened his mouth and sang and the rest, as they say, is history. I agree that Susan shouldn't go all Hollywood, but a little grooming will help her confidence. I can't wait to buy her CD!!!

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  10. Her voice was angelic, her courage unwavering. It was painful to watch her stand on the stage and the audience be so unforgiving. She never flinched and from the first note, made an auditorium full of nay-sayers, into believers, wrenching around one another to hear. Breathtaking.
    -claudia vercellotti

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  11. God blessed her! I cried when I watched it! WOW! I hope her life will be filled with love and success.

    Colorado Guy

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  12. I truly believe the God has sent Susan and her voice to calm the hearts of the unemployed in the world. What a wonderful, caring human being.

    What Susan has achieved is an inspiration to those who are going through hard times and dispair. She is truly a hero, at least in my mind. May God shine on her always.

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  13. Here's why we love Susan.

    http://digg.com/d1opbc

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  14. Loved your post. I just linked to it on Twitter... hope you don't mind. :)

    Thanks so much for writing it. Thought-provoking and beautifully articulated.

    Well-done!

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  15. I posted a comment earlier thinking you wrote this, and I came back to re-read the post and realized it was not written by you. You might consider taking it down as someone right above this comment has suggested.

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  16. Beyond expectations, for one to shine so brightly, to go beyond the human experience and rise above in song! My gratitude to you Ms. Boyle for lifting my spirit by the beauty of your voice and charm.

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  17. Thank you all for posting your comments, I'm pleased the article made an impression of you, as it, and she, did to me. Please understand, though, that I am NOT the author of this article, so deserve no praise for it. It's posted here under the US Fair USE Copyright Law, for your enjoyment. Thanks again for stopping by.

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  18. Thanks for your blog comments.

    Totally agree.

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  19. Good post, well said. I had tears in my eyes when I watched her sing and had I known about her background, her mother, I would have cried more. Glad I didn't, as I was watching it at work. As a 47-year-old myself not ready to give up certain goals, I appreciate her courage. I hope she'll have a happy and successful career - and find love, too.

    I'm an American looking to hear what others are saying about this woman and her performance, which is how I found your blog.

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  20. The voice of an angel, simple as that. I wish her well.

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  21. Yes. Absolutely and unoquivocably yes.

    God bless you, Susan, in your comings and goings and all that you do.

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  22. i thought she was lovely -REAL, sweetly sassy. I wish she lived next door to me. i thank her for sharing her gifts. i wish her joy.

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  23. What a great story, I saw her on the news last night and have watched that video about a million times.

    This is an excellent post as well. Really touching story...

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  24. Thanks for posting this. Everything was so well put and true.

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  25. I've watched her prformance twice now and cried both times. I hope she finally gets the recognition she so fully deserves.

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  26. Very well expressed - wonderful article. The world needed Susan Boyle. We certainly can be a cruel lot and this was a wake-up call that should not go unheeded.

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  27. Great post! I am amazed by her and no matter what she looks like, her voice makes her an angel in my eyes.

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  28. We are all too quick to judge, but it sure is nice to see this life lesson evolve right before your eyes…

    Thank you Susan Boyle... Knock Them Dead!!!!

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  29. And now, I am crying again. Thank you for such a thoughtful reminder of the wonderful work Susan has been doing all of these years.

    I think that we all relate to her in some way - we may have been bullied, or given up our lives for others, or been too shy to share our talent.

    She is an inspiration.

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  30. Thank you thank you for posting this. I so rarely buy the herald and as I dont watch the show I rarely watch any TV these days so I would never have see this. I have copied the whole thing for my other blog (and included the link like you did to keep the blog trolls happy, how rude is that anon personage ;)) I also cried, as these last weeks I have been virtually house bound taking care of my 88 year old mother, i am 48 and have no family of my own, I am watching my hair grey and my dreams wither and being told by my older sister who lives with my other three siblings in New Zealand, (over the years they all emigrated) to *put her in a home* reading the article and watching her sing has inspired me to keep going, we are the invisible ones in this country where the elderly do not count for much..I could go on and on but I wont bore you, thank you so much for this I would probably have not come across it if you had not posted it here, I am sure the scots will support her every step of the way now , I am hoping that she will be championed in style by us all.

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  31. This lovely, amazingly talented woman may be the shining symbol for a reawakened world. Through her example, we may be finally emerging from the manufactured ideas of how we should be living, what we should consider of value, and most importantly, what each one of us can offer the world if we only have the courage, and if only the world can be confident of its own humanity.

    I look forward to many more Susan Boyles in the world, and thank the world for its innate kindness.

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  32. Thank-you CoyotePrime
    I love your posts; they are a perfect mix of poetry, thoughtful articles,
    commentary, and photographs.

    You do an outstanding job.

    May the whiners leave, with my blessing, too.

    randy

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  33. Randy, thank you so much for the kind words. I try to make it interesting, since some of the topics here can get pretty heavy, mixing things up seems to help a bit. I truly appreciate your kind words, and am glad you're here.

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  34. I want to sincerely thank all of you for posting, and sharing your very personal feelings with us all. For a moment we let our guard down, drop our shields, and reveal the beautiful human spirit in us all. As I've posted on this blog, we are "All One Tribe- the Human Tribe..." Your kind sharing here proves that, once again. Thank you all.

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  35. Spiral Dancer, you made me cry at your courage and determination. Despite adversity, like Susan Boyle, you carry on doing the right thing, despite the personal cost. You are not forgotten...

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  36. You're every bit as arrogant as the audience. No one, no one, expects such a voice to pop out of nowhere. That's what makes fairy tales "fairy tales"; there's something magical and unpredictable, against all odds.

    We have seen countless smug, self-assured and self-proclaimed "talents" fall flat on their faces on American Idol and other talent shows. Why should Susan Boyle be different?

    Eff you and your arrogant attitude. You felt the same way, and if you deny it, you're a liar.

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  37. "The LORD does not look at the things humans look at. Humans looks at the outward appearance, but GOD looks at the heart."- 1 Samuel 16:1-13

    It's a good thing the one who created ALL of us in His image is patient. And believe you me, He also CHOOSES "what is nonsense in the world to make the wise feel ashamed. God chose what is weak in the world to make the strong feel ashamed."-
    1 Corinthians 1:27.

    Let us all learn an important lesson from the success of this truly BEAUTIFUL lady Susan Boyle.

    sincerely,

    vaden cox

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  38. Xmeromotu, your attack attitude, ridiculous accusations and trollish demeanor are not welcome here. NO ONE has displayed any kind of arrogance or condescension towards Ms. Boyle, nor will I allow you to act like a self-righteous vigilante chasing phantoms that only exist within your own sad little tortured soul. Take a long look in the mirror, and adjust your miserable attitude. If that's not possible, keep it to yourself, and by all means never visit here again.

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  39. Vaden Cox, thank you for your insightful post, and sharing your thoughts with us.

    My apologies to all for the outrageous and inappropriate conduct and post of Xmeromotu. It's obvious that he has some serious personal issues to work through...

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  40. I'm confused. How can the person who wrote this:

    Clinton Pittman (xmeromotu) on Twitter:
    xmeromotu "If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone ... will benefit from our peace."

    possible be the same one who was so angry and
    inappropriate here? Clinton, pull yourself together. If you can write that, then act it, live it. You're better than the post you left...

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  41. And have you heard her sing "Cry Me a River," which she recorded on an album for charity 10 years ago? Better fasten your seatbelts tightly!!!! OMG!

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheUberDeeJay

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  42. I don't think my heart ever felt so good! What an amazing video, and the touching story behind it!I was overwhelmed!!Thank you,Cobus.

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  43. Now maybe people will realize how the people of Hollywood and all celebrity are not the ones to be "worshipped". Beauty does not a person make. Susan Boyle is liable to be eaten alive and I pray she has friends who will protect her from the sort of savages of exploitation the led to the downfall of souls such as Marilyn Monroe. Where there is profound good, one will find profound evil.
    God bless you, Susan. I do believe your Mother and Father are beaming today!

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  44. I watched the video of the 12 year old Shaheen Jafargholi on Saturday's BGT, he's good but Susan Boyle has got the voice that can't be beat, she still has my vote. She's a very lovely person! You Go Susan!

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  45. Nice article.
    I hope someday her relationship with her siblings will appear.
    I had a similar experience of taking care of my Mom and living in the house she raised us in. She recently passed away. I'm also single and a little older than Susan. I was also teased alot as a kid and probably had depression (I cried alot).
    Susan is an inspiration to me.

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  46. This is why we say "Never Judge a book from its covers"

    Truely inspirational lady, and I really admire her courage. I think we can all learn a lesson from her.

    I personally believe she is very beautiful as her good nature can be seen from her appearance.

    I pray she will have happiness, love, good health and peace for the rest of her life.

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    Susan Magdalane Boyle (born 1 April 1961) is a Scottish singer who came to international public attention when she appeared as a contestant on reality TV programme Britain's Got Talent on 11 April 2009, singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables. Her first album was released in November 2009 and debuted as the number one best-selling CD on charts around the globe.

    Global interest in Boyle was triggered by the contrast between her powerful voice and her plain appearance on stage. The juxtaposition of the audience's first impression of her with the standing ovation she received during and after her performance led to an international media and Internet response. Within nine days of the audition, videos of Boyle — from the show, various interviews and her 1999 rendition of "Cry Me a River" — had been watched over 100 million times. Despite the sustained media interest she later finished in second place in the final of the show behind dance troupe Diversity.

    Boyle's first album, I Dreamed a Dream, was released on 23 November 2009 and has become Amazon's best-selling album in pre-sales. According to Billboard, "The arrival of I Dreamed a Dream ... marks the best opening week for a female artist's debut album since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991." The first single taken from the album is a cover of the Jagger/Richards song "Wild Horses".

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