“Want the man singing! I want the man singing!” She pushed her small, sticky finger against my laptop screen. Heeding my two-year-old’s demands, I scrolled down. I passed Rosemary Clooney, scrolled beyond Bette Midler until “right there!” was barked from my lap. We found him. After a thirty-second auto insurance ad, the music began.

“A boy went back to Napoli, because he missed the scenery…” Daniel Boaventura, looking dapper in a suit, croons into a handheld, wireless, black microphone. The lights are low, and the instrumentation sparse as he describes what else the boy from Napoli was returning to. “….but wait a minute, something’s wrong!” A dramatic pause follows this revelation.

Liza took the cue, hopped down, and began bouncing with her microphone in hand. The ball of foil duct-taped to a toilet paper tube flailed around as she sang, “Hey mambo, mambo di-telly-ano!”

I sat back and enjoyed the show. While I was pregnant, my husband and I struggled with a name for the tiny performer singing in front of me. I was playing lots of Harry Belafonte in the house. His rendition of Come Back Liza spoke to me; he sang the name “Liza” so beautifully. We both loved it, and I think its incredibly romantic to be named after a song.

Soon she’ll start asking for Daniel Boaventura, the Brazilian actor and performer, by name. She’ll begin requesting his other covers, such as ABBA’s Dancing Queen and Sinatra’s New York, New York. Each time a video ends and the next song starts on auto-play, it carries potential to be our new favorite.

She babbled along until the final “That’s ah nice-ah.” I managed to convince her to give Mambo a break and let me get dinner started.

Experiencing the rabbit hole of music through a child’s eyes (and ears) has proved to be an winding journey for our family. Mr. Boaventura, who played Juan Peron in Evita, led us to show tunes and Broadway hits. Mambo Italiano gave way to Tell Me on a Sunday. Who else has sung “Baby I’m in the Mood for You,” as a lullaby to their toddler after finding Miley Cyrus’s cover of Odetta covering Dylan?

This year, we are asking Santa to bring Liza a real microphone. She’s going to be over the moon to have one just like our favorite Mambo Man. We can get a spotlight next year.

© 2017, Stephanie Williams


Performances mentioned:

Daniel Boaventura – Mambo Italiano
Harry Belafonte – Come Back Liza 
Daniel Boaventura – Dancing Queen
Daniel Boaventura – New York, New York 
Sarah Brighten – Tell Me on a Sunday
Miley Cyrus – Baby I’m in the Mood for You 

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