We talked ("talked, " I suppose) last week about people with photographic memories, and in my mind, perfect pitch - knowing exactly what pitch a note is and even being able to sing it back perfectly in tune - falls somewhere in that spectrum of abilities. Here are 10 people who are (or would have been) undoubtedly quite awesome at karaoke thanks to their abilities:
1. Michael Jackson. And he has no less than Will.i.am to back him up. When he recorded a song with MJ in 2009, Will.i.am reported being both frustrated and in awe that Jackson warmed up for three hours to sing a five-minute song. "He mi mi mi'd for three hours. Perfect pitch."
2. Mariah Carey. Her mother discovered Mariah's absolute pitch when, at the age of four, Mimi could sing back exactly what she heard in any song perfectly.
3. Ella Fitzgerald. The First Lady of Song was so dead on that her band would warm up to her voice.
4. Bing Crosby.
Hoagy Carmichael joked in his autobiography that he once shared a train berth with Bing, who had an interesting sleep habit: "Bing had gone to sleep in a wink of an eyelash, snoring slightly in perfect pitch to the train whistle as we rumbled through the desert."
5. Florence Henderson actually got a college scholarship due to her pitch-perfect singing talent. She attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.
6. Mozart. People were wowed by him when he was just a young lad "“ an anonymous person wrote this letter after hearing seven-year-old Wolfgang perform:
"I saw and heard how, when he was made to listen in another room, they would give him notes, now high, now low, not only on the pianoforte mbut on every other imaginable instrument as well, and he came out with the letter of the name of the note in an instant. Indeed, on hearing a bell toll, or a clock or even a pocket watch strike, he was able at the same moment to name the note of the bell or time piece."
7. Beethoven" we think. Experts just assume he had it since he was able to compose such perfect music without hearing it.
8. Paul Shaffer. The next time you're tempted to think of him as merely David Letterman's sidekick, remember that Shaffer is a musician with quite an impressive resume "“ probably thanks in part to having absolute pitch.
9. Jimi Hendrix. There's reason to believe Hendrix had perfect pitch. One story goes that when he was first learning the guitar, he couldn't afford a tuner. Instead, he went to a music store, played the open strings, and then went home and tuned to the notes he heard.
10. Yanni. A Dateline interviewer tested his ability once by playing random keys on the piano and having Yanni identify them. He was right every time.
Julie Andrews, long rumored to have perfect pitch, has denied it on a couple of occasions.
I love to belt out tunes when I'm in the car alone, but perfect pitch? Good God, no. I don't think I even have mediocre pitch.