Living Legends: Karaoke singer Dennis Foreback, 75

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Every Thursday through Saturday night, 75-year-old Lansing native Dennis Foreback makes his way to Crunchy’s in East Lansing to sing karaoke. For years, the lively retiree has been adored by Michigan State University students seeking karaoke, buckets of beer and fried food, and good times. Spartan Newsroom sat down with the karaoke legend himself to discuss his life, legacy, and what it means to serenade college students every weekend. Questions and answers are edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: How long ago did you retire?

A: I retired in 2009. 

Q: What was your field before you retired?

A: I was in retail sales. I worked for Sears. That’s what my retirement is: from the Sears in Frandor just up the road here on Michigan. And then my last few years I worked at Walmart.

Q: What did you do at Sears?

A: Oh, I sold automotive parts. Tires, batteries, shock absorbers, mufflers, those types of things. 

Q: Why Crunchy’s karaoke?

A: Well, I don’t know if you ever get out to karaoke very much, but a lot of places you go to that are karaoke establishments of course are bars. A lot of places you go in and sing and it’s nothing but a karaoke singer sitting there listening to you. And so the enthusiasm is not very good. Whereas at Crunchy’s you go to and it’s a different atmosphere. Of course they’re younger people, so it’s a different atmosphere. It’s very enthusiastic and gives you a lot of energy. I think, anyway.

Q: So the college kids are a good crowd?

A: Oh yeah. I think they’re pretty good. I’ve been singing with them for, well, 12 years or 11 years or whatever it is. Yeah, I’ve been singing to them for a long time, and I can’t say that I had very many nights where I haven’t enjoyed it. It’s very rare that I don’t enjoy a night going over there and doing karaoke.

Q: Well, you certainly get a great reception out here. 

A: Oh, I do. I get a very nice reception from the young people. You bet. Yeah.

Q: So what other kind of other hobbies do you have in retirement?

A: I like to watch movies. I enjoy movies a lot. There’s some older ones, newer ones, doesn’t matter. I just enjoy watching a movie quite a bit. And I enjoy baseball. The baseball I enjoy, I enjoy following the Tigers and seeing how they do. The rest of the sports are OK, but I’m not really that big a fan. Baseball is my big sport.

Q: How do you feel about being retired rather than working?

A: Oh, well, I’m a single guy, so I live alone. I spend a lot of time alone. You know, I don’t necessarily like that part of it. But I do enjoy getting out on the karaoke nights and doing that, and any other night I happen to get out. I enjoy it. I have a good time being with people. But as far as living by myself, I have a daughter and a son, but both of them live relatively far away. Not necessarily my son, but my daughter lives in Portage by Kalamazoo. And so it’s quite a drive to get back and forth to her house and I try to make it once a month. My son, I probably don’t see him quite as much, but he only works across the street from here. He works at the Hobby Lobby. Yeah, he manages the store. That whole Hobby Lobby.

Q: If you had to pick, what would you say your top three karaoke songs are?

A: Oh, it floats. I mean, one month it might be a certain song, the next month it might be another one, or next month might be another. The song right now, probably, that I like to do the most is the song Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. That’s a good one. I enjoy doing that song. I also enjoy We Are Young by fun. I do have some older songs I enjoy; New York, New York was one of them by Frank Sinatra. And, I enjoy doing a song called Bodies by Drowning Pool. It’s a little different than all the other songs. And, I will do the song Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast. I have a pretty large repertoire of songs.

Q: Crowd pleasers?

A: Yeah, yeah. Right now, I’m kind of stuck in a certain group of songs. I have probably 10 to 20 songs that I will do every week. And whereas if I were to do my repertoire, I would have 10 to 20 songs, maybe every four weeks or so. Yeah, it would be a lot different because I would be doing double songs. I mean, I guess maybe I’m tired of looking up songs. I can just go in and say, obviously this, that’s what I’m going to do tonight and not worry about it.

Q: What does it mean to you to have that kind of weekly karaoke routine?

A: I wasn’t always that way back when I started going to Crunchy’s. I would go one night, and then after maybe a year or two I started going two nights. And then after maybe seven or eight years, I started doing three nights and I’ve been doing three nights ever since then. And the reason being is that there are different people there every night. It’s not like you go and you see the same people in the audience every night. It’s different folks every night, which I can understand. College kids probably can’t afford to go every night, you know?

Q: Do you think this is kind of a tradition that will extend for the near future? Or do you think you’ll continue doing your karaoke tradition?

A: I probably will up until I’m laid in my grave. I’ll die with a microphone right in front of my mouth. 

Q: So where did you start off doing karaoke? Was it in the area?

A: Oh yeah, it was in Lansing. I lived over on the West side of town and in some apartments. And the closest bar to the apartments was a bar called the Colonial Bar, which I don’t know if you’re familiar with Lansing or not, but it was sort of on the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Holmes Road. Anyway, it was right on the corner there. 

Q: Have you been in the Lansing area for your whole life?

A: Yeah, I grew up around here. I grew up on a little farm on a corner of, well, not far from the corner of Lake Lansing Road and West Road, up over near the Eastwood Town Center. Yes. Not very far from there. That was all farmland when I grew up. No, there was no malls or no Meijer’s or any of those stores over there. But it was all farms, not big barns, but small farms. And my dad had a forty seven acre farm, and that’s how I grew up.

Q: How did you like working on the farm as a young kid?

A: I liked it enough to know that I didn’t want to be a farmer. You get up too early in the morning and go to bed too early at night, I think.

Q: What would you say your favorite Crunchy’s memory is if you could pick one? 

A: I had a night where we were doing karaoke, and I always enjoy compliments and the people that come up and give me compliments. I don’t remember what night it was necessarily, but a couple of people came up and told me how they enjoyed my singing. I appreciate compliments like that. I may not know who they are, which generally I don’t, but I appreciate when people take the effort to come up and tell you how good you are. Maybe it’s my age or whatever, you know, saying that they enjoy it. But it’s fun.