One of my very favorite Stephen Sondheim songs is I'm Still Here from the musical Follies. I performed in a local community theater production of Follies but I had the very small role of Emily, one of the former Follies girls, and sang one duet but no "big" number. I was so jealous of the gal who got to sing this song because it is a real showstopper. Starts off quietly and builds to a roar. If you don't know it, the song expresses the concept of being a survivor. The character is older, retired, and no longer a working actress. No matter what she's been through, "plush velvet sometimes, sometimes just pretzels and beer", she's still kickin'. Sondheim likes this theme and uses it a lot, more than once in this show and in others. Being Alive from Company comes to mind off the top of my head but there are more - do some research if you are so moved. Here's a link to one version of I'm Still Here. You can also look for Shirley McLaine's rendition from the movie Postcards from the Edge (which is well worth watching for those who like mother-daughter relationship movies, but I digress.)
I was in my 30's when I performed in that show, playing someone in their late 60's. Little did I know that 30 years later I'd be thinking about this song and finding inspiration in it.
The last two weeks have been pretty rough for me. Seems like the fatigue has just done me in and consequently, everything else goes downhill. Walking has become a heroic effort. Bladder and other unseemly bathroom problems abound. Haven't really been able to get to work and believe me, I've tried. I have just one week until my angioplasty and I keep telling myself, "I'm Still Here!" Need to hold on and get through the drive to Tampa, having lunch with some Facebook friends who had the procedure done already (looking forward to that but still exhausting); get through navigating an unknown airport to pick up Zack, get through spending four days 24/7 with Zack which will hopefully not be too stressful. (My son and I love each other more than anything but it often would not appear so to people who don't know us! I'm very grateful that he wants to be with me through this. It's a sacrifice for him to be away from the ER for 5 days. But we both are very opinionated and when these opinions don't mesh, watch out!) But again, I digress.
Carol Burnett describes the song as being about survival, and it is. But I think it's more about resiliency - similar but not the same. You can survive an ordeal but be forever horribly changed by it. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back. To survive, yes, but also come out better, stronger, determined to keep going. That is what this song says to me. I am determined to be resilient. Right now it's tough, but I have no doubt that in a few weeks things will change. Watch out world - I can't belt a song to save my life, but after my procedure I just may even post my own YouTube Video to let you all know that I'm Still Here!
Good times and bum times, I've seen em all and my dear,I'm still here. Plush velvet sometimes, Sometimes just pretzels and beer But I'm here. I've stuffed the dailies in my shoes,Strummed ukuleles, sung the blues Seen all my dreams disappear But I'm here.
I've slept in shanties, Guest of the WPA But I'm here Danced in my scanties, Three bucks a night was the pay But I'm here I've stood on breadlines with the best Watched while the headlines did the rest In the Depression, was I depressed? Nowhere near. I met a big financier And I'm here.
I've been through Gandhi, Windsor and Wally's affair And I'm here Amos and Andy, Mahjong and platinum hair And I'm here I've been through Abie's Irish Rose, Five Dionne Babies,Major Bowes. Had heebie-jeebies For Beebe's bathysphere I lived through Brenda Frazier And I'm here.
I've gotten through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover Gee, that was fun and a half When you've been through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover Anything else is a laugh.
I've been through Reno I've been through Beverly Hills And I'm here Reefers and vino Rest cures, religion, and pills And I'm here Been called a pinko commie tool Got through it stinko by my pool I should have gone to an acting school That seems clear Still someone said, "She's sincere." So I'm here.
Black sable one day Next day it goes into hock But I'm here Top billing Monday, Tuesday, you're touring in stock But I'm here First you're another sloe-eyed vamp,Then someone's mother, Then you're camp Then you career from career To career I'm almost through my memoirs, And I'm here.
I've gotten through "Hey lady, aren't you whoozis? Wow, what a looker you were." Or better yet, "Sorry, I though you were whoozis. What ever happened to her?"
Good times and bum times I've seen them all and my dear I'm still here Plush velvet sometimes Sometimes just pretzels and beer But I'm here. I've run the gamut A to Z Three cheers and damn it C'est la vie. I got through all of last year And I'm here Lord knows at least I was there But I'm here Look who's here I'm still here!