Performing karaoke at the popular bar has been the 67-year-old’s Thursday and Friday night routine for two and a half years.
He was not intimidated by the college students and bargoers watching him — Foreback was no stranger to the Crunchy’s crowd.
Cheers of “Yeah, Dennis!” rang out around the venue before the music started. His eyes jumped to the screen in front of him as the lyrics of his chosen song appeared.
“Let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit the floor,” Foreback began crooning.
Lansing resident Dennis Foreback, age 67, sings the "The Circle of Life" at Crunchy's on April 10, 2014. Foreback has performed regularly at Crunchy's for the past two years. Allison Brooks/ The State News
The crowd roared as the Lansing resident continued to sing “Bodies” by Drowning Pool. Some sang along, while others cheered in appreciation for Foreback’s undeniable enthusiasm.
Once his performance came to an end, he was met with high-fives from the rambunctious college crowd as he returned to his seat at the bar.
And this week, he will return during those same nights to entertain again.
A passion for performing
Foreback’s love for performing has been evident since he was a kid, and took precedence after a life-changing diagnosis almost two decades ago.
Foreback grew up in the Lansing area and has been singing ever since he joined his high school choir. He later sang gospel for his church choir, which helped him get used to performing in front of an audience.
However, it was a hospital stay in 1995 that made him try singing karaoke.
Foreback was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and ended up hospitalized for five days to be treated. Upon leaving the hospital, his throat was sore and his voice scratchy.
“I’d always loved to sing, but after this I couldn’t sing very well,” he said. “One night, I decided to try singing karaoke.”
He wandered into a little bar and wrote down a couple of songs to sing. When he left at the end of the night, his voice felt stronger after the impromptu performance.
After that, Foreback started to attend karaoke once a week. His retirement in 2009 made it possible for him to sing karaoke more often, but it wasn’t until two and a half years ago that his Crunchy’s karaoke streak began.
He still remembers the first song he sang at Crunchy’s — “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin.
A Crunchy’s legend
Foreback has only missed one day of Crunchy’s karaoke in the past two and a half years he has attended, and that was for a karaoke competition at another bar.
Although he doesn’t drink, Foreback has consistently shown up at Crunchy’s every Thursday and Friday evening around 8:30 or 9 p.m. While he waits for karaoke to start, he usually watches a game on the bar’s TVs or tries his luck at Keno, a game of chance.
East Lansing resident and Crunchy’s bartender Ellen Leonard said the bar’s entire staff knows and adores Foreback.
“He’s basically a staple of Crunchy’s karaoke,” she said. “It’s so cool that he knows the entire staff by name, and everyone here just loves him. They always cheer when he performs.”
He also frequents two other karaoke nights. Foreback can be found at the Lansing Applebee’s on Wednesday nights and Darb’s Crystal Bar in Holt on Saturday nights.
Once karaoke night officially starts, Foreback is rarely away from the front of the crowd — he typically submits three or four songs throughout the night.
“A lot of people come in and know exactly what they want to sing,” he said. “I never do that. I just think of a song and go from there.”
Foreback’s repertoire can shift from the hard rock sound of “Bodies” to “Be Our Guest” from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” a favorite of his.
He’ll also perform older rap songs. However, he said his favorite songs to sing come from his own generation, such as Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
His audience always respond s the same way no matter what tune he decides to sing. Their rowdy cheers are what prompt Foreback’s return to Crunchy’s every week.
“When you perform at some karaoke places, you don’t always get much of a response,” he said. “I don’t want to just sing to myself. I want an audience. It’s not as much fun without a good audience.”
Duets and friendships
It’s within the Crunchy’s audience that Foreback has forged many relationships, and even a handful of singing partners.
He said one of the nicest things about performing at the bars is that he never knows who he is going to meet. Nearly every time he sits down after singing, one of his listeners a pproaches him to tell him how they liked his performance.
All of these people are strangers to Foreback, but he thanks them for their kindness every time.
In between his songs, Foreback enjoys watching others muster up the courage to sing karaoke. Some perform with a silly demeanor and trip over their words and feet. Others, such as Courtney Heyse, become his occasional duet partners.
Heyse, a social relations and policy senior, said she always noticed Foreback during the Thursday Crunchy’s trips. After exchanging various “hellos” and polite conversation, Foreback eventually asked if she’d like to sing “Summer Nights” from the musical “Grease” with him.
The two still sing together, and their set has expanded to other songs, such as Heyse’s personal favorite performance, “Love Shack” by the B-52’s.
The kindness of the bar’s staff and patrons have kept Foreback coming back for more every week, and he says he’ll continue to return to Crunchy’s as long as he can, and as long as the audience keep responding.
“I love to perform,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m any good, but I love to do it. There are guys that sing better and guys that move around more than me, but I just love to do it, and I think it shows that I enjoy what I’m doing.
At least, I hope so.”