I have managed to find a story that is even less interesting than Lewis Hamilton’s entirely predictable win in yesterday’s British Grand Prix: the talent show judge, amateur dancer and occasional singer, Alesha Dixon, got the pre race National Anthem words wrong. I was less concerned that she got the words wrong than I was about how she sang Britain’s grisly dirge that passes for our national anthem, long, drawn out and with an absurd American accent. “Gad save our Queen!” she warbled.
Dixon is but the latest in a long line of British singers who does not sing in her native accent. It is something I never quite understand.
My first recollection of British American-speak was in the 1960s when, as a child I heard the tunes of the popular beat combo outfit the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger, the lead singer, covered up his public school background by speaking in mockney at a speed which suggested he was stoned out of his mind, but when he sang it was an entirely different matter. “Ah can’t get no satisfaction, ah can’t get no satisfaction, cuz ah tra an ah tra an’ ah tra an ah tra, ah cain’t get no…”
Meanwhile, the Beatles sang songs with English accents which probably explains why they sounded different from anything that had ever been heard before. Classics like Hey Jude, All You Need Is Love and Hello, Goodbye did not feel in any way tarnished by not giving them an American dialect.
The 1970s saw the arrival of the likes of Elton John from Pinner and Rod Stewart from Highgate, although you would never have guessed it from the way they sang. Elton made some wonderful tunes – Madman Across The Water remains one of my favourite records by anyone (featuring the wonderful Tannih Dancah) – but he did insist in singing as if Pinner was somewhere in the mid Southern states of America. Similarly, Rod, who was previously grounded in the blues music from the USA, belted out Maggie May with the same bizarre dialect (“Weck up Maggeh, Ah thing ah got sum t’ seh t’ yuh.”)
These are hardly unique examples. Everyone from Jamiroquai and Joss Stone through to just about every contestant on the X Factor and The Voice has followed the sing-like-an-American pattern.
I find it quite refreshing when artists don’t. The Beatles never bothered and the likes of Chas and Dave and the Proclaimers sang far closer to their roots, sounding like they talk. There’s no need to sound like an American. It won’t greatly affect the quality of the song and how its performed and it will certainly help me, given that I now obsess about English people not singing like English people every time I hear such a record.
I mean, good luck, Alesha and all that. I saw her on Strictly a couple of years ago and she seemed like a nice girl with a fair modicum of talent. I am not that bothered that you cocked up the national anthem by getting the words wrong, but I would have preferred it if you tried to sound like Alesha and not some pound shop Mariah Carey.