Susan Boyle: A dream that didn’t die

Unless you have been living in a particularly primitive cave the last week, you have likely seen the world’s most unlikely budding superstar. Yes, I am talking about the 47 year old, somewhat dumpy, never-been-kissed Scot named Susan Boyle from Britain’s Got Talent.

If you are like me, you have watched this clip multiple times. You also will, if you are honest, admit that it likely brought tears to your eyes. It is at 16.5 million views and growing. The world’s press has taken note of this most unlikely Cinderella story.

Miss Boyle came on a stage to face a crowd and judges clearly expecting to have a little fun at the expense of the plain-featured Scottish bumpkin who wanted to be a professional singer at the age of 47. Eyes rolled, people chuckled, though they did seem to like her for the obvious spunk. This was going to be campy. Then, it suddenly wasn’t…

The song I Had a Dream from Les Miserables is beautiful, sad, and not easy to sing. It tells the tale of the doomed Fantine, who had dreams of youth that died when the reality of her life got in the way.

The last lines are heartbreaking:

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seems
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed.

Susan Boyle also had dreams. Life also got in the way. She dreamed of being a singer since the age of 12, but she was frizzy haired, plain, had learning disabilities, was picked on, and ended up caring for elderly parents instead of on Broadway. She sang in her church choir and with the Karaoke machine at the local pub instead of at the West End. In 1999 she contributed a stellar version of Cry Me a River to a charity CD that had just a 1,000 copies pressed. Then ten more years went by, she got older and no closer to being a professional singer. Yet, she still kept singing.

Her very elderly mom died two years ago. Susan reportedly stopped singing afterward. But, mom had wanted her to audition for that TV talent show and Susan decided to follow through. She then fulfilled the show business cliche of walking on a stage an unknown and walking off a star.

Why does this 7:07 clip have such undeniable emotional depth? I think it because it is a glimpse of something “real”. We have plenty of celebrities, but not enough talent. We have plenty of attitude, but not enough genuine humanity. We want to cheer the underdog, but would secretly prefer it be a purebred.

Then a Susan Boyle comes along. She is plain, quiet, humble, and seems like a truly decent sort of person. She just wants to sing and a Creator with a wicked sense of humor has put a voice in her that would make angels ask for autographs. Yet, life keeps getting in the way. Then, one day, patience and persistence pays off and 35 years of practice leads to an “overnight sensation”.

Some beauty is simply so profound that our soul resonates with it. Great art moves us, whether it is a painting, poem, sculpture, or notes sung perfectly. It can change how we look at things because, at times, it can change us. Sometimes the change is for the better…

Susan Boyle is beautiful. She always was. It is funny how everyone just never seemed to notice it before. Perhaps the audience and viewer response was a collective “thanks” for being able to see a bit more clearly now. It is nice to be able to finally note the loveliness hiding all around us. What other examples of profound beauty will suddenly jump out where we didn’t notice them before?

Or, maybe lots of people suddenly have dreams that don’t seem quite so unattainable now. Their dreams hadn’t really died. Not quite yet, though many were on life support. With a lifelong dream coming true right in front of them, all things became possible again. Maybe we can really go from the end of the song, with its heartache and sadness, and rewind back to the beginning:

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high,
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving.

Susan Boyle had a dream. Despite all that came her way that should have ended this childhood dream, she just wouldn’t let it die. She was blessed with talent. Yet, more importantly, she was endowed with inner strength, courage — and a capacity to do good and kindly things that needed to be done until it was time for her dream to come true.

She didn’t give up. She wouldn’t give up. We are all so much the better for it.


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2 Responses to “Susan Boyle: A dream that didn’t die”

  1. Mary Says:

    I started a new Eldercare Blog Carnival last month. You can see the first one here:

    This week I am calling all caregiving bloggers! April is Stress awareness month and for the next issue of the Eldercare Carnival I’d like to share your good posts to help caregivers beat the odds that some say caregiver stress can cause! You can make your submission by sending me your blog name, blog title, url, url of post, email contact, and a brief description to my email at, Or use this handy form at the blog carnvial- or

    I hope you will join us!

    Mary Nix

  2. Eldercare Carnival’s Senior Care Stress Awareness Edition | Elder Care ABC Says:

    […] A. Cooley presents Susan Boyle: A dream that didn’t die posted at Jamesacooley’s […]

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