January 19, 2021
When I damaged my vocal cords, I was forced to change the way I spoke – and discovered how much our voices reveal who we are
The day my voice broke: what an injury taught me about the power of speech
Some years ago, I was invited by my then boss, Jann Wenner, the owner of Rolling Stone, to be the lead Singer in a band he was putting together from the magazine’s staff. I had just turned 41, and I jumped at the opportunity to sustain the delusion that I was not getting old. “Sign me up!” I said.
My chief attributes as a singer included impressive volume and an ability to stay more or less in tune, but I was strictly a self-taught amateur. I had, for instance, never done a proper voice warmup, and had certainly never been informed that the delicate layers of vibratory tissue, muscle and mucus membrane that make up the vocal cords are as prone to injury as a middle-aged knee joint. So, on practice days, I simply rose from my desk (I was finishing a book on deadline and spent eight hours a day writing, in complete silence), rode the subway to our rehearsal space in downtown Manhattan, took my place behind the microphone and started wailing over my bandmates’ cranked-up guitars and drums.
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