February 25, 2008

An Open Fan Letter to John Lloyd Young

February 25th, 2008

By Charles Alexander

Thanks for a wonderful Lincoln Center show, John. I expected to enjoy it. I didn’t expect to be totally blown away.

Frankly, I figured it would be the mellow ’60s, Bacharach-type stuff like the Barry Manilow album. I mean nobody even attempts the most challenging ’60s singing anymore except for the casts of Jersey Boys. And at the play you have to wonder how much of the sound is the product of Broadway’s technical wizards.

Boy, was I wrong about what you were going to do in your solo debut. From the first riffs of “Lightnin’ Strikes,” I knew this was the real deal in all its power and glory. And then “Cara Mia”? I knew you were going for the gold. How thrilling to see that you have not retreated from the falsetto but have embraced and mastered it. With your incredible voice, you have all by yourself revived a very popular style of virtuoso singing that was wiped out–except for Barry Gibb–by the likes of Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, who, while marvelous in their own ways, are what I would call anti-singers.

Is this a fucking time machine or what? While your show had terrific variety, from Sam Cooke to Santana, it managed to include all my very favorite hit-the-stratosphere singers: not only Frankie but Lou Christie, Jay Black, Del Shannon and Gene Pitney. And, yes, I admit to loving Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, even if their lyrics were, as you said in one of your many deft laugh lines, “disgusting.” At least you chose “Young Girl,” in which the guy is trying to be good, instead of “Lady Willpower,” in which the guy was up to no good. I swear to you that before the encores I turned to my wife Cathy and whispered, “All that’s left is Roy Orbison.” Whereupon you launched into “Crying.” It was as if the contents of my brain had been firewired to your lips. What nerve you have to do that show. What talent to pull it off so beautifully.

Of course, after conquering all the great male singers, you finished with “When Will I See You Again?” by The Three Degrees, hitting all the same notes. What’s next? Whitney Houston? This could get out of control.

I really hope you take this show on the road so everyone can enjoy it. As I’ve written about the first night I saw Jersey Boys, your solo turn was a religious experience. I thank you from the bottom of my soul. Early in the show I knew for sure that you weren’t the product of Broadway sound wizards but the genuine second coming of Frankie Valli. By the end of the show I realized that you are the second coming of half of the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame. Best of luck in everything you do.

A fan for life,


  1. Hi Charles!

    “You Said it All”…Straight from the Heart!


    Comment by newjerseylasagna — February 25, 2008 @ 12:47 am

  2. Dear Charles, What a beautiful letter to John, I just know he will love reading it. John was so amazing last night, and I can’t wait for his next adventure, so I can be there for that too. We love you John, and we will be waiting right here..Thank you Charles..Jody

    Comment by Jody Cardillo — February 25, 2008 @ 1:14 am

  3. Mr.Alexander says it all in his glowing commentary on your show. I have been fortunate enough to see the first NY preview of Jersey Boys, attend opening night and over the last two years celebrate every “special occasion” by bringing family and friends to experience the show. After seeing the first preview I sent you an e-mail telling you that the show was so much better than expected. I thought it would be great but the way you made it your own far exceeded my expectations. I was lucky enough to get tickets to your 8:30 performance on Saturday. Once again you took all those wonderful, well known and time enduring songs and made them your own! Your solo debut was phenomenal!!! I have not stopped raving about it. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for your next show. Thanks once again for a wonderful evening.


    Comment by Holly Mcelroy — February 25, 2008 @ 5:40 am

  4. Charles. What a brillian essay on John. Everything we, his fans, could have expressed you have so eloguently done so for us. John has gone above and beyond what we could have imagined. As I wrote to him yesterday ” the reality was so much better than the exectation. He was brilliant.

    Comment by Marlene Cetrulo — February 25, 2008 @ 6:21 am

  5. Charles. Your essay was everything we, his fans, could have said about John,. He went above and beyond anything we could have expected. What a magical night it was. As I wrote in a letter to John yesterday, “The reality was so much better than the expectation. He was magical once again.

    Comment by Marcetrulo — February 25, 2008 @ 6:25 am

  6. A sincere and sensitive tribute to John which he so richly deserves. I have been a fan of John’s
    since the previews and predicted then and told him he would win a Tony. My husband and I had the pleasure of being at the Tony’s which is a memory we will always cherish. I have no doubt that the right opportunity wll be forthcoming shortly and he can look forward to a rewarding, remarkable and successful career. We loved the Concert and how John performed to perfection, as well as the ambience and atmosphere of the Allen Room. We wouldn’t have missed it for the World! Magnifico, John! Looking forward to more of the same soon!

    Comment by Lois Halpern — February 25, 2008 @ 7:18 am

  7. Wow Charles, YOU blew Me away with this letter. It must have indeed been a special night. Thank you for sharing your (very heartfelt) feelings with the rest of us.

    Comment by Catherine — February 25, 2008 @ 7:52 am

  8. You hit it out of the park for all of us Charles with this open letter.

    Only a singer with such depth as a person could take these songs and interpret them as John did Saturday night. A balladeer who uses the falsetto for effect, not exageration.

    Thank you John for a truly magical evening of song.

    Comment by David Cace — February 25, 2008 @ 8:05 am

  9. I was unable to come to the show because I’m in California but I feel like I was there just by reading your letter. Oh how I wish I could have been there. It sounds like JLY did all of my favorites. John I believe is unstoppable and may he enjoy much success in all that he chooses to do. Atta boy John

    Comment by gail drouillard — February 25, 2008 @ 9:15 am

  10. Charles: Consider yourself tightly hugged by me! If I hadn’t been at both shows, your piece would have put me right there. Your brilliant articulation speaks for all of us. After reading your magnificent words, I started hearing “What A Difference A Day Makes,” of course, sung by John Lloyd Young in my head! Thanks for making the start of this day a continual high from Saturday night.

    Comment by grace ruggiero — February 25, 2008 @ 9:33 am

  11. It was a pleasure meeting you on Sat nite at John’s concert. You hit every point in your fan/love letter to John. I went through every emotion during that concert because of the memories it evoked and John’s interpretation of each song. When I arrived home on Sunday nite, my husband and I went through the play list and sang and talked about each song. Sitting in the Allen Room and looking out the window, with the trees shimmering with snow, the NY skyline and the moon rising over John was magical and I can close my eyes and see that even now.

    Comment by Gayle Kamen-Weinstein — February 25, 2008 @ 9:48 am

  12. Boy did you hit the nail on the head! That was a great tribute to John.

    Comment by Lenora Antunes — February 25, 2008 @ 9:55 am

  13. Charles,

    Thank you for so beautifully expressing how so many of feel about John’s spectacular concerts on Saturday.Your eloquent, heartfelt words took me right back to those sublime 75 minutes. Great to see you there, and meet Cathy as well.


    Comment by Pamela — February 25, 2008 @ 10:45 am

  14. Fabulous letter, Charles. It was a perfect evening in the perfect setting. I couldn’t have imagined anything better.

    Comment by Melissa — February 25, 2008 @ 11:13 am

  15. Charles,

    Your professional expertise and background are of the highest credibility. Perhaps, you could mentor someone who obviously does not meet your qualifications as a reviewer, an entertainment historian with a wealth of knowledge and a true, kind gentlemen.

    Congratulations, Charles on expressing what really did happen at JLY’s debut performance at LIncoln Center. We were all blown away by him!


    Comment by irene eizen — February 25, 2008 @ 1:05 pm

  16. Charles, I logged on just now for the first time today to your beautiful letter. You and I know each other very well, and I know how honest and genuinely you express your feelings, so I never take your remarks lightly.

    Both of us grew up in the era of “anti-singers” as you term them, and as a teenager, I used long for the voices and ranges of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Frankie Valli, and Robert Goulet. Well, we got a “real singer” back on Saturday, Charles, whose voice rivaled any one of those in his prime!

    We all cheered wildly when John hit his falsetto in Lou Christie’s “Lightnin’ Strikes”, but who would have expected his beautiful baritone on Jay Black’s “Cara Mia” and the Angels’ “Til”? Having heard him as Frankie 14 times in Jersey Boys, I was truly floored with this range.

    I only recall two versions of “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes”, Dinah Washington’s slow one in 1959, and Esther Phillips’ psuedo-disco version in 1975. I’ve never heard a middle-of-the-road version done as well as John’s, with the second verse in Spanish. Reminded me of Freddy Fender’s poignant “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and Goulet’s beautiful baritone on “My Love Forgive Me”, two songs I think are tailor-made for JLY’s next concert.

    JLY put his own stamp on Sam Cooke (“Cupid”, “Wonderful World”, and “Another Saturday Night”), Roy Orbison (“Crying”), Gene Pitney (“It Hurts to be in Love”), and Gary Puckett (“Young Girl”). Also loved JLY’s comedy re “Young Girl” and your comment on “Lady Willpower”, Charles. But fair is fair, Charles. Let’s give “Woman, Woman” irs due, where it’s the female of the species that had “cheatin’ on her mind”!

    John’s banter between songs was both poignant and funny. His wonderful tribute to his birth mother who passed at 26 (Christopher Cross’s “Think of Laura”) had many of us in tears, not only for John, but for those of us who also lost parents much too young. And the Grandpa Mike stories and his imitations of Grand Funk Railroad could be the basis of the next Brickman-Elice book, they were so deftly and comically told.

    But one of the best moments was as John introduced the Etta James’ classic “At Last”, he told us to imagine the lyrics applicable to a couple bringing home a newborn, much-awaited baby rather than the traditional romance.

    Two of my favorites from the pre-Beatles era were Del Shannon’s “Runaway” and “Hats off to Larry”. I was treated to “Runaway” as the music for the 1980′s series “Crime Story” all over again, and once more JLY brought Shannon (who passed so early and tragically) back to life for me.

    We knew the audience wouldn’t let JLY leave without “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, which received the biggest standing ovation of the evening, but this time it was ALL John Lloyd Young!!

    Re Whitney Houston on John’s next gig, my vote is for “The Greatest Love of All”. I think it fits JLY’s voice perfectly. What did you have in mind?

    Finally Charles, I’ll leave it to you to ask JLY “When will we see you again? When will we share precious moments?” Please ask him to make it soon.

    Once again, so beautifully said and so, so true, Charles. Thank you for speaking for all of JLY’s “fans for life” today, Charles.

    Comment by Howard Tucker — February 25, 2008 @ 1:17 pm

  17. Thanks to everyone for these eloquent and much appreciated comments. My brief letter to John did not even begin to cover all the wonderful things in his concert, and I thank Howard and others for expertly adding much more detail. I agree that “Think of Laura” really grabbed us by the heartstrings. I had a fantastic time talking with so many of you on Saturday night. I can’t mention you all by name, for fear of accidentally leaving someone out, but you are becoming my very best friends, and you know who you are. It’s really nice to see people like Irene, Buzz, Lucy and others who keep traveling here from other states. As Howard puts it so well, we really do “share precious moments.” By picking “When Will I See You Again?” as his last song, John let us know how he feels about us, and we certainly feel the same way about him. Charles

    Comment by Charles Alexander — February 25, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

  18. This concert was “quintessential” John. A lot of lesser-talented vocalists could have sounded “good” with more back-ups and musical wizadry. How many could have brought such enjoyment and evoked the emotions John did in an understated, humble, and VERY classy way? I truly felt I WAS in his living room! For someone who calls himself an “actor” first, this concert took guts. John rose to the challenge beautifully, leaving everyone who understands his style wanting more. Your tenacity and instincts have led you this far, John – stay true. I, for one, feel you’re “onto” something — and apparently, I’m not alone!

    By the way, it should also be said that this concert transported me into another world, just when I needed it most. My son heads to Iraq tonight for 3 months, as a journalist. John, for 75 glorious minutes, I forgot my worries – how can I thank you?? :)


    Comment by Joan Azarva — February 25, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

  19. Now see, thats what John is all about, transporting you into another world..He does it for me everytime I see him, and I always thank him..He’s the best..Jody :-)

    Comment by Jody Cardillo — February 25, 2008 @ 3:38 pm

  20. Thanks for all the wonderful comments and updates on John’s performance from Charles, Howard and everyone else! It makes those of us who were not able to attend “a little bit” there!!


    Comment by Jan Haas — February 25, 2008 @ 6:45 pm

  21. Charles — You put into words what we all felt. Let’s not forget JLY’s rendition (sans Rolling Rock) of Tina Turner’s Tiny Dancer — What a Performance!

    Comment by elaine Grace — February 25, 2008 @ 9:52 pm

  22. Charles,

    I, too, want to thank you for writing such an eloquent letter and tribute about JLY’s concert debut.

    It was an absolutely wonderful to escape from the world into his beautiful performance for a scant 75 minutes and the city lights in the background only added to a breathtaking, beautiful experience.

    The only negative thing I can say is that it was too short…we could’ve heard JLY sing forever!

    Comment by Dina F. — February 26, 2008 @ 3:10 am

  23. Charles, you did a phenomenal job of expressing in words what many of us felt on Saturday night during John Lloyd Young’s incredible concert debut at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I, too, was simply “blown away” by John’s fabulous vocals, the range of musical selections and the sincerity and genuineness he displayed while engaging the audience between songs. John is not only a gifted performer, but one who very willingly and very easily connects and relates to his fans. Thank you, Charles, for your astute commentary, and to all the other bloggers who offered comments above, for your unique and insightful reflections. They are all a wonderful reminder of that splendid evening, during which time I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and talking with so many folks who are regular contributors of the JBB.

    Comment by Len Gersten — February 26, 2008 @ 12:20 pm

  24. Charles, With your knowledge of music, particularly the era that John Lloyd was highlighting, and your appreciation of great talent when you see it, you’ve written a wonderful recap of a wonderful night.

    JLY, like other great actors and singers, has a way of connecting with people, which I’m fascinated and intrigued by, the longer I observe the dynamics of these professions.

    The day after JLY’s performance, our Four Seasons’ bus tour took in some Manhattan sights after visiting the old Jersey neighborhoods. It gave me great pleasure to direct everyone’s attention to the beautiful Time Warner building where ‘Just last evening, Tony Award winner John Lloyd Young made his spectacular public concert debut!’

    Comment by Audrey — February 26, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  25. Charles–Thank you for taking the time to write a letter that so eloquently describes John’s concert and it’s mesmerizing effect on all of us who were lucky enough to be there. Sharon

    Comment by Sharon — February 26, 2008 @ 9:57 pm

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