I never thought I’d be posting about Adele again so soon.  I’m not a music critic, just a big fan of hers, and in my previous post I talked about her amazing ability to envelop the entire concert hall in her big, beautiful voice and to make her between-song chatter bring us together in what felt like an intimate chat.

The final days of her most recent concert tour brought tragedy.  At the end of June, Adele had to cancel the last two concerts of the tour that included the show we caught in Boston back in the fall of 2016.

Adele posted a long announcement on Twitter on June 30 announcing the cancelations.

She said, “To say I’m heartbroken would be a complete understatement.”  And she went on, “I’m already maxed out on steroids and aids for my voice. I’ve considered doing Saturday night’s show but it’s highly unlikely I’d even make it through the set and I simply can’t crumble in front of you all and walk out on you in that way.”

She explains the background of her vocal issues, “I’ve struggled vocally both nights. . . . I had to push a lot harder than I normally do. I felt like I constantly had to clear my throat.”  Speakers everywhere can appreciate the agony Adele must have been going through.  The show must go on — so what do you do when you are the show and you can’t. go. on?

There’s no good answer to that question.  Only bad ones.  Once again, Adele had damaged her vocal chords from the constant pressure of singing and on advice from her throat doctor had to cancel the remaining two shows of her 123-show tour.  It was an astonishing and heartbreaking finale, not the triumphant one she intended, and it raises the larger and even more horrible question of whether or not she will be able to sing again in public, on tour, ever.

In a previous operation six years ago, Dr. Steven Zeitels of Mass General Hospital in Boston, had removed a polyp that had formed under the outer layer of one of Adele’s vocal cords.

Can another operation save her voice?

In addition to his work on Adele, Zeitels, who directs the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation, has reportedly repaired the cords of more than 700 performing artists, including Sam Smith, Lionel Richie, Bono and Cher. Michael Bublé, Keith Urban, Meghan Trainor and Celine Dion apparently have also had to quit touring to get their vocal cords surgically repaired by other doctors.

What’s going on?  Why are so many singers from a variety of genres, styles, and levels all suffering vocal damage?

It’s a combination of three things:  modern life, with its constant travel (airplane air is tough on vocal cords), pressure to sing lots and push the voice (most singers don’t make tons of money; the few that do are under enormous pressure to maximize their singing years while they’re hot, and lack of training about how to handle the voice.

Here’s the reason, besides being a fan, that I’m so fascinated by Adele’s struggles.  If someone with all the professional support she can have, and all the expert advice about her singing, can’t save her voice, how can speakers, whose speaking puts at least a similar kind of pressure on their voices, take care of their own?  With  typically much less professional advice, support, and coaching, they are essentially gambling on long odds that their voices will keep working.

Please, please, if your speaking is at all important to you, study the many posts (here’s one, another, and another, and another)  I’ve put on the site about proper breathing, support, and care of the voice.  Get a book or two on the subject, and never, ever, speak again without adequate support with your breathing, your abdominals, and your diaphragm.

With proper care and rest, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t speak well into your 9th decade.  I wish for you a happy retirement somewhere sunny, with a voice strong enough to greet your grandchildren and great-grandchildren with joy.  I need you to do the work so that idyllic picture can be the one all of us see.

Speaking of work, join us for Powerful Public Speaking in Boston on October 24th, and learn how to work usefully and powerfully on a speech.  Spaces are limited so sign up soon!

2 Comments

  1. Last night I had a 2-hour lecture in a long narrow venue for 75 people. The audio visual person and the event planner tested the mic while I walked around the room trying to get to know some of the attendees. I didn’t pay much attention to the coordinators testing the mic. I only knew it had been done. When I stepped in front of audience after my introduction, the mic was not working AT ALL, and to top it off, my computer no longer showed my next slide or the clock. I did my opening 3 minutes…..and I knew if I continued, I would blow out my voice. I paused. Asked for the event coordinator to work on the mic. While she did that, I worked on getting my computer display back to where it was. I limited the pause to 2 minutes max. They got the mic to work, but my display would not cooperate. I did my program without seeing my next slide, or my clock. Well, like Nick advises, I was prepared.

    1. Wow, Eva — sounds like a tough gig! Well done for keeping your cool, addressing the problem, and getting back on track!

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