THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF AN IDEAL
I’m going to make a confession. Pretty much every morning I sit down and read the news. But in the last year, for the first time, I have ventured my way further down the page. Yea, I started reading the comments. And since I started that, with every passing day I realize just how many Americans are bat shit crazy.
Sports, music, politics, you name it……. For every person out there trying to do something great, there are thousands who believe they don’t deserve the air they breathe let alone any praise for their accomplishments.
It’s a miracle that ANY talent and ideals are able to survive at all.
I write this music blog and in it I give quite a few of my opinions on the state of things. But I try and keep it to musical concerns. I feel that I have been living this life long enough to be an expert witness on the subject. I have seen quite a few sides of the music life over the years. I wouldn’t claim to have all the answers, just a perspective.
With social media these days, ANYONE who is out there trying to do something great is going to come under fire. No matter what the medium. No matter what your crusade, there is a hater out there somewhere waiting for you.
But you know what, having enemies is ok. Or as Winston Churchill once said, “ You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
From a musical perspective, if you are putting your music and ideas out there and standing behind them despite all the failures and abuse…. you are a friend of mine.
If you are “hiding in the choir” and letting someone else take the hits for what goes right and wrong with your music, you are less of a friend of mine.
If you are sitting home with a box of wine and a 12” Subway sub posting away online about how much of a fraud someone else is…….despite your utter lack of understanding, you are not my friend.
In summary, if you are on a quest for awesomeness no matter what, I’m on your side. If it is your life’s mission to debunk awesome, I’m against you.
Look at the arc of a many a famous musician. He starts small. Something about his (or her) music connects with people. Something about HIM connects with people. He rises in popularity because of that connection. “I like that guy, I relate to that guy. That guy is just like me. That guys cares about us.” Then he becomes what Paul Westerberg calls “boring enormous”. Too big. Unrelatable. A sell out.
Guys like Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen have this “normal guy” appeal. But, truth be told these are very, very ambitious men. You don’t become these people by accident. If you did, you wouldn’t last for long.
People who are truly down to earth are invariably ground into it. These guys aren’t that….. and for us that’s a good thing.
Bruce even wrote a song where he said “It’s a sad and funny ending when you find yourself pretending/ A rich man in a poor man’s shirt.” I surmise he has thought a bit about the irony of the situation.
I believe in the old adage “Trust the art. Not the artist.” The guy who wrote “All You Need Is Love” could be a cold son of a bitch when he needed to be.
I don’t feel the need to itemize an artist’s shortcomings as a human being as fodder to defraud their art. The ideas are out there in the wind. Either they make sense or they don’t. Our hero snagged them out of the air and brought them to us. That’s good enough for me. He might be a complete douchebag. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Character is very, very important. Being a role model is very important. But I would rather listen to the music of a brilliant dickhead than the lukewarm pap of the boy next door. And if you exalt the boy next door, you are just going to hate him later anyway. That’s the way it works.
Last week, I quoted “You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe. Today I’m going to do that again. After this, I will stop…… I swear. But if you are a creative, passionate person that ever put anything out into the public for review, this will ring true.
On selling out:
“You’ll find out, as you go on, that most of the things they say, most of the dangers that they warn you of, do not exist. They’ll talk to you, for instance, about prostituting your talent. They’ll warn you not to write for money. Not to do a dozen other things that have nothing whatever to do with you or with your life. You won’t prostitute yourself. A man’s talent doesn’t get prostituted just because someone waves a fat check in his face. If your talent is prostituted, it is because you are a prostitute by nature. You can’t prostitute a great writer, because a great writer will inevitably be himself“
“The only danger (for a writer) is of freezing up. Usually, because he loses his nerve. He has been a natural slugger to begin with, with a one-ton punch. Now he begins to shadow-box. He listens to everything they tell him. How to jab and how to hook. How to counter with his right. How to keep out of the way. He learns to skip the rope, but forgets to use that paralyzing punch that he was born with. But no amount of instruction can ever take the place of the wallop in the old right hand. If you lose that, you may learn all the proper ways that other men have used to do the job, but you’ll have forgotten your own way. Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.”
“(The critic) Having no belief or bottom in himself, he found no belief or bottom in the lives he wrote about. Everything was bunk, every great man who ever lived had been built up into the image of greatness by a legend of concocted bunk: truth, therefore, lay in the debunking process, since all else was bunk, and even truth itself was bunk. He was one of those men who, by the nature of their characters and their own defeat, could believe only the worst of others. If he had written about George Washington, he would have devoted his chief attention to Washington’s false teeth, and would have become so deeply involved with them that he would have forgotten all about George Washington. If he had written about Abraham Lincoln, he would have seen him as a deified Uriah Heep, the grotesque product of backwoods legendary, a country lawyer come to town, his very fame a thing of chance, the result of a fortuitous victory and a timely martyrdom. He could never have believed that Lincoln really said the things that Lincoln said, or that he really wrote what he is known to have written. Why? Because the things said and written were too much like Lincoln. They were too good to be true. Therefore they were myths. They had not been said at all. Or, if they had been said, then somebody else had said them.
And how did he (the critic) rationalize to himself his own defeat and failure? In the easy, obvious, and inevitable way. He had been rash enough to expose some of the cherished figures of public worship and, with his cold, relentless probing for the truth. Naturally, his reward had been anathema and abuse……”
Or in modern terms “h8ers gonna h8”….. or #from my desk in East Bumblefuck I have figured out what’s actually going on here, but nobody wants to listen so screw you all.
Like I said earlier, with all these things in the way, it’s a miracle that any ideals survive. That a song as powerful as “Imagine” ever even makes it to the public’s ears. There is idealistic stuff in that tune. Sung by a complicated guy who was very changed by the journey his music took him on.
“A great man cannot be a good man.” Machiavelli said. I think that is mostly true. The big bad wolf is out there, and he wants to blow your house of ideals down to rubble. You are going to have to understand him to defeat him. You might even have to steal a few plays from his playbook to win. It’s easy to get lost.
To paraphrase The Boss once more “The true challenge of adulthood is to maintain your ideals after you have lost your innocence.”
In the end, I don’t expect the music I love to be made by nice guys who always make good choices. I don’t expect the way to be pretty.
And I don’t expect them to be just like me at the end of the journey.
I only ask that they remember when they were….. and keep that in mind while they fight the good fight against evil, mediocre minds.
Because there are those who still believe in them.