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Sunday, November 15, 2015

First Person versus Third Person

The jury is out (forever). Suit yourself, but most agents and publishers prefer you use the third person. This week I thought I’d have a little fun with the choice by summoning and then observing the travails of another medium.

Back in 1948, The Mills Brothers recorded Gloria in third person using the mellow, sweet tones the greatest generation came to love them for. The song reached 17th on the charts for the year.
In 1954, The Cadillacs recorded their own version of Gloria (in the ever evolving doo wop) retooling the lyrics to use first person. It reached 6th on the charts for the year as the baby boomers began to take over the music scene. My mom and dad would take a couple years yet to get used to this new music, but then, they got with it.
The first version inspired a few covers but the Cadillac’s take was recorded by more than thirty groups. Billy Joel was asked in 1996 what the attraction was when he added it to his River of Dreams album. He said when he was young and his buddies crossed over to Jones beach, through the tunnel, they harmonized a magical version of Gloria. He went on to say that if a doo-wop band wanted to prove they could sing, they’d belt out Gloria. It’s challenging, with a multi-octave vocal, low bass and complex harmonies. 'Gloria' is a girl's name, but the name also has religious connotations, and there is something spiritual and uplifting about rendering or listening to it. This love song leaves the listener with a feeling of pure devotion, as it should be for anything well written in romance with a celebration of love. God is love and when you write of love you honor the Creator.

Listening to these two versions of Gloria will not decide the issue of whether to use first or third person, but you may find it food for thought.  

The Mills Brothers, Gloria, 1948


The Cadillacs, Gloria, 1954

1 comment:

  1. Bob:
    What an interesting discussion about first and third person in music. I have only one romance novel in first person, but all my mysteries (except EYEWITNESS) are that way.