Aug 062010

There are times when I really wish I could put on a good American accent here. Like at the Philadelphia Parking Authority the other day – I’m pretty sure the woman could have understood what I wanted if she’d just been a little more patient. But some kind of invisible wall descended between us when she heard my accent.

When my son was a toddler, he used to enjoy singing ‘Oh what a beautiful morning’ from the show Oklahoma. And the weird thing was, although he was British, he sang it with an American accent. How come?  So I was fascinated to read here that an ‘merican accent might be the default setting for singing.

Ha! Well who’d have thought! The next time I need guest parking permits, perhaps I just need to burst into song!

For an accent story that always makes me giggle, see Chris’ comment on buying paint in the US that he posted here.

 Posted by at 6:12 am

  13 Responses to “Singing in ‘merican”

  1. I always do that song in a dodgy, deliberately over the top American accent too. And you can’t do The Rolling Stones in karaoke without copying their weird London/ American mix. Bird on a Wire by Leonard Cohen is much improved by singing it in a Dick Van Dyck cockney accent though

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  3. This struck a chord, & made me laugh a lot!

    When I was younger I used to sing in bands, and people would sometimes ask me why I sang with an American accent…

    I’d always assumed it was because I grew up listening to the sounds of Motown and Stax & I’d picked up my singing style from that, as I’d never set out to do it consciously; but if there is a default accent for singing, then maybe that would explain it.

    I’ve noticed that song genres seem to have different vareties of American accent attached to them as well – for example, I always seem to find my “singing accent” gravitating south towards Nashville if I’m singing a country & western song… 🙂


  4. Hey Alex, I’d love to hear a recording of you singing Leonard Cohen with Dick Van Dyke cockney accent. Ha! I reckon you could have an itunes hit there.

    Oh Sue, perhaps we could make that a trio. But before we throw your ‘sounds-I-grew-up-listening-to’ theory out of the window, I’d like to know, do any Americans ever find themselves singing with a British accent? Let’s ask:
    Americans – do you ever hear a British twang to your voice when you’re singing something like the Beatles perhaps, or maybe Noel Coward?

  5. How can it be a the default setting! This is outrageous!! what about “my old man, said follow the van”, “knees up mother brown” and in another way “waltzing matilda”!!!
    Which reminds me of an old puzzle/riddle – what was the name of the swagman?
    ps thank you for the link vicki.

  6. Oh a puzzle, what fun! Well the lyrics seem to be attributed to a Banjo Patterson. But it looks it was an old tune and had a lot of lyrics written to it.
    But the name of the swagman??? Ah, just found it. The swag man was called Andy!!! 🙂
    But I’m not going to tell anyone else why. They’ll have to work it out for themselves. Ha!
    Thanks for that one, Chris.

  7. Did you find it in the sense “i worked it out ” or as in “i googled”?
    Though clearly both are acceptable and i offer no reproach.

  8. There is a scene in The Commitments when, at an early rehearsal, the backing vocalists sing Mustang Sally with their normal Dublin accents till the manager complains and tells them to use an American accent.

  9. Oh, I had to google it, Chris.
    Should we let folks in?

  10. Oh nice one Shaun – I’d forgotten that scene.

  11. That’s such a weird observation as I’ve constantly thought the same myself. You hear groups like Garbage sing and are shocked when they have such strong non-American accents off stage. The only time I really notice the accent is in more talked rap like The Streets.

  12. Funny, that reminds me of a neighbour I had from Croatia many moons ago, she obviously grew up in the cold war days and didn’t have English at school. But she was a big Elvis fan and could sing along with him on record – it used to sound pretty ‘Merican! so, I’d say songs are so good for so many things.
    Any of you sang along with Joan Baez on her Gracias a la vida record? The De colores one in particular, a great way to improve any knowledge of Spanish you might have.

  13. I always thought English (or, I suppose, RP) was the default accent for singing. Although I do have to agree it depends on the style of music. It always seemed to me that people tend to de-emphasize the ‘R’s while singing, and I’ve always identified non-rhoticity more with English accents than anything else.
    One should bear in mind that I’m from Oklahoma, possibly the most rhotic part of the US. ‘R’s tend to be extremely sharp around here.

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