Written by Stanley Greenberg Friday, 25 May 2012 00:00
What is this elusive thing called talent?
Many Americans use the terms genius and talent interchangeably. Awards are constantly showered on these clever and skilled persons, and while some accolades are richly deserved, some recipients are over-praised.
Meryl Streep is a gifted actor who can assume the identities of many famous subjects. Her performance as Margaret Thatcher was ingenious. She also portrayed Julia Child and her acting was apt and on target. She has also spoken in various accents and dialects, including Italian (Bridges of Madison County), and Polish (Sophie’s Choice). Her singing in Mama Mia! was also quite good for someone who is not a known vocalist.
In the world of sports, we see many talents that are bizarre and unconventional. Throwing an accurate football pass is prized and quarterbacks are labeled adroit and clever, but I think this talent is over-praised. I am a fan of Johnny Unitas, the Manning brothers, Sammy Baugh, Y.A. Tittle, Otto Graham, Johnny Lujack, Tom Brady and others, but I am not sure that talent is the proper word for their skills.
Playing a musical instrument well is highly regarded and pianists, fiddlers, drummers, clarinetists and even triangle players are considered true artists. Those of us who have no musical talent appreciate their ability to make music in coordination with others.
Singing in America has garnered praise from various sources. American Idol has excited the whole country with votes and acclaim for those who sing well…or not so well. I appreciate the English singer Adele for her style, as she delivers lyrics in a simple but effective manner. She is a very talented singer. Petula Clark and Amy Winehouse were also my favorites. Luciano Pavarotti and Renee Fleming are also pretty good.
Talented painters are special category. Jackson Pollock, Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol please many modernists, but I prefer the more classic style of Rembrandt, Picasso, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, El Greco, Rubens and Velazquez. “You pays your money, and you takes your choice.”
Talent is in the eye of the beholder.