A Lesson From “The Tuneless Tiger”

Fabian Forte.

If you’re old enough, you probably remember him by just his first name–Fabian.  Or maybe by his nickname, The Fabulous One.

He was discovered by a record label executive from Philadelphia named Bob Marcucci.  When I say “discovered”, I don’t mean that Mr. Marcucci heard Fabian Forte singing in an obscure nightclub or at a county fair.  I mean Mr. Marcucci was driving down the street one day and saw Fabian Forte sitting on his front porch.  He was taken by the kid’s good looks and pulled to the curb.  “Say, kid, can you sing?”

The fact is, he couldn’t sing.

Fabian Forte was such a bad singer that he failed high school chorus three times.  Undeterred, Mr. Marcucci started looking for a vocal teacher to give the boy lessons.  The first two turned him down, feeling the boy had no potential.  The third one finally agreed to take him on.

Fabian eventually recorded such songs as “Turn Me Loose” and “Tiger.”  Time magazine wasn’t impressed, however.  They called him “the tuneless tiger.”

It didn’t matter, though.  Fabian was an instant star, not because of talent, but because of great looks and a stellar publicity campaign.  Teenage girls all across America swooned at the sight of him, no matter how off-key his singing was.*

From the beginning of time, people have been taken in by appearances.  Eve “saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious…” (Genesis 3:6)  David “noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath…” (2 Samuel 11:2)  Samson insisted on marrying a Philistine woman, saying, “she looks good to me.” (Judges 14:3)

Interestingly, Jesus came into the world without impressive looks: “My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.” (Isaiah 53:2)

In a world where looks are given far more importance than they deserve, we need to be very careful when we encounter beautiful things and beautiful people.  We need to be equally thoughtful when we encounter things that aren’t particularly beautiful.  I’m not sure which would be worse, being suckered into a bad situation by good looks, or missing out on a great situation because of a lack of attractiveness.

People have done far too much of both.

*  Peter Harry Brown and Pat Broeske, Down at the End of Lonely Street, (New York: Dutton, 1997), 197

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