We’ve de-emphasized songwriting.
That used to be the holy grail, to write a song that encapsulated life, that’s why music was the most powerful artistic medium, its ability to nail exactly what we were feeling.
Last night I was listening to Seth Godin’s podcast about marketing. And Seth’s smart, but marketing is the penumbra, it’s the sell, not the essence.
And after that finished, I had an urge to hear Bonnie Raitt, the Queen of America before she slowly started to fade, because we all do, get older and get smaller in the rearview mirror until we’re ultimately unseeable and then gone. Some are remembered, maybe by accident, like Journey and Queen, as a result of usage of their numbers in screen endeavors, the rest just live on in the hearts of those who were there when it all went down.
Now I got on the Bonnie Raitt train back in ’72, with “Give It Up.” I played the second side, with “Too Long At The Fair” and “You Told Me Baby,” every day while I skipped lunch and slipped on my long underwear to go skiing at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl. And last night, I immediately heard a live take of Joel Zoss’s side-opener, the aforementioned “Too Long At The Fair,” nicked in the days of Napster, and then my iPhone switched to…
“One Part Be My Lover.”
People are complicated, inexplicable. You think you know them, and then they surprise and confound you. What was together is now broken, like my marriage.
They’re not forever, they’re just for today
One part be my lover, one part go away
That’s not what she said, but it is how she acted. She said I could never leave, that this would last, but then she wanted to push me away. And I ain’t no saint, but I like to obey the rules, but this was a game I’d never played before. And when she ultimately left, all I had was my music.
Not too much later she can’t meet his glance
You see her start pulling away
Over and over like fire and ice
One is color, one is grey
It’s when they’re pulling away that’s the worst. You grasp for thin air. You’re holding on to nothing. You’re standing on the edge of the cliff, and then they’re gone.
That was nearly thirty years ago. But some things you never forget, the experiences are emblazoned upon your brain, like the struggle thereafter.
Broke down and busted on the side of the road I felt alone, but when I listened to the title track of Bonnie’s “Luck Of The Draw” I felt connected.
These things we do to keep the flame burnin’
And write our fire in the sky
Another day to see the wheel turnin’
Another avenue to try
When Paul Brady wrote these lyrics it was the pre-internet era, everybody was not trying to get rich quick in Silicon Valley, rather the easiest place to go from zero to hero was Hollywood, although the odds were long with no safety net.
Tomorrow’s letter by the hall doorway
Could be the answer to your prayers
Now it’s an e-mail, not even a phone call. We wait for contact. Although the truth is today everybody’s selling, and those who sell best are those who create worst, because they’re two different skills. What we’ve got now is boasters, tireless self-promoters, where we used to have artists. But there’s no room for artists anymore, when it’s all about your gross and if you’re not topping the chart you’re irrelevant.
But it didn’t used to be that way.
But don’t blame Spotify.
Blame America. You just can’t make it as a bartender anymore. Your day job does not pay the bills. You can’t scrape by trying to be a musician or a songwriter, what if you have a health problem, what if your car breaks down, then everybody just runs right over you and tells you it’s your own damn fault, that you should have bought insurance and not gone down the road less taken.
And most people don’t have the courage to march into the darkness. But it’s their journeys we want to follow.
This is about more than money. More than splits. Everybody argues for what they’re entitled to, they just ignore what gets them to the party in the first place, excellence, testimony from the heart.