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Is That All There Is???

By September 1, 20158 Comments

Recently, a dear young friend and I talked about the singer and songwriter, Peggy Lee.   He wasn’t familiar with her extensive song book, which I practically knew by heart. LIsten to this, and this and this, I enthusiastically suggested.

Following our conversation, I decided to go back and listen to a few of her hits myself. I turned to Youtube. Compared to the over wrought hoop-la of music videos today, recordings of those mid 20th century decades were straight forward affairs.  Singer and musician, and they better be good. Lyrics could always be understood. (I’ll never understand why that went out of fashion.)

I listened to Lee sing, in a faux Spanish accent, the now, politically incorrect Mañana, recorded in the 1940’s  I followed it with the light-hearted simplicity of It’s a Good Day which I used to sing to myself on a good day.  However, I found Lee at her most compelling and unsettling, in her 1968 hit, Is That All There Is?

That song was a big hit when I was in my mid-20’s.  My pregnant ands barefoot years.  The ballad was poignant.

I’d been married a few years only to discover that marriage wasn’t the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow as good 1950’s girls were led to believe.The fun and freedom of my college years seemed very far away. The promises of a new era seemed hollow.  I had one small child, then I’d lost an infant to SIDS (sudden Infant Death Syndrome). I drifted for months in a bleak sea of sorrow and guilt. Every time Is That All There Is? came on the radio, it felt as if Lee were singing for me.  Someone understood.

Now, listening to the lyrics, I relate to the song differently. Naturally, I have acquired a broader perspective. There have been decades of life lived, containing both joy and sorrow.  The sorrows leave their scars, but I’ve found it’s best not to linger in the dark places of loss.  The bigger lesson I’ve learned, is that nothing lasts forever, neither the good nor the bad.  It’s all ephemeral. I’ve come to expect it and understand it and occasionally welcome it.

“Let’s break out the booze and have a ball….”

Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.


  • Eleanor says:

    Wisdom at 75 my friends . The songs of 20’s were loaded with the jazz great from that era. We seemed to follow paths dictated by our needs D. Miss you will figure out how up. Send any NYC dates for your visits. Xo

  • nova says:

    Yes, I remember the singer well and i love that music. Like you, i’ve climbed out of that deep dark hole several times to find out there is always more – more love, more sorrow, more little joys…

  • enlight60 says:

    You know, going back to listening to this video–I wonder if Laurie Anderson fashioned her singing/performance art after Ms. Lee? The talking thing in between…. I think Peggy was really ahead of her time!

  • I couldn’t agree with you more, Dianne! I’ve come to the same conclusion, and the change in perspective when hearing that song is indeed so interesting to experience now! I love it even more. 🙂

  • Judith Swope says:

    Oh,how I love your wisdom. Did we live the same life? See you in about six weeks.

  • Sheri Overall says:

    Dianne ~~ Thanks for the reminder about perspective! I’ll check out Ms Lee’s songs today for a refresher.

  • Judi Wallner says:

    Thank you for the hard won truth so beautifully stated!

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